Front-line sales managers are the key to enabling behavior change in salespeople.
To that end, changes in sales manager behavior must come first; however, front-line sales managers live in a hectic environment – pressures from leadership, their teams, and other functions such as marketing, sales operations, HR, etc.
When sales organizations embark on significant change or restructuring, the sales manager’s responsibilities also expand significantly. Sales managers are expected to lead a shift in go-to-market, intensify customer relationships and unearth new product opportunities, all while continuing to meet or exceed sales objectives.
In helping scores of companies execute sales transformations successfully, there are two change inhibitors that organizations need to identify and address to shorten the line to a durable and impactful sales transformation.
Change Inhibitor #1 – Starting with salespeople instead of the sales leader.
Organizations tend to focus training and transformation efforts on salespeople. 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) to determine if they are willing and able to mobilize change at the pace required.
Here’s the rationale:
- The reality is that sales transformations are challenging. Sales leaders must do the heavy lifting in change management, process, tool deployment, and adopting 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.
You must start with the sales leadership team and determine which ones have the skills, ability, and desire to help drive the sales transformation.
Perhaps a third to half of your sales leaders may not be ready to lead the sales transformation. While challenging to absorb, but to ignore will jeopardize the sales transformation and potentially the success of your company.
Change Inhibitor #2 – A technology-led approach when the team is not yet ready.
The deployment of technology solutions can be wasted if the sales organization doesn’t understand the time involved in learning and adopting new processes and ways of thinking.
For example, when adopting an account management methodology and technology, it’s not uncommon for an organization to mandate account plans for all key customer accounts.
The mandate might sound reasonable until you do the math: If a sales leader has eight direct reports, each with eight accounts, that adds up to at least 64 account plan reviews every quarter or at least 256 hours per year to review account plans. For the sales leader to conduct account plan reviews, that’s over six weeks annually.
The recommended approach for deploying account planning is to start small, possibly with one or two accounts max for each salesperson. Less is more to build the organization’s “muscle tone” to achieve the desired outcomes of account planning.
Working an account plan successfully with one account typically delivers more impact than multiple account plans that end up with a “check the box” activity.
In our experience, the two inhibitors that challenge sales transformation the most are:
- Not focusing first on sales leader readiness and enablement and,
- An over-emphasis on technology when the sales organization is not prepared to adopt the process and thinking changes needed to achieve the benefits promised from the technology investment.
Sales Transformation is Change, and Change Needs Managing.
Ensure that the sales leaders have sufficient training, support, enablement, and coaching before beginning the sales transformation, and don’t deploy technology the organization is not ready to adopt.