In my recent conversations with senior executives, it is generally recognized that with rising interest rates, the time is quickly approaching when critical changes will be needed in their sales organizations. The question that most are grappling with is should changes be incremental or transformational? While it would be nice to say that the correct answer is one or the other, the reality is that most sales force challenges are multi-dimensional and each company has different circumstances.
Andris Zoltners, one of the leading thinkers on sales, wrote on this topic for Harvard Business Review magazine and I think that he is right on. Here are a few of his insights:
• Incremental changes are about getting the current sales team members to behave differently. This is about minor adjustments and tweaking. Examples include: spend more or less time prospecting; improve customer engagement; and manage the pipeline more effectively.
These types of activities can typically be improved through three change efforts:
1. Performance management (monitoring expectations vs. achievement)
2. Better data management of information that provides customer insight
3. Training and coaching—helping to develop the competencies that are needed by originators and managers. Notice that training and coaching go together because coaching is what makes the training effective. Training by itself is not enough.
• Transformational changes are about when major changes are required to make your sales model work in the new current environment. Examples of when transformational changes should be made:
1. The sales process need to be revamped.
2. You need a different type of sales person or manager than what you have already.
3. The sales force needs to be re-sized dramatically resulting in a major realignment of originators and customers.
4. Customer behaviors have changed dictating a rewriting of the sales process.
In an ideal world, continuous incremental changes would be the best approach for most sales organizations. But there are times — like now — that require transformational change, especially in light of the need for professional sales people and managers.
Are you ready to make the changes necessary for continued success? If you are not sure what needs to change, a third party sales audit can be invaluable in helping you make an informed decision about the path ahead.