What Good Sales Leaders Need To Sell Change: Common Pitfalls (1/2)

Sales for Life Admin
Sales for Life Admin

People resist change, whether it’s internal change or with buyers. This isn’t because people don’t want to change. It starts with a more complex understanding how change will happen and what the result will be.

 We’ve spoken to two prominent industry leaders and change agents about why sales transformation is a must and how to enable change within your organization.


Why change, why now?

 Jim Dickie, Research Fellow, CSO Insights:

If there was ever an easy time to sell, now is not it. On top of quota attainment dropping, the outcome of forecast deals came in this year at 47.3%.

To put this into perspective, the odds of winning at a craps table (49.3% on a pass bet) in Vegas are better!

That’s not a sales management issue, that’s a boardroom level issue. How can you run a business when you’re wrong about something you’re forecasting more than half the time?

Right now we can’t be complacent. We’ve got to understand what smart buying looks like.

If you walk out of the door with smartphone, somebody has probably announced a better one while you’re signing the contract. We’ve got to realize the weight of change needs to be happening much faster than we’ve been used to.

Buying evolution: relationships are critical

Steve Woods, CTO,

If you look at the way that buying has changed a decade timeframe in the B2B buying process, we used to have these big heavy implementations. Think of an ERP implementation, big strategic decision, commitment for many, many years, budgets that went up to a board level and we’re allocated years in advance. 

Fast forward to today, because of a variety of changes in the way that cloud technology is delivered, most of those are being delivered as small byte size tactical solutions rather than monolithic multiyear implementations. And so the buyers are shifting into this tactical mode.

The buyer is control and it’s their frontline people who are doing a tactical evaluation of something that solves a short to midterm pain point rather than a multiyear evaluation that could affect a decade long type of timeframe.

Because of that, you’re looking at a sales environment where the seller has to change. You’re in touch for a longer period of time before that buying event percolates to the top of the priority stack.

And because you’re dealing with the frontlines having a lot more control than they used to, you need those broader and deeper relationships in an organization. This will help you recognize a buying event as it happens and potentially suggest when perspectives might want to change based on what’s happening in the market at that point in time. This is a very different approach to selling than the top down strategic selling we had in years past.

Why Sales Transformation Initiatives Fail To Fully Deliver—9 Common Pitfalls

Jim Dickie:

There’s billions of dollars being spent on Sales Enablement, Sales Transformation, Sales Optimization, whatever you want to call it in terms of training, technology, and consulting services.

When we asked companies this year if they achieved all of their expectations, only 5% said they did.

Now, by the way, those guys hit the ball out of a park. We found a company that did 300% increase of revenue for reps over a three year period. We’ve found a company that almost doubled their margins over an 18-month period. We found a company that took their boarding time from 12 months down to 5 months.

So those guys are great, but that’s 5% of the cases. Now, 25% said they met the majority of their expectations.

The majority, 45%, said, “We only met some.” So we took a look at the guys who really did great jobs and they were in all industries. And what we found was they do nine things differently than everybody else.

1. Executive ownership. If you take a look at a ham and egg breakfast, well, the hen was involved. She contributed the eggs but the pig was committed. That’s part of the meal. So what you got is that executive ownership.

2. They dedicate direct resources to this. It’s like taking look at something like GE right now whether it’s Cate Gutowski who is vice president of Sales Enablement. She reports to the vice chairperson of GE. So that’s how high up it is, dedicated resources to go in at the executive’s level, they understand the culture that needs to be address.

3. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you start throwing in strategies like an on new onboarding process, a new sales process, a new customer success process and the culture is not there, those things are going to fall apart.

4. They make great uses of technology. They don’t go out and buy technology and then go look for problem. They understand how they’re doing things and then they say, “Okay, here’s the problem, let’s go take a look at technology.”

5. They get sales methodology right. The process will take you to close, the methodology is the mindset you layer ontop of it.

6. They get the organization involved. Get marketing involved to create more leads or get new messaging out the salespeople, get enablement involved to boost sales training and negotiation, get finance involved to change the compensation plan and motivate people.

7. They plan a budget ahead of time. Allocate a long-term budget around digital transformation. Plan ahead of time before you dive into things.

8. They’re organized, and they collaborate internally. The guys who have had really successful sales transformation initiatives didn’t do anything that other companies can’t, they just did in an organized methodical fashion.

9. Assuming that done is done. 

I tell people right now, “If you’re going to move into sales transformation, get serious about it because if you’re not, give me all the money you’re going to spend and I’ll donate it to charity and keep doing what you’re doing until you get serious because otherwise it’s going to fail.”

These 9 steps compose the organizational framework required for digital transformation. But what specifically is the role of the sales leader in digital transformation? How does a sales leader from sales 1.0 or even 2.0 lead their organization into the digital era? We’ll explore next week in part 2, What Good Sales Leaders Need to Sell Change (2/2).

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


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