I have had a number of meetings with senior leaders recently who are looking to "radically" transform their sales teams to improve their business growth. Great, but before you start you must realise true transformation requires three major steps that deep down you may not be willing to take.
A shift in your collective mindset and behaviours
Changes in processes and systems that will impact your entire organisation
Patience from you and your leadership team, in spades
Also, grab a pair of overalls, this is going to get messy!
Whilst I will dig into each of these points in-depth in this article I want to ask you some critical questions before we start.
Why do you really want to transform? Be honest. What is your motivation? Have you identified the end game?
And finally, where is your customer in this transformation?
I recently heard a great story about a leader who entered a new company to turn it around and during one of his first workshops, he asked the teams to make life-sized mannequins of their customers. They were then asked to take their dolls into EVERY internal meeting with them. Whilst this may seem a bit silly at first, think of the impact of having your customer in the room with you at all times. How would it change what you say and think if your customer was sat in the room with you? (NB - it transformed their sales number, significantly!)
Driving a transformation that has the customer at the heart of your behaviours, systems and processes will deliver the change in both culture and business outcomes that you are looking for. But often the customer’s voice is shoe-horned into any organisational change at the last minute - and sometimes it is not heard at all..
Looking to change your sales team is a big undertaking and one that is bound to leave battle scars but it is worth it if you are doing for the right long term reasons, which you must first identify.
However, before you start to get comfortable with the three things listed above.
Change your behaviours, change your culture
One of the common motivations for change in an organisation, not just sales, is to change the culture. Sales has traditionally been a tough environment. “Hit your number or you are out” is a common view of the sales culture. But with the change in consumer and customer behaviour teams are looking to change as they realise their customers have already made that change.
Whilst it is great to spend the first three weeks of the month driving change towards a more customer-centric culture, what happens when you panic and shift back to a laser-focus on hitting the numbers in week 4? Your team will, consciously or unconsciously, pick up on where your priorities lie and the culture will remain the same. It is my opinion that you need to do both, consistently. You need to focus on the numbers with rigour but embrace the customer with respect and curiosity. And your behaviours need to reflect this.
If you really want to transform your sales team have a good long look at yourself.
What behaviours are you exhibiting?
Are they congruent with what you are trying to achieve?
How can you balance a need for rigour in delivery with a desire to change?
Do you really believe in what you are aiming for? (If not step aside and let someone else take over!)
How could you act in such a way that you become a role model of the change itself and the culture you are wanting to create?
Be tough, be honest and above all else be self-aware.
Step back, take stock of your beliefs and your behaviours and figure out the changes you personally need to make. Then ask your team to do the same. Not only will you be amazed at the results but the increased awareness often brings more clarity to understand what is really holding you and your business back. Having learnt the hard way I wish I had had this advice before I lead my team through my first transformation.
Are your processes and systems fit for purpose?
The thought of renewing or even overhauling your sales processes and systems can often fill well-intentioned leaders with dread. It is a lot of hard work. It requires the ability to get down into detail without losing sight of the overarching strategy (not a skill everyone possesses) and it will mean cost. But I can guarantee you will have to do it.
When did you create your processes?
When were they last mapped against your customers buying process (think of the changes and stakeholders that technology has brought to the buying process?
Is the data you are collecting really giving you a clear line of sight to your customers' needs and habits?
Are you set up to be able to be able to translate data into actionable insights?
Are your systems enabling or hampering your sales teams (if they are getting in the way they will ignore them?
What are your sales teams saying about the processes and systems currently in place?
However much you rate your processes and systems - they won’t be in good shape post transformation. Transformation of your sales team will change behaviours, customer interactions and touchpoints and what data you actually want to collect, monitor and activate. Your systems and processes need to match this new reality.
This where you want to put on the overalls, roll up the sleeves and prepare to get messy and sweaty! This is hard work and it won’t happen overnight. But as we say, it will be worth it.
Start by setting a baseline of where you are and where you want to get to, then slowly and steadily build out the action plan while getting the teams in place to execute. On the plus side the time it will take you to deliver these changes, will give you the space you need for you, your leadership team and their people to process the changes necessary at a human level.
“Patience is the ability to count down before you blast off!”
I love this quote (author unknown but some say it might be Anne Frank). It is also something I wish I had learned a long time ago. As a leader I tend to lead through change with enthusiasm and encouragement but wow is it hard sometimes to carry on going into the 6th month!! Patience with our people, our systems, and our support network are all vital if you are going to stay for the long haul and embed the desired change. It is usually just when you are about to give up and try something new that real success appears. It may sound cheesy but it’s true. Have you ever looked or worked at companies that are changing strategy and implementing yet another transformation every 18-24 months only for it to be another failure. Lasting change that brings sustainable results takes time. So give yourself a break - you won’t be perfect - no one is. But by keeping your eyes firmly fixed on the long term goal, by supporting your team and yourself. You will successfully transform your business and be ready to effectively deliver the next change. Because let’s face it, change is constant and disruption is a growth driver.
In summary, change the way you think, act and interact. Be ready to get your hands dirty and be patient with yourself, your people and your organisation.
And if you want to compare battle scars - drop us an email or give us a call (+44 (0) 752 567 9772)
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