In most markets, customers are significantly changing how they do business. In some cases, such as the health care industry, these changes certainly can be labeled transformational – as a result who does the buying, what they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it are all changing.
However, the more important point for those in sales leadership roles is this period of change is unlikely to settle down into a new stable buying environment. Instead the new normal is more likely to be continuous change – not the absence of change.
What does this all means for sales leadership? As any senior sales leader will share – it means many things. But one fundamental implication is: in times of continuous change it is unlikely that a B2B sales force can continue to prosper by simply doing a better job doing what they are doing. Instead there must be an ongoing effort to examine and analyze and then adjust and adapt every aspect of your sales effort – from the go-to-market strategy to the organization structure to what your sales team is doing and how they are doing it.
Let’s focus just on the latter issue, the sales team, and examine three ideas for dealing with a period of continuous change.
1. Focus on the pivotal job first – the front-line sales manager. It is difficult to change everything and everyone all at once. It makes sense to identify and focus first on the pivotal jobs. Install a process for getting that right and many other good things will happen.
When it comes to sales the pivotal job is the front-line sales manager. If a sales force is going to successfully adjust and adapt to continuous change, then the role of the front-line sales manager needs to be the first focus of attention. Ask these questions on a ongoing basis:
- Are the sales managers spending their time doing the right things if not what needs to change?
- Do the sales managers know what successful selling looks like and if not how can that be corrected?
- Are the sales managers coaching their teams if not is it an issue of time and/or skill?
2. Address the soft stuff. Attitudes, mind-sets, and bits and pieces of culture all need to be revisited if a sales team is going to do more than just a better job doing what they are doing. In the end, it is often the soft stuff where major change efforts fail. For example, it is important to develop a shared vision and commitment to what needs to be done – it is hard to imagine sales reps continuously doing things differently if they do not see a reason why such an effort is necessary.
If new attitudes and mindsets are to be adopted across the sales function, then everyone needs to come to the party – front-line sales managers, sales reps, tech support, and marketing. This all requires substantial planning and communication by the senior leadership.
3. Revisit sales skills training. Most companies engaged in major B2B sales have in place an effective core sales training curriculum– programs that help sales reps develop effective account strategies and to plan and execute sales calls.
In most cases the challenge for achieving success in the new normal is not about developing an entirely new set of sales skills – it’s about helping sales reps to adjust and adapt their existing skills to a new set of conditions. From a sales training perspective this is a significantly different challenge – one that requires a different type of skill development perspective. Some suggestions:
- Stop viewing training as an episodic event and start viewing it as an ongoing process.
- Establish a culture where sales reps take on personnel responsibility for some of the performance improvement.
- Leverage the power of newer sales training methodologies like online sales training, simulations, and gamification strategies.
- Get serious about sales coaching, modeling and mentoring.
Summary. In Sales, when the reset button does not return conditions to the old normal, one of the results you can count on is a new set of winners and losers will emerge. Major trap: doing too little, too late and ending up being among the latter.
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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC