Sales teams often struggle to change because change is hard.
These lines from the movie “Money Ball” capture the spirit of this post:
Scott Hatteberg: I’ve only played catcher. I don’t know how to play first base.
Billy Beane: Don’t worry, Scott, we’ll teach you, and it’s not that hard. Tell him, Joe.
Joe: It’s incredibly hard.
Change can be incredibly hard, even in the best of circumstances.
Sales transformation is about change. Change is often necessary, but change needs managing.
For salespeople to change, sales leaders must change.
For sales leaders to change, the leadership team must commit to providing change management and enablement support to front-line sales leaders who will drive the change.
Leadership teams should focus on the following six areas to support change within the sales organization:
Alignment: Sales leaders take the lead in communicating the importance of the transformation and creating buy-in from the sales team. Individual team members may resist or undermine the transformation efforts without this alignment.
The leadership team must constantly communicate the reason for the change, including their understanding of the change effort required by the sales team. “Just do it” is not alignment.
Competencies: Information is not transformation. It’s not enough for sales leaders to tell salespeople what to do and how to do it. Instead, salespeople need hands-on ongoing support from their sales leaders. Salespeople are unlikely to embrace durable change if the sales leaders are not yet competent in managing the new motions and processes.
Don’t assume that a sales leader is capable of new motions just because they are a sales leader. Tenured sales leaders must hone their competencies before coaching their sales teams to change their behaviors, routines, and activities.
Accountability: Front-line sales leaders are accountable for holding their sales teams accountable. New sales motions and processes often require 1:1 and group interactions, clear expectations, and monitoring that progress is on track.
The leadership team must cascade metrics, reporting, and dashboards to the sales leaders and hold them accountable. Sales leader accountability should be metric-driven and embedded within regular business process reviews.
Prioritization: Sales teams typically have multiple initiatives to manage, so sales leaders help the team prioritize initiatives and deploy the tools and support needed to meet goals and metrics. In many sales organizations, priorities are effectively left to the field, although the leadership teams assume that all the initiatives are proceeding as planned.
Sales leaders can’t leave prioritization to their direct reports. They must set their priorities. If sales leaders aren’t clear on what is needed to drive change, the sales transformation will stall.
Coaching and Development: Salespeople need coaching, especially during a sales transformation. However, sales leaders need coaching before they can coach salespeople. Learning new skills, adopting new processes, and demonstrating competencies are essential during a transformation. Sales leader coaching provides structured time and space for sales leaders to prepare and practice to execute change.
Metrics and Measurement: Change takes time, so waiting for results (lagging metrics) is often too late to know there are execution challenges. Identifying the right leading metrics is crucial.
For example, if a change is desired to grow revenue from existing customers, you may not see revenue growth (lagging metric) for six months or more. Measuring the number of Quarterly Business Reviews where a decision maker is present (leading metric) may indicate that the organization is on track to grow revenue.
Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track the progress of the transformation helps to assess the impact of changes and make data-driven decisions to refine the transformation strategy.
Sales leaders are critical for sales transformation execution because they provide direction, alignment, accountability, and the necessary resources and support for the transformation to succeed.
The likelihood of a faster and more durable sales transformation significantly increases when the leadership teams focus on the support and enablement of the sales leaders.