When companies decide that they need to transform their sales organizations to accelerate growth and better compete, they usually start from the bottom-up, or what some refer to as “the tip of the revenue spear.”

There might be gaps in the number of salespeople (too many or not enough), salesperson knowledge, skills and competencies, how the sales teams are going-to-market (sales structure, direct vs. indirect, inside sales vs. outside sales), or the type of sales support (sales training, sales enablement, new tools) the sales organization needs to succeed.

Organizations often miss the essential, and controversial step of evaluating the current sales leadership team (top of the org chart to the front-line sales leaders), and mobilizing change there first. How can this be you might ask? Shouldn’t we decide on the right structure first, then decide who we need, and where we need them? I say NO.

Here’s the rationale. Let’s start with the reality that sales transformation is incredibly hard, and sales leaders need to do most of the heavy lifting in the areas of change management, process and tool deployment, and adoption of the new sales strategy and motions. If you don’t have the right sales leaders before you start the transformation, sales team execution and performance will suffer, and potentially jeopardize the success of the sales transformation journey.

Now a point of contrast to emphasize my point — let’s consider our colleagues in operations. If the performance and production of a factory were below expectations or declining, would you start by reorganizing the factory workers on the floor? I doubt it. You would likely start with the plant manager, and her direct reports, right?

My suggested approach may be difficult to swallow for organizations that have long-tenured sales leaders, particularly sales leaders that may have been successful in the past.

I’m not suggesting you need to replace the sales leadership team. I’m suggesting that you need to evaluate your current sales leadership team and determine which ones have the skills, ability, and desire to help drive the sales transformation. I guess that a third to half of your sale leaders may not ready to lead in the sales transformation. While challenging to absorb, but to ignore will jeopardize the sales transformation, and potentially the success of your company.

A final thought — there are multiple approaches to assess sales leadership teams if they are ready to lead a sales transformation. However, past success should probably be no more than a third of your decision criteria regarding who will be in the class picture at the start of the sales transformation journey.

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