How sales leaders can deal with change programmes

Sales change programmesAs a former global VP of software sales with over 30 years’ experience in the market, I’m only too aware that sales leaders are very rarely, if ever, hired to maintain the status quo. Unless the predecessor has done a phenomenally good job, then it’s likely that the new appointment has been hired to deliver results, and will be expected to do so quickly.

That means they’ll have to make changes and it’s well documented how regularly change programmes fail at almost all organisations (according to Towers Watson, 75% of all transformational efforts are unsuccessful), so it’s not going to be an easy task. But what can these transformations include and how can leaders ensure their change programmes are adopted and implemented?

Change programmes

These changes could include adaptations to the sales process, target customers, go-to-market methods, the sales skills in your team, forecasting and reporting and much, much more. In many cases, the profile of new hire sales and pre sales people can also change as the new leader looks to reshape their team and bring in new talent.

Some changes will be more radical than others, but all will have the potential to upset members of the existing sales team. And by contrast, new hires will most likely readily adopt these ways of working as they’re new, and therefore know no different.

However, this can create a significant amount of risk, particularly if the sales team splits into two factions; the existing team who resent the change driven by their new and unfamiliar leader and are suddenly uncertain about their working environment, and the new hires who will readily adopt the leader’s initiatives.

Sales team split

This fragmentation can cause significant difficulties along with endless friction and arguments. Ultimately, it could delay, diminish or even block the new leader’s initiatives in the most extreme cases. Time will inevitably be wasted quelling disputes and energy is sucked out of the leader which could – and should – be better spent on growing the business.

If you want to prevent this situation from occurring – and trust me, you do – leaders must manage their change programmes while trying to unify the sales team in the new ways of working, reporting and selling. They must ensure that their sales specialists are personally engaged and committed, as if they’re resistant to change, it’s highly unlikely any transformational programme will be a success.

But how can leaders actually put this into action?

One technique to maintain unity and prevent silos or factions from sprouting is to create small working groups of three to four people to collaborate on topics that are of benefit to the entire salesforce such as how to beat the competition or prove customer value for a given solution or service. Each group should comprise of new hires and existing team members and can also potentially include remotely located sales specialists. Technological advances have meant that it’s now straightforward to build collaborative teams irrespective of physical location.

Once outputs have been compiled – and validated by the leader – they can then be presented by the group to the entire salesforce, making sure the collaborative and team-wide benefit of those outputs has been carefully detailed to all. It’s highly likely that the leader will almost immediately notice a faster adoption of initiatives, a ready integration of new hires and dramatically lower the risk of failure or rejection of change.

What methods do you think sales leaders should adopt to effectively manage change programmes?

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