Developing a Change-Ready Sales Culture

By: Arlene Johnson

When promoted to your role in sales management, did you realize that your success not only hinged on how to motivate and manage a sales organization, but also on how to lead and manage change?

In a changing business environment with more questions than answers, leading a sales organization to achieve desired sales results is an accomplishment unto itself. So when an organization consistently wins, ah, that's when the market takes notice and pays attention. As a global performance consultant working with industry leaders, I've found, other than a differentiating strategy, structure or product offering, that there's always one key win indicator – their ability to discover and act on change that matters the most, relevant change. They also have a high antenna and practiced approach for critical change dynamics: Internally focused change initiatives or status quo decisions and actions are no longer allowed – thus honored. The attitude and aptitude for the sales organization to be full engaged in change is not an individual option but required and ongoing. Sales management and reps diligently practice an external scrutiny of their market conditions fueled by key customer conversations focused on asking not telling. Consistently winning sales organizations understand the customer's customers contextual business environment in order to instigate the right changes at the right time – relevant and differentiating change.

Volatile market or not, a sales organization that is ready to act on relevant change is best positioned to win.

It's no surprise that many companies are operating with change-weary people and cultures. The culprit? Changes that took time and energy, with little or no business value created for them or their customers.

Building Change-Ready Energy

Before expecting full engagement for any change, build positive change energy within your sales organization with these three recommendations:

  • Choose a specific change initiative, as simple as a new team member or as complex as a reorg, and set clear specific expectations for engagement (what to do, what not to do, how it's done and when it's expected). Establish quick early wins so you can acknowledge and celebrate. Make this real and when appropriate, public.
  • Coach your sales organization on how to have collaborative conversations with not only their customers but also with colleagues to resolve change issues; eliminate any redundancies that rob precious time and resources; and most importantly, discover change synergies (shared knowledge, skills, fewer meetings) that can save time and boost internal energy.
  • Give people a roadmap. Build a step by step change strategy for individual sales reps or teams to map best decisions and actions to identify and move past potential change obstacles. Everyone then has a strategy of decisions and behaviors that keeps them focused on activities directly tied to bottom-line results. Tracking sales progress and success – that's energizing.

Mapping Change Methodology

To position your sales organization for sustainable revenue and market growth – you must have a well-defined and documented Mapping Change Methodology.

Your methodology needs to be designed and implemented with ease and speed of change success in mind. Along with appropriate change communication and defined engagement expectations, each phase needs to provide best documents, practices, tools, metrics and if needed additional skill development and resources.

From announcing the change(s) to measuring the results, your Mapping Change Methodology must address these four phases:

  1. The business rationale, communicating the external factors driving the need and urgency for the change(s). This would be linked to the company's vision for growth and expected bottom-line-results.
  2. What change(s) are being implemented, with specifics on any new performance process, CRM technology or business partner's solution, and why, to facilitate achieving the change(s) expected business outcomes.
  3. Full change engagement by everyone in your sales organization is to be defined and expected. If not, the odds for change success are against you. Multiple studies, including Gallop, Stanford, and Towers Watson, show that when a change is announced…and without a Mapping Change Methodology …you can expect less than 30% of your sales organization to become immediately engaged with change-ready behaviors.

    If you want your sales organization fully engaged in the race to retain and win new business, everyone must have their oars in the water paddling to win, not struggling and falling behind because some of their team's oars are not in the water. A majority wait for further instructions or drop-dead deadlines before they join the race (studies show close to 50%, quite frightening). Then there are those who have no intention to engage in the change (right at 20%) that bail out either physically or mentally, or worse, sabotage the change effort. This is hard work, compounded with a myriad of key talent and business consequences that occur when this scenario is allowed and left unmanaged.

    Implementing a Mapping Change Methodology immediately promotes change engagement. Other quick tips for quickly shifting the engagement percentages: Do not ignore any of the change behaviors; find ways to reward and keep your 30% change agents, which will recruit your 50%; for your 20% opposing change, re-communicate specific expectations for their engagement and if they choose not, any natural outcome consequences …then watch the oars go into the water.
  4. Measure and reward desired results. Define and track metrics such as new business, improved relationships, shorter buyer cycles, smarter pursuit decisions, or improved win rates. In this phase of your Mapping Change Methodology questions are answered and proof is provided on the effect that the implemented change has had on bottom-line-results.

Focus on and practice leading change. Managing change instead of being a leader of change keeps you and your company in a market reaction mode. It's like receiving a surprise request for proposal for an important business opportunity. Once you recover from the excitement you begin to question, at this late date in the customer's buying cycle why have you been invited to the party? Are they really interested in your solution, or instead just need your expertise or another bid. Although it can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, more often than not the decision on who wins the business was decided before the request was released.

This happens less when your sales organization is operating from a change-ready culture. You'll know which changes are most relevant and urgent to act on. Being a leader of change in your industry is a compelling proposition for key talent and it positions your company for sustainable revenue and market growth – that's powerful and certainly more fun!


Book Arlene to speak at your next conference

Have Arlene speak at your next conference to ensure that your:

  • change strategies directly effect bottom line results
  • change is a shared endeavor with collaborative engagement
  • individual and team strategies for change success are
    tracked, coached and rewarded.

Contact Arlene to discuss how she can work with your organization to increase profitable sales and map relevant change to directly impact your bottom line results.


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