The Five Critical Stages to Implementing Sales Transformation
Successfully building the right capabilities in your sales organization requires the right mindset, process and content. Your execution plan is a critical component to ensuring your efforts create the lasting behavior change you need. There are five critical stages to an initiative that changes sales behavior. These stages ensure your best results for organizational alignment, reinforcement and ultimate success.
Just like executing a sales process, your initiative needs your own discovery stage. You need to ensure you’re doing your own discovery on the challenges facing your sales organization. Consider:
- Where exactly are salespeople falling short and why are they falling short?
- What internal bottlenecks are causing sales to achieve poor results, deal velocity to stagnate, etc.?
- What external factors in the market or buyers organizations are causing sellers to lose to competition, lose late, qualify the wrong opportunities, close too many discounted opportunities, etc.?
- What are the current dynamics within your company or in your buyers organization that are impacting sales success?
You can’t fix the problem, if you don’t truly understand it. Do the discovery necessary to ensure you have a solid plan to change it.
2. Organizational Alignment on Content and Tools:
There are many departments in your organization that interact with the buyer. They all have their own perspectives on the problems you solve, the value of your solution and why it’s different than others in the marketplace. If you want a team that is buyer-focused, you need to account for these viewpoints and align them on a focused buyer message. That’s why it’s critical to pull in a cross-functional team (e.g., product, talent management, marketing) to provide input on new sales content, processes and tools.
Cross-functional leadership agreement of your initiative’s major concepts helps to develop customized sales tools that are relevant to your customer engagement process and reflect how you create and capture customer value. This agreement also ensures that there’s a defined plan for how other departments will interact with new methodologies and processes, in a way that supports the sales team’s ability to execute.
See how incorporating workshops into the development of your sales transformation initiative fosters the needed cross-functional alignment that results in bottom-line impact.
The most successful organizations take new tools, content and processes and integrate them in a way that makes them easily applicable to what their sales teams do every day. Consider what that means for your organization. Where can you reinforce these concepts to make them visible every day? What remote tools can the methodology be integrated in? CRM integration is an obvious choice, but consider other areas where you can integrate the methodology. These options may include: sales presentations, pre-call tools, manager coaching guides, marketing materials, customer success plans, even designated internal chat streams.
Integration may also include drafting new content, processes and tools into other best practices or initiatives already in place. This step makes what’s new feel more like an evolution of what the sales team is doing already, rather than an additional requirement.
Delivery is where you train your teams on new processes, content and tools. In a virtual environment, this step is a critical component to ensuring new behaviors take hold and the initiative starts effectively with the front-line sales teams. It’s not enough to schedule a few training sessions over video calls and have a presenter go through a new methodology. Your training process needs to account for the nuances of virtual learning. According to McKinsey’s research study of numerous virtual training engagements,
“A well-designed virtual program can meet or exceed the efficacy of in-person offerings. Indeed, some 87 percent of learners participating in newly adapted virtual experiences agreed that they were at least as effective as an in-person event. Virtual workshops can be effective tools for organizations as they emerge into recovery from the pandemic.” McKinsey White Paper: Closing the capability gap in the time of COVID-19; Page 5
In Delivery, we find there are two major tenets to success:
Reps and managers should be trained on new methodologies, content and CRM integrations in a way that’s meaningful to their role. You may not want to train your inside reps the same as your enterprise reps, for example. Also, the majority of the sales training should focus on practical real-world selling scenarios where reps are required to apply and test new capabilities on live deals. The more reps apply new concepts in a controlled environment, the more inclined they are to use them after the training is over.
Facilitators and trainers should have the necessary fluency on your organization’s marketplace, current challenges and industry. If not, the training will lose practicality and relevance. Both of which are critical to reinforcement stages and supporting on-going adoption by the front-line sales team.
What Companies Are Doing Virtually
With virtual delivery, here are some specific training steps we have seen to improve outcomes when training sales organizations.
