Transforming sales: The road to success and the pitfalls

By Anders Björklund

Transforming sales: The road to success and the pitfalls

All B2B sales managers know the urgent need for sales transformation. Most sales leaders are keen to implement these changes, despite the inherent pressures, while some hold out, hoping the storm will blow over. 

Many firms invest heavily in digital collaboration tools, social selling, new CRM systems, and sales automation to increase data relevance and gain deeper insights. They are striving to adapt to a hybrid selling environment.

As companies learned to coexist with COVID-19, the chances of returning to the pre-pandemic era of purely face-to-face selling are almost nil.

While technology undoubtedly facilitates sales transformation, purchasers must understand that it is not a panacea for all challenges.

Having been involved in numerous sales transformation initiatives, I've observed that many businesses need help to see the projected return on their investments. It's crucial to strategically manage and dynamically implement sales transformation changes, especially on a large scale.

Reasons why sales transformation initiatives fail

Considering the immense resources being channelled into sales transformation, failure is unacceptable and, unfortunately, quite common. From my experience, five key reasons contribute to this:

Neglecting to evaluate team readiness

Introducing your sales team to cutting-edge technology solutions can prove challenging if your sales representatives or managers need help understanding the need for these new ways of thinking. It's crucial to assess and enhance your team's readiness for the requisite change through a paced programme. This can be done quantitatively (via polls and surveys) and qualitatively (through interviews and focus groups), combining both to provide the most comprehensive insights.

Failure to define a clear vision and plan

Transformation becomes tangible only when the 'why' and 'how' are articulated. If sales teams don't comprehend how the revised processes and technological solutions can streamline their daily tasks and increase efficiency, they're less likely to support the changes. The onus for leading and explaining these changes rests with decision-makers and managers. 

Not capitalising on data and coaching

Success is often a blend of using data to monitor transformation progress and individual sales performance and coaching by sales managers to guide their teams towards achieving the desired goals. Sales managers must frequently utilise actionable data insights to anticipate or address adoption issues, recommend enhancements, and propose relevant interventions.

Underestimating the scope and impact

Delivering sales is a collaborative endeavour that extends beyond the sales team. It often necessitates changes in and support from other teams, such as marketing, management, finance, business development, service, offering, and technology. Therefore, viewing your sales transformation as an organisation-wide initiative is essential for a more holistic, precise, and sustainable approach to people and processes. 

Absence of leadership support

Transformation needs strong leadership support to thrive. Leaders actively guiding and supporting their teams through change significantly eases fears and boost confidence.

How to achieve success in sales transformation

So, how can your company facilitate and sustain successful sales transformation?

Although your change management approach should be specifically tailored to your business objectives, here are five universal principles that sales leaders can utilise to steer this journey towards success effectively:

Begin with clear, focused objectives

If you think your vision of success for your sales teams is difficult, you should focus on achieving quick wins to illustrate the benefits of transformation. This will motivate and enthuse your teams. By recognising early milestones, you can make progress understandable and measurable, reducing change fatigue.

Adopt technology in an agile manner

In terms of sales transformation, prioritise your sales team over technology. Understand their capacity for change and implement an agile framework for coaching, training, feedback, "shoulder mate" time, and sprints to trial new ideas.

Establish ownership through autonomy and resources

The project lead is accountable for establishing sales transformation as a large-scale project. It needs to be supported by a proactive decision-maker, adequate resources, and the authority to address and resolve any issues promptly.  

Monitor, measure and manage

Establish your objectives, KPIs, and other relevant success metrics for your sales transformation strategy. Keep a close watch on progress to understand whether the change and transformation are taking hold.

Transform your sales culture

Ensuring behavioural consistency and leading by example is crucial to sales transformation. Embedding change into your culture is vital and requires a combination of appropriate initiatives in communication, processes, systems, performance management, and compensation.

Sales transformation is an organisation-wide initiative that needs to resonate with individuals on a personal level for the change to stick. Despite the challenges, it is a journey that every modern sales organisation must undertake.

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B.
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