It is obvious that most organisations endeavor to reach high performance sales. Yet how many are successful?
We all know how difficult it is to move a sales organisation from A to B. We re-position our value proposition, train people, re-organise around new market segmentation, train people, introduce software support, train people, introduce new compensation plans, train people, introduce new roles and train people. Need we go on?
We have lost count of the number of initiatives we have seen that fail to deliver sustainable change for the better. How many of our sales organisations are (let’s give them the benefit) skeptical regarding ‘yet another initiative’.
We have, however, been fortunate in our careers to have seen both the sublime and the ridiculous. For example at Xerox when it successfully morphed from ‘shifting’ photocopiers to a document solutions provider (it might have regressed lately) and at BT as it spent millions upon millions seeking to become a managed services provider through copious re-organisations.
‘Kings New Clothes’ is a phrase we have been hearing more often. ‘Our success is all down to the ABC selling methodology or XYZ CRM system’ you can hear the Executives chime. (On which we have spent a fortune they fail to add). But scratch beneath the surface and you will find whatever results are happening are often happening despite the sacrosanct management imitative.
Failure to achieve a shift in sales competency can be career threatening and quite possibly terminal for the business (usually through takeovers and mergers). The life-span as head of sales must be one of the shortest on the Board. The three year cycle is common – year one given a free rein, year two being challenged, year three being replaced.
The problem from where we sit is that sales management is poor at performing the key role in achieving sustainable change – that is managing change. We (notice the admission that we are of the fraternity) are great at driving activity, managing opportunity reviews and managing the pipeline but how often do we listen to what marketing is saying, have we the skills to redefine the sales roles, can we re-engineer the sales processes, provide the right systems support, re-educate and develop new competences in our sales people and most important of all, communicate effectively so that everyone knows their role. To be successful requires all of this.
We are busy doing the things we ought to do, but not necessarily with joined up thinking. If we launch a CRM then why are we then asking sales people to keep their account plans in PowerPoint? If we train them in account development why are we not supporting this best practice in their daily routines through systems support? What seems to be missing is an aligned series of steps that lead to an end goal. This is the essence of effective change management.
Michael Conner: Chief Executive Officer, SalesMethods
Dr John Heaford: Head of Methodologies, SalesMethods