5 Principles for Becoming a Leader of Change in Your Sales Organization
To provide context, consider these stats:
- 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before speaking with a salesperson (Forrester)
- 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors (IDC)
- 74% of buyers choose the sales rep who was the first to add value and insight (Corporate Visions)
Sales teams today need to know how to leverage technology to gain a competitive advantage. This means change—technological and business process change.
Per Anneke Seley in Sales 2.0, “As our customers change, companies that are open, flexible, and changing the way they sell are creating competitive advantage, and leaving behind those that don’t do so.”
Here are five key principles for implementing change on your sales team:
1. Sequence the work
With monthly quotas, quarterly goals, free trials and opt-out dates, sales organizations are often tempted to make all the process and technology changes as fast as possible.
This usually results in inadequate setup and training, or misunderstanding of technical and business process changes.
A better approach is to introduce one change at a time. Focus on implementing and training for that one change before moving on.
For example, if you’re installing marketing automation or sales acceleration products for your team, introduce one product at a time. Spend a week training and using that one tool until the reps understand best to utilize the technology, before moving on to other changes.
Whether you’re using new software or practicing a new sales method, focus on only one new change at a time. A director of sales I know, who runs a sales organization across multiple offices acround the world, calls this approach sequencing the work.
2. Prove out the change with data
A simple way to do this is to implement your targeted change with a pilot team of a few sales reps. Closely track the data—lift or decline in call volume, opportunities created and deals closed. Use this data to either reroute and modify your original plan, or confirm and move forward with it.
Data is essential for managers to assess the value of change, and to have quantitative and qualitative backing when encouraging adoption.
3. Allow for feedback, but pull the trigger
Seek feedback from reps in order to build on your system or process change. Seeking their input allows you to train and coach for incorrect processes or troubleshoot technical issues.
After seeking their feedback, however, it’s critical that management makes a unified decision and reinforces it across the team.
In a recent engagement, a sales development manager encouraged his team, saying, “We want your feedback. But also think big picture. What are you proposing and how will it affect the entire team?”
After gathering feedback, this same manager later reaffirmed his decision. “We’re all in,” he told his reps.
Feedback is both necessary and healthy. However, sales leaders have the responsibility to, at the right time, pull the trigger. Leads have to decide what changes to implement and follow through with them.
4. Constantly praise your team
Organizational change is especially difficult for salespeople, who by the nature of the industry, already find themselves in ever-changing and uncertain circumstances.
Salespeople are more concerned with making this month’s quota than they are implementing change. High-performing reps, in particular, are skeptical of changes, thinking they might detract from their success.
Because of these factors, it’s important to publicly acknowledge your sales team. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. Praise them for their openness, adaptability, and ability to thrive under changing circumstances.
One practice we’ve instituted is the “XANT Early Adopters Award.”
With the teams we work with, we help the first sales reps understand that they are employees 1-10 on a new system—a startup of sorts within their own company. “Your work will be patterned by future sales reps at your company,” we say. “When the XANT platform is rolled out to the rest of the organization, as well as to future hires, you will know that something that is now a normal part of the organization is due to your ability to master the system and help successfully implement change on your team.”
5. Help them remember the ‘why’ of change
Constantly remind sales reps of the “why” of change. When I work with sales teams, the “why” of change boils down to two factors:
- Improvement of the individual rep
- Improvement of the organization
Demonstrate to reps how new changes will help them succeed, both in terms of money earned and career advancement. Help them understand WIIFM (what’s in it for me?).
Also, help them understand that change is necessary for continually improving the organization. A tech startup I worked with, primed for IPO, demonstrated this to me.
They shared with their sales development team how many appointments they needed to set every day in order for the company to reach revenue goals. These goals were not only important to the sales team. The entire company relied on sales to be the engine for their growth.
The results for this team were spectacular, exceeding their number almost every day the first month after implementing this practice.
Be a leader of change in your sales organization
Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. In a space where change is fast and consequential, sales managers and leaders need to step up to the challenge of change management.
You must master the skills to maneuver and lead your teams through change.
Follow these five principles and become a leader of change in your sales organization.
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- Xant Team