You have just been hired as a new national sales manager and you are getting to know the issues to be addressed in the business. Your CEO is waiting for the new sales initiatives that will deliver revenue growth.
Modern business is dynamic by nature, companies now operate in fast-paced environments where market shifts, consumer sentiment, new and substitute products can dramatically alter your ability to adapt. A core competency required to operate successfully under these circumstances is the sales manager’s ability to adapt and implement change within your company.
As a company grows the business changes and becomes more complex. This growth involves increased headcounts and the subsequent increase to your overheads. Further, this expansion provides an impetus to deliver on forecasted revenue that is critical to your company’s ongoing profitability.
Due to the evolution of the business, the CEO may have discussed new methodologies or sales initiatives with the previous national sales manager and then handed the responsibility of the implementation to them. Many companies who find themselves in this position often report that these programmes have been unsuccessful or poorly implemented.
This phenomenon is not uncommon, recent studies conducted by Sales Focus confirm that many national sales managers are challenged by the prospect of modifying team behaviour, and implementing lasting change.
As the new national sales manager you can uncover a myriad of reasons that contribute to the previous failure, some being:
- The company has previously adopted a lassie-fair management style, effectively leaving staff to manage their own affairs autonomously
- Teams are measured by historical indicators, and performance is focused solely on financial output
- All other key performance indicators are ignored or glossed over in favour of financial measures
- High performing employees see no need for change as they consider their behaviour intrinsically tied to their success
- Poor performing employees are stuck in past practices and any new thinking is at odds with others in the sales team
- Previous attempts at change have failed, leading to the cultural sentiment ‘this theory will pass’ and ‘let’s just sit it out’
You need to address the issues and find the way forward, with the CEOs expectation of 100 days to see improvements.
For you, the new sales initiatives must include the following 5 elements:
- Adoption Plan
- Sales Management Adoption
- Sales Force Implementation
When designing an initiative, include a plan for the team that clearly outlines the new programme. Start with the questions: “Why should the team adopt this?” “What value will it add to them, and into the company?” If there are any top-performing salespeople, they will be reluctant to most change as they are making great sales numbers already. There must be a strong and plausible reason for everyone to adopt this plan. Without that understanding, no-one will be able to understand or implement the initiative.
The plan must have the foresight to the risks and challenges of the initiative and solutions to those potential problems. Additionally, there is a requirement for some ‘quick wins’ so people can correlate success with the new initiative. Those ‘quick wins’ dramatically serve to motivate the team, and in turn encourage a winning culture and faster implementation.
A distinct element but often omitted is a communication plan. This includes how the new initiative should communicate across the company and the teams. It should include milestones and critical dependencies that will sustain high levels of engagement and participation. The adoption plan should also identify potential adoption risks and symptoms.
Sales Management Adoption
Sales management adoption is the most critical link within the process. If the sales team sees any failure of the line managers to support and sponsor the new sales initiatives, your efforts will be in vain. State or local managers must lead by example and demonstrate full support by conducting themselves in a manner that is congruent with the objectives of the company. For many managers, this may be in conflict with previous representations to their team.
As the new national sales manager, you must be prepared to counsel and guide the line managers so that they are able to realign their past behaviours with the new. This coaching must occur before the new programme begins to ensure its success. Many transformations are derailed during this process as it can delay the business initiative for a sustained period thus frustrating a successful outcome.
Sales Force Assessment
As a sales leader, you recognise there are varying levels of individual performance in any sales team. Rarely do you find of all high performing sales people in a team. A priority is to conduct sales force assessment to start improving the overall performance of your sales force.
Often taking the shape of a bell curve, it’s common to see people on each end of the spectrum. Those who perform exceedingly well, and then those who miss quota and goals. Some members are steady performers and overall the business ends up somewhere around the middle.
Those middle performing individuals represent the greatest opportunity to deliver improved results and raise the bar in your sales organisation. But, improving the performance of the average sales professional is easier said than done.
You also need to discover if they are using a company-wide sales process or adopting their way of selling products and services. How varied is the conversion rate on potential customers versus existing customers? Do they work to a sales strategy?
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Does the marketing team assist in finding prospective customers? Is there market research occurring to identify and draw new sales-ready leads to the sales team?
Sales force Implementation
Sales force implementation requires a clear and concise adoption plan. This plan directly relates to how your salespeople operate in the field. This is a critical aspect of the process as it connects the individual with the new sales management initiative.
An essential element of this plan is to outline past behaviours that must be put aside to make room for the new tasks thus ensuring success. Further, on-going analysis and coaching are required that provide evidence-based scenarios that illustrate the need and importance of the overall programme.
Sales forces and their direct management require regular and consistent coaching to keep the new sales initiatives in front of mind. Coaching is the best method to gain first-hand feedback on their knowledge and adoption and where improvements can be made. The coaching should be both in meetings and in-field to test the application of the plan.
As the adage says, if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it. The new sales initiatives should clearly outline the key performance indicators. The adoption plan should also include metrics that track and report on leading and lagging indicators. These parameters should be presented to you summarised as a dashboard, providing you with a quick assessment tool.
Excessive time and money are lost annually through the failed implementation of sales programmes that were partly or never used in the field. These failures contribute to reduced productivity and millions lost. Implementation and planning are critical to the success of your new strategic direction and with commitment can produce stellar results for your company. It will establish you in your role for years to come when you can successfully deliver a transformation and increase top-line revenue with a bottom-line contribution.
For a confidential discussion on how Sales Focus Advisory can assist you realise the successful implementation of your new sales initiatives, please contact the office.
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