- Spread training out over several days, think shorter bursts of knowledge over 1-2 weeks, instead of 2 full days packed to the brim
- Mandate a “cameras always on” mentality to drive engagement and improve the facilitator’s ability to “read the room”
- Have facilitators who involve the group, making the live training a conversation, not a lecture or one-way presentation
- Provide an effective balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning, leverage pre-learning before in-person sessions. This step helps maximize interaction in virtual sessions
- Provide all participants with ways to ‘raise their hand’ and contribute to the session by taking advantage of polls, live chats and other digital features
- If at all possible, keep the facilitator role as just that. Use other people to help keep track of time, capture notes, manage participation, moderate chat functions, etc. Delegating the other duties helps make sure the presenter can do his/her best at ensuring an engaging session. All roles will play a critical part in providing additional value to participants during and after the session
- Incorporate live opportunities and real-world scenarios into role plays, discussions and small group time
- BREAK. Breaks are critical. People need to recharge. If you go on too long without a break, you will lose your audience. Run for an hour and half or two hours and then take a longer break so that people can do a little bit of their day job or get something to eat. We’ve even done a couple hours, a two hour break with a little bit of individual pre-work for the next session and then another session two hours later in the day. This has shown to work well and keep the momentum going in every critical session
Successful sustainment requires critical focus and a plan for reinforcement that’s developed in the content creation stage. The initiative must be a priority for the organization. If it’s not, you won’t have the energy you need to keep reinforcement at the forefront.
Every component of the initiative needs to be relevant and integrated into the day-to-day operating rhythm of your team members. A framework for measuring both big wins and small successes is also a critical part to ensuring reinforcement happens throughout the sales organization.
You have to commit to reinforcing your sales initiative and driving company-wide alignment behind it, from leadership down to the front line and across any supporting departments. Alignment means everyone is focused on delivering that buyer value and holds themselves to the same standard in executing against that goal.
Achieve company-wide alignment behind your initiative by making sure everyone understands:
- The value of the change initiative, as it relates to managers, reps, supporting departments and executive leaders.
- What good looks like in each specific role regarding the change initiative, i.e. if the change behaviors are being executed what does that look like for a sales rep, manager, etc? What are the metrics of success, and the benefits each individual will see?
- How each sales role should execute the change behavior. Elite leaders clearly define how each role will be supported (through coaching, content and tools) and held accountable for consistently executing.
Reinforcement in Action - The Virtual Environment
The virtual environment requires leaders to think through how to best serve their own teams, given the modalities they have access to in a remote setting. Here are a few best practices we’ve seen companies adopt within virtual workspaces:
- Develop company Slack channels, internal webinars or newsletters that are strictly focused on sharing success stories and lifting reps and managers up
- Provide internal messaging boards and outlets for reps to share strategic tips and insights that other reps may be able to leverage as well. A place where they can highlight practical examples of how they leveraged new capabilities/processes/methodologies to drive success in an opportunity
- Leverage “manager swaps'' where territory managers swap for training or adoption events with new teams. Often times, folks tend to be less emotionally attached to the deals that don't belong to their team, so the manager will be even more objective in doing a deal review for a rep/SE/CS that doesn't report to them
- Have an “all-hands manager call” every other week or 1x/month where you review how things are going, what’s working for some sales teams, what’s been challenging etc. Then, incorporate time to strategize and discuss coaching action plans to address challenges. Having these calls is a great way to spread success stories and drive improvements to how managers are reinforcing changed behaviors
Beyond the sales team adoption plans, leaders should take other departments into account to ensure new capabilities are supported and reinforced, a few examples being:
Product: implementing communication channels where product can share new product development updates to the sales team, in terms of buyer value and solution differentiation. These channels should support sales ability to sell new or evolved offerings in a way that aligns with changed sales behaviors and capabilities.
Marketing: reframing case study templates, landing pages, customer testimonial interview questions and other template collateral to ensure the end result improves sales’ ability to leverage those resources in a way that supports an aligned buyer focus.
Human Resources and Talent Teams: updating hiring qualification and materials to ensure new hire candidates will be capable and possibly familiar with the sales capabilities that they will need to be successful in the sales organization and achieve a faster time to productivity.
Alignment doesn’t start at the beginning of an initiative and simply stop once it’s over. If you’ve rolled out your sales transformation initiative correctly leveraging the five steps above — the cross-functional power carries on through reinforcement, making change behaviors stick.