How well your company sells can mean the difference between success and failure. But transforming how your salespeople do their jobs isn’t easy – even when it can mean increased revenue, increased lead conversion rates, and reduced cost of sales. In fact, up to to seventy-five percent of attempted transformations fail.
Change is always hard. But sales presents unique challenges. Salespeople, by and large, are independent and entrepreneurial. Many have ingrained habits that have brought them at least some level of success or they would have found a different profession. Moreover, selling is a very transparent activity; it’s clear how you are performing and the numbers “don’t lie.” For salespeople, any change distracts them from their ultimate goal: driving sales and exceeding their quota.
So, what’s the solution? We have found that there are three keys:
1. Salespeople must be able to connect to the need for change. If there are no direct, visible benefits (monetary, territory, new clients, opportunity for advancement, overall growth, client retention, etc.), don’t be surprised if your sales team seems less than thrilled when you try to implement a transformation.
2. Be prepared to deal with skepticism. Everything sales reps hear from leadership is filtered through some degree of skepticism. So when you want to make a change, you’re up against opinion like the following:
● “I’m just going to keep my head down and stay out of the way.”
● “Why are we doing this?”
● “Who thinks this is needed?”
● “Did we ask our clients if they want this?”
Your role as a leader is to address these questions systematically and reverse the possible negative human behavior that may be emerging. You must let the team members know that what is good for the company is in fact good for them.
3. Be present. The only way to demonstrate commitment to your sales team is to be present. Go on some sales calls, ask team members for ideas, create champions, uncover what motivates them now, and take the first step to being visible. Too often, leaders have not been in the field at all or only with very strategic customers. And now they want a major change? This drives sales reps’ skepticism—and often their resistance.
Demonstrate to your salespeople how the change will impact them directly, meet their questions head-on, and get down in the trenches with them so they know you understand their day-to-day. Only then will you get them on board with change.
Warren Shiver and Michael Perla are the authors of 7 STEPS TO SALES FORCE TRANSFORMATION: Driving Sustainable Change in Your Organization (Palgrave MacMillan). Warren Shiver is the Founder and Managing Partner of Symmetrics Group and has more than 20 years of sales, management and consulting experience. Michael Perla is a Principal with Symmetrics Group, and has more than 20 years of sales effectiveness consulting and strategic marketing experience.