MANAGEMENT CLINIC: Bottom line sweetener

MANAGEMENT CLINIC: Bottom line sweetener

In my last two articles (July 26, page 54 and August 23, page 54), I have explored the reasons driving the requirement for sales organisations to adopt sales process and the key inhibitor to change implementation - the pursuit of the almighty "number". In this issue I'll explore the "do's and don'ts" of successful sales process implementation.

The transformation of a sales force must be led, consistently and persistently, from the very top of a company down, with a goal of having the sales force willingly follow an example of using leading indicators successfully. This example of success is critical. Only the carrot of increased income will see a sales force respond to change. Also important are measurable and definable goals for both the management and sales teams. These goals can be leading or lagging indicators, and include:

- how much of an increase in revenue can we attach to the new behaviours we want from our people? By when?

- how much of a decrease in cost of sales can we expect? By when?

- how much higher do we want our order values to be?

- how much shorter do we want our sales cycles to be?

These goals and the processes to make them achievable can only be made to work through enterprise-wide adoption, sponsored by upper management and relentlessly promoted upwards and downwards by sales managers.

It is, therefore, impossible to underestimate just how critical sales managers' participation is in this process, as these are the people to whom front-line sales people turn for advice. If a sales manager is not committed to process, it is not possible to introduce it to a sales team.

The introduction of leading indicators can, fortunately, give sales managers all the tools they need to reinforce the value of the process. By analysing the leading indicators and feeding back to sales people their importance, the sales manager can demonstrate how the capture of data on leading indicators manages opportunities and makes success more predictable, more achievable and more lucrative for sales people in pursuit of their Number.

If a sales manager can also spread this doctrine throughout the enterprise - specifically to anyone who works with sales people - the results can also be spectacular.

A pre-sales support person versed in the leading indicators will be able to deny a sales person resource in pursuit of an opportunity for which the leading indicators suggest failure. By spreading use of the leading indicators in this way the sales effort can be aligned to overall corporate objectives, and with corporate capabilities.

Creating mass participation in this process can, therefore, be sold in to many people as a way to say "No" to a sales person, often for the first time. And while the sales person may not like this, their employers will almost certainly appreciate the fact that guidelines are in place that protect the allocation of resources.

In my experience, after working with more than 1000 high technology sales people in Australia alone, change management fails for the following reasons:

- no executive leadership

- -no sense of urgency

- failing to create a guiding coalition of change leaders or sustaining sponsors with sufficient responsibility and authority to make change happen in the trenches- indifference towards, or tolerance of, complacency- no stretch targets- no clear destination- underestimating the power of faith in a destination- cognitive dissonance: management's words doesn't match their actions- structural or procedural obstacles to the desired behaviours are allowed to remain untouched- under-communicating the value attached to the journey: the benefits at the end of the rainbow- declaring victory prematurely, particularly when contrary evidence abounds- failing to create and/or celebrate short-term wins, however minor they may seem- using a stick instead of a carrot- overlooking the need to anchor and imbed changes firmly in the corporate culture.

Change managers tasked with implementing and managing change for sales people are almost certain to wonder why they have left the worst, least receptive group until last. The scepticism and stubbornness sales people (especially the successful ones) will display in the face of any attempt to introduce process will dwarf that shown by other workers.

And while we have suggested many ways to address this in this article, the bottom line is that to deal with sales people you need to explain how change will affect their bottom line. And with the carrot of an improved bottom line in front of them, sales people will sometimes surprise any manager!

Carol Johnson is Managing Partner at Siebel MultiChannel Services.

Reach her at

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