When I started my Sales life three decades back, was coached and trained initially by leaders that, sales are all a number game, make 60 calls and get 30 leads and you make 10 meeting’s and get 2 sales. Hence 60 calls got you 10 meeting’s which converted to two wins. Trained to have 5X pipeline, that was the number game for sales champions. This time was time of sales professionals who were Quota Crushers.

Like it or not, every business on the planet right now is being forced to ‘transform’ because when buyers change how they buy then sellers have to change how they sell. Those businesses that are still trying to ignore Sales Transformation don’t yet realize that they are like the proverbial frog in the boiling water…soon to be relegated to annals of history unless they take ‘the Leap’.

5 Things You Need To Know

1) – Sales Transformation really is a journey – not a destination. ST is going to be more difficult and will take longer than you expect, and this is normal. Of course, how you engage your customers is central to every aspect of the business structure, strategy, operations, and commercials. Thus, even a simple change in the sales function has a ripple effect across the organization.

Example, even a rudimentary change in the way that salespeople are measured, managed and rewarded can have knock-on effects across multiple business functions. Product innovations can shift a business’s market focus and changing pricing structures or product bundles can also create important dependencies. Whenever these cross functional dependencies are overlooked then ST will fail.

 “The longest and toughest journeys are normally the most rewarding”.

2) – Sales Transformation is Change Management, and it must be done incrementally. Due to the and anachronistic view of ‘sales’, ST programs will encounter resistance to anything that looks like a radical or ‘big bang’ approach to change. Thus, in order to have any chance of succeeding the proposed ST must be designed around incremental steps. If you want to win the hearts and minds and create that important “willing cooperation/support”, then your ST program must be rolled out gradually – bringing people along with you.

“What really gets in the way of driving change and simplifying things is how much leadership clings to their own assumptions about what customers want” – Matt Dixon.

3) – Culture eats strategy for breakfast (said Peter Drucker) – every other department and business function has had to change and evolve, but there is a disproportionate number of old-fashioned bigots in the sales realm that will never accept that the interconnected digital world that we now live in means that sales must also change, meaning that cultural change is also important.

These are the same bigots that seemingly forget that none of us get in the car these days and drive to Blockbusters to rent a video. Likewise, no-one (B2B or B2C) makes a purchase decision without having first done their research online, and without having absorbed some independent advocacy via Google Reviews etc…some people will just never accept that the pendulum has irrefutably swung to the buyers, and that’s OK. Just accept that you will never get 100% support for ST, and be prepared to leave some behind as collateral damage. However, do NOT underestimate the cultural change that is required, or the guerrilla warfare that will be chipping away to undermine your ST program.

Success in Sales Transformation is always accompanied by a ‘growth mindset’ and a well-articulated business case. Selling the vision and inspiring the way is critical right from the outset, and then you need to do the following: a) create a sense of urgency for ST and b) attain undivided senior management support, and if you fail on either of these two counts, then I strongly recommend that you delay the commencement of any ST because you will fall at the first hurdle.

ST is difficult enough without those negative pockets of senior management resistance which usually come about because you a have done a poor job of selling the VISION and the “why”.

4) – Demonstrating quick-wins is critical to avoid the all too common “let’s just revert back to how we’ve always done it”.

If you are unable to create the proof-points as early (and often) as possible, then you just won’t get the widespread buy-in that you need for ST. Whether it’s a new CRM, sales engagement platform, or simply a move to social selling, you must demonstrate rapid business value and I recommend using some good old “before & after” examples so that you not only garner buy-in, but you also establish that much needed credibility to keep moving forward.

“Not Be afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still” – Chinese Proverb

5) – Don’t try to do it all yourself – savvy vendors are now investing in hiring skilled Sales Enablement (SE) personnel to help them drive Sales Transformation initiatives, and the explosion of these new SE roles is proof that most of the world is now waking up to the realities of ST. Whilst the investment in a stand-alone, cross-functional, in-house SE practice is absolutely the right thing to do, it’s also critical to bring in outside specialist expertise to plug the usual knowledge gaps, and help mitigate risk.

Whether your business has 30 or 30,000 employees, it’s vital to remember that sales transformation isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and there will always be challenges and nuances to the process that you will need support with.

ST is difficult, it can be messy, and it will be massively challenging for most businesses. Get it right and you’ll have a sustainable business that is truly in tune with your customer’s evolving needs and expectations.

Given these 5 points, there are only two types of businesses – those that have begun ST and those that are about to start. There is a 3rd type of business…. those that are soon to be gone because they think that Sales Transformation is optional.

Good luck on your ST journey.

Shakti Leekha (Shaktileekha@gmail.com)

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