Don’t Let Your Sales Initiative Fail: Lead from the Front
With any strategic change initiative, there’s always the question of whether or not it will stick. Anyone who’s been involved in a sales transformation knows, going from point A to point B, the desired future state, is no simple feat. The key to ensuring your change initiative’s success is to understand what it takes from the sales reps, managers and yourself as the leader to drive lasting outcomes. Then, commit to making it happen.
We call owning the leadership of the initiative - “Leading from the Front”. The most successful companies we work with have heads of sales and senior leaders who lead from the front.
When leaders neglect to lead from the front, they fail to achieve lasting results. Read the list below and learn how to avoid making the same common mistakes.
When Leaders Fail to Lead from the Front
As a sales leader, if you’re going to commit to driving the longevity of your sales transformation, you can’t delegate the ownership and development of the initiative itself. When you delegate the decision making to your enablement team, you leave yourself vulnerable to being left in the dark and/or in disagreement with the business changes of the transformation. How can you reinforce change processes and structures if you don't know and possibly don’t agree with what’s being implemented?
If you don’t have a hand in developing or reviewing the critical concepts of your initiative, you’ll lack belief and passion for it altogether. This lack of interest will speak volumes to your sales team.
Where you can succeed:
Lead from the front by staying involved in the development and review of the methodologies, training and content that are tied to your sales transformation.
Own the responsibility of ensuring the critical concepts of your change initiative are relevant and customized to your sales organization’s execution challenges. The more applicable the methodologies, tools, content and training are to your sales team's daily activities, the more likely they’ll be able to perform these activities successfully. It starts with your input, support and dedication.
In our engagements with clients, the sales leaders who come to workshops (instead of sending delegates) are better equipped to get executive-level buy-in, support and input on what’s being developed. They’re also better equipped to move faster toward launch and execute their initiative with minimal internal roadblocks. By achieving alignment and support from cross-functional leaders they’re able to implement an initiative that helps their sales organization avoid process bottlenecks and setbacks.
An aligned and effective sales transformation is achievable for these sales leaders because they have access to company decision makers and have power and influence to make strategic decisions of their own. They leverage both of these capabilities when reviewing deliverables or determining transformation criteria, to ensure the initiative aligns to the business goals of the company and optimizes how sales operates within other departments.
Where leaders often fail: Not gaining manager commitment and support
Front-line managers play one of the biggest roles in driving the longevity of any sales initiative. They’re critical to ongoing success because managers have the power to reinforce key criteria on the front lines, in live opportunities. If your front-line sales managers don’t see how the initiative will benefit them or don’t believe your organization is truly going to run the business in this new way — they will likely neglect to change and impact the actions of their team members. This type of ambiguity occurs when sales leaders fail to lead from the front in a way that gets managers bought in early on.
Put yourself in the shoes of your sales managers trying to hit their numbers while facing up to a new change initiative. If staying where they are is less painful to them than making the change, they’re likely going to avoid the extra hassle altogether and continue with what’s familiar. It’s human nature. Why change when it’s easier not to, when no one is pressuring you to, and when you don’t see a clear benefit to you?
Your front- and second-line managers have to see the value in your transformation initiative and act in support of it, day in and day out. Their action in support of the business change will breed further action from their reps on the front line. Just like their inaction will give your reps an excuse to avoid changing, and once the excuses start we all know how difficult it is to get them to stop.
Where you can succeed:
Lead from the front. Make training managers on new processes, content and tools a priority. Train them how to coach. Get your managers to commit to making the change and reinforcing critical concepts so their sales reps will follow suit.
As a sales leader, you have to lead from the front, long before the initiative launches to get managers to know and see how invested you’ll be in implementing strategic change. Leaders who prepare, launch and reinforce their initiatives with the “do as I say not as I do” mentality will quickly find out the hard way that their initiative won’t stick. If you’re going to get your managers and therefore your front-line sales reps executing on your initiative, you’ve got to show your commitment to the change initiative.
When your sales managers see the benefit to running the business in this new or evolved way, they’ll be more committed to driving results.
Help managers lead from the front by:
- Getting them to clearly see the value of your initiative and how it will benefit them specifically
- Ensuring they articulate the importance of your initiative to their sales teams
- Providing them with a management cadence to ensure they can and will execute
It’s much easier to hold second and front-line managers responsible for driving ongoing reinforcement and adoption if you’ve got a plan already in place to ensure their success. This article provides valuable insights you can use to plan ahead and equip your managers to drive lasting results. Spoiler — it covers key ways to equip your managers to lead from the front in their prospective roles
Where leaders often fail: Too focused on the training vs. the entire transformation
When launching sales initiatives, it can be easy to focus more on the launch event, and focus less on what happens before and after the big SKO event or sales training engagement. The overemphasis on the event stems from the fact that it presents itself as the biggest opportunity to align the sales organization around what’s needed to execute and drive success.
The reality is the training event is only a brief moment in time. When your sales teams log off or return home afterward, how can you ensure they’ve retrained what they need to succeed? How will they be equipped to continue to drive consistent results one, two, three months down the line? How did the event prepare your managers to reinforce critical concepts or onboard new hires using new methodologies and processes?
Where you can succeed:
Lead from the front by thinking beyond the training event and instead, committing to a broader sales initiative aimed at solving your biggest sales execution challenges. Once you’ve defined what’s next for your sales teams, invest in your best opportunity to launch it effectively and drive ongoing adoption.
One of our founders, Grant Wilson, loves to share this quote with our customers: “Don’t buy the house if you can’t afford the insurance.”
The spirit heads of sales and senior leaders are meant to take from this is, why invest in a large SKO or launch event if you’re not going to put in the time and resources to ensure it sticks.
Lead from the front by doing your research and ensuring you’re investing in the right sales transformation. After all, with tough competition out there and likely coveted company resources, you’ve got to be certain you’re betting on the right horse.
In your case, you may be betting on multiple horses. One being the sales transformation you choose to align your organization around, focusing on a particular area of sales effectiveness they repeatedly struggle with. The other horse being how you develop and launch your initiative, either on your own or with a partner. How can you make the right decision on a strategic initiative?
No doubt this year’s economic environment has left your sales organization to deal with new execution challenges or amplified, unknown execution issues in your process. Regardless, you’ve got numbers to hit this year and the next. Ensure you’re launching a results-driven sales initiative to course-correct this year’s execution setbacks by:
- Working back from the end goal to define critical gaps in your sales team’s ability to execute
- Considering new ways to launch your sales kickoff while still ensuring impactful results
- Leveraging a partner to help you avoid common setbacks and achieve results faster
- Reviewing the cost of successful sales initiatives to best weigh your options
- Getting executive buy-in on your sales transformation initiative
- Planning ahead to prepare a ready-to-launch adoption and reinforcement plan
Lead from the Front: Don't Wait
You likely need to move quickly to enable your sales organization to recover revenue, improve their ability to compete, and/or hit next year’s likely aggressive revenue targets. Invest in an experienced partner who can help you get there, faster. Avoid costly, time-consuming mistakes, ensure relevance and customization, and bring in better numbers. See how we can help.
If you’re considering using your SKO to launch a strategic sales transformation initiative, use our resource guide to think beyond the event. Our resources are aimed at helping sales leaders develop an event and a sales initiative that’s focused on lasting results.