I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing sales leaders who are experts at driving change in their organizations.
These leaders understand the risks of implementing new sales processes. They carefully plan messaging and training to mitigate risk and maximize success.
Time and again, these organizations have convinced me that through strong leadership and precise execution, sales teams can achieve significant revenue growth.
In their recently released book, 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation, Warren Shiver and Michael Perla provide the playbook for successful sales transformation. The authors call out three barriers and three keys for successful sales change that I’d like to highlight here.
3 barriers to successful sales change
1. Settling for good, rather than striving for great
Shiver and Perla cite Jim Collins when he wrote, “Good is the enemy of great.” Sales teams who have experienced prior success are often blinded by it. When a sales transformation is proposed, the change seems unnecessary or irrelevant to the rep with a track record of success.
However, experienced sales leaders know how quickly business landscapes can change.
“When the market turns, and it will turn,” Marc Andreesen once said, “we will find out who has been swimming without trunks on.”
2. Failing to focus on long-term growth
Shiver and Perla noted that many sales leaders they worked with were “bullish on the sales transformation effort” until changes affected current business. “The classic adage of changing the tire while the car is moving applies here,” they wrote.
When balancing security in the short run, it’s important for sales teams to remember the goal of long-term growth. To continue winning, your team needs to at least remain current, and at best stay ahead of the market. To do either of these things, change is required.
3. Technology and data complexity
Many sales teams are adopting new cloud technologies to stay competitive. However, in Shiver and Perla’s experience, new technology is often implemented with the same old systems and applications running in the background as a safety net, preventing the automation and streamlining of processes and workflows.
The key here, they note, is to look past the technological details and assess the value each application brings. This not only helps weed out superfluous technology, but it focuses your sales reps on the systems that drive the most revenue.
3 keys to successful sales change
1. Test wherever possible
To track how changes will affect your team, Shiver and Perla suggest that organizations test the changes with a small group of reps before scaling to the rest of the team.
This goes right in line with the advice XANT President Ken Krogue gives to people when they want to know what sales practices work: “test everything.”
Although testing new processes or systems seems like a widely accepted practice, sales teams are often forced to skip trial periods due to sales goals and timelines.
Investing the time and effort to experiment with your team’s changes is imperative. Testing helps managers to assess new initiatives and tweak them as necessary.
2. Keep it simple
According to studies conducted by Shiver and Perla, managers are often confused when it comes to sales transformations and company goals. The confusion, they assert, is a result of overly complicated goals and plans.
Simplicity is paramount. “The key consideration from the standpoint of sales effectiveness,” they write, “is to build and deploy repeatable, easily understandable processes and tools.”
3. Invest in managers
Lastly, Shiver and Perla encourage sales leaders to roll out change to the front-line managers first, equipping sales managers “to coach and reinforce [the changes] from the start.”
In my experience, the best teams I’ve worked with have had great middle managers and have made significant investments in providing them with the training and tools to succeed.
You can rely on top performers and it’s important to bring bottom performers up to speed. Great managers, however, are able to get the most out of the top 40 percent. Driving more production from the middle pack is how sales teams will experience the most significant growth.
The confidence to lead change
Change management can be daunting. For sales leaders, it’s often easier to resort to what they know, as opposed to taking calculated risks to grow.
However, sales leaders can be confident, knowing that many of the same skills that made them successful salespeople will help them be successful agents of change. They have the ability to understand needs and to communicate a compelling vision for future growth.
Use these key principles from 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation to take your sales team from good to great.
Download this free ebook to see how you can build a world-class sales development team.