A Recipe For Failure: When Sales Leadership Fails To Embrace Change

Sales for Life Admin
Sales for Life Admin

Growth doesn’t happen without change and change doesn’t happen without a compelling reason to shift off the status quo. Without change, your sales organization cannot open new opportunities, remain competitive or stay current to what the market demands. But the unknown nature of change can be scary!

So why change? Well if you’re working in most organizations, you may have noticed that sales goals are continuously growingly while hitting them becomes more continuously more challenging, buyers now control the sales process and emerging technologies have made selling more efficient. The sales leaders who embrace the need for change will come out on top, those who don’t will walk into a recipe for failure. 

If you’re not convinced, here are several key insights from Jim Dickie, Co-Founder and Research Fellow of CSO Insights.

Smarter buying has pushed for equally smarter selling

How does a sales leader from sales 1.0 or even 2.0 lead their organization into the digital era?

The best way to become a great sales leader is to drop the word sales from your thinking. Figure out how your buyer buys, where the process is broken and how your organization can help. If that effort involves your sales reps getting on the phone and calling or writing an email, great.

If it doesn’t then you have to tackle those things and really figure out how those buyers buy and how your organization can contribute to it. You have to start with the right question, how is a buyer going to discover, evaluate and decide on the solution that you’re offering to the world? Rather than, how can I can optimize the sales processes which I put in place a couple years ago?

The Role of Technology Within Your Sales Process

Sales leadership has to realize this is the digital era. As a sales leader, you have to to be putting in new technologies. There are some really cool technologies out such as Artificial Intelligence that are fundamentally going to change sales leadership.

It’s going to give you insights into what’s going on, not just at seller level but at the buyer level and it’s going to get you metrics in order to manage my business. Organizations must enable sales leadership to be in a position to manage decisions based on metrics not hunches.

This evolution will move sales management into the digital era while you jump there and sit there and say, “Hey Jim, how’d the deal going with GE?” “It’s going great, Amar, and you got nothing. You got myself reporting behavior that the deal is going great.”

Now today, I’m going to have a lot of digital data out there that’s going to tell me exactly where the deal stands. It’s going to score the deal just like we used to score the lead. It’s going to tell me, is this deal going to close? Is it going to close this quarter like when it’s forecast? And, by the way, is it going to close at the right price or are we going to get dinged on in discounting because we haven’t had a solid business case and so the last thing we’re going to have to do is drop prices?

Jim believes “All those things are going to be happening and so we have to make sure the sales leaders is in that position to make that transition because a lot of the grand CMOs are now doing something else.”

They didn’t make the transition and a lot of the old school CSOs are going to make the transition but they’re going to have to because sales transformation is not an option, it’s a requirement.

How To Recognize and Embrace The Need for Change

It’s time to go digital as a part of an overall bigger strategy because of what we’re seeing happening right now.

As we sit down and talk to a lot of these Sales Enablement groups and we’d say, “Okay, what are you doing?” It’s like, well, you know, we need to go out and shorten the onboarding process or we need to go out and do a better job of lead conversion or where our business case is being built well enough and my response would be, “How do you know?” And I guess, “What do you mean how do I know?” “Well, how do you know?”

There is a sales process in place today and it’s in place for one reason and one reason only. It is to support the buying process because a salesperson could do everything in the sales process except for one thing, they can’t legally sign the order for the customer.

Align Your Buyer’s Buying Journey To Your Sales Cycle

We need to take a look at the entire buyer’s journey and really understand what are they going through. Who are they assigning to the project? Why are they even starting in these initiatives? Who made the long list? Who made the shortlist? Why did people drop out?

John Williams is probably the greatest sales transformation guy I ever met. He had a four-year period. He increased the revenues of his company from $700 million to $2.2 billion and when I first met him, I said, “Well, that’s great but there are other tech companies that have done that.” And John said, “Yeah, but I did that without having any net salespeople.”

This is a 300% increase in revenues per rep by the way it was a 400% increase in stock price. What John did as an engineer is map out the buying process. What do our customer go through and found that it was 52 distinct events that they did over a nine month period and he went back to match up the sale cycle for that. And he went back through to identify, “Here’s 52 things we need to do to change the sale cycle in order to support the buying cycle.”

When you don’t do 52 things, you go find a problem we’re solving and he said, “You know, my goal is not to have everybody do everything 2% better. Let’s go do one thing in order of magnitude better. Let’s get the proposal creation time down from 10 days which was when I got there, do I have it? Let’s do a magnitude better and after we solve that problem, let’s go solve the next one and the next one and next one and the next one and I think that’s why you had just, you know, incremental improvement.”

I think this is the whole thing of if we really understood the buying cycle, we would understand what we’re doing right and wrong in the sales cycle and then get to your question, that’s when we start to do, “Okay, what changes do we need to make in people? What about changes do we need in making technology? And what about process, etc?”

Change Occurs All The Time in Sales

I think underlining all of this, we must have digital because we need to be monitoring everything that’s happening – we live under a frail ecosystem in sales. There’s change all the time.

There are changes in our customer expectations, changes in the marketplace, they live in changes competitive landscape, how we introduce change. We’re introducing new products, we – you know, introduce the releases of stuff. We interview markets. And so we got the monitoring all those things so we make proactive decisions to take advantage of opportunities but also proactively deal with reps.

This blog has been adapted from the webinar: What Good Sales Leaders Need to Sell Change.

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