How to Transform Sales by Inspiring Change

Jun 27, 2016
8 Min Read
How to Transform Sales by Inspiring Change

How to Transform Sales by Inspiring Change

Gone are the days when men like Dan Draper in “Mad Men” leisurely sipped his Old Fashioned and slowly reeled in a customer with idle chit chat and charm. These days, Draper would be lucky to get someone to read his emails as customers don’t have the time or inclination to be wooed slowly by those hoping to make a

It’s clear that digital is rapidly changing the way customers do business, and that means that sales teams must also change if they want to continue to be viable sources of products and services for those customers.

Still, it can be a tricky process: How can sales teams – or any business team – make the shift that customers demand while still doing day-to-day business?

“It becomes really, really difficult to keep a foot in both worlds,” says Rick Cheatham, co-author with Lou Schachter of “Selling Vision.”

What they’ve discovered is that once organizations recognize the need to sell something new, then they want to do it as quickly as possible. While that enthusiasm may seem admirable, the problem is that these organizations want the sales people to immediately begin selling the new product or service with no transition time to learn about the new offerings.

The lack of transition allowing teams to sell current offerings while moving into selling the new product can create not only resentment and fear, but threaten the long-term success of the new product, they say.

“The important thing for leaders is to make it clear to everyone that this is why we must change and how we must do something better,” Cheatham says. “Good leaders get a really clear vision and talk about who (the company) aspires to be. It must be a purpose-driven culture.”

At the same time, Cheatham says it’s critical that leaders not ask for ideas on how to make the transition or shift in strategy – and then ignore those ideas. Or, bring in outsiders who lay down a new framework and then disappear. The best way to sell a vision and get employees like the sales team on board is to let them have a real say in how to do it.

“The leader says, ‘For this to be possible, some things are going to have to change, and I want you guys to be part of that change,’” Cheatham says. “If something needs to come off the table – and that’s going to be painful for the team – then the leader needs to make sure they understand why it has to go away.”

In the book, the authors provide a roadmap, case studies and research for leaders trying to transition their teams from selling their current offerings into selling something new.  Including:

  • The customer is changing. “People are overtasked and out of time,” Cheatham says. “If you don’t come in from the first email and tell me something I don’t know or understand, then I won’t talk to you.” Further, because customers can tap into the Internet to diagnose their own problems, they no longer need sales people for that information and are instead looking to sellers more as consultants.
  • More decisions by committee. Because the rate of change is so rapid, many customers no longer trust themselves to make a decision without tapping into a committee to help them make the final decision. Sales people must view a business holistically to find where they can add the greatest value for the customer. “The best sales people are navigators. They help customers navigate the choices and prioritize,” he says.
  • Cross-functional cooperation is necessary. “It used to be that customer engagement looked like a bow tie, where a seller was engaged with a customer. Behind that one-on-one relationship was a whole bunch of people from their organizations,” Cheatham says. “Now, it’s more like a ladder when it’s done well. You still have the top rung where there’s a primary buyer and a primary seller, but you have direct relationships, for example, between R&D on the seller’s side and quality control on the buyer’s side. There are multiple layers of connectivity to that customer.”
  • Measure progress. While it’s important to get sales team feedback on what they’re seeing and experiencing with customers, leaders must also use data to make better decisions. Managers can’t get stuck on their own personal view and ignore data that reveals new numbers or customer feedback.

The authors also stress that sales leaders will need to “build environments where change is recognized as a positive.”

For example, while an organization may hail digital transformation as the greatest thing ever, sales teams may be privately worrying that they’ll be out of jobs as technology takes over. That may cause them to hang on even more tightly to the old way of selling – and wind up hurting sales of new products or services.

“We’ve heard training professionals say that their people are experiencing ‘change fatigue’ and that leadership should slow the pace of change,” the authors say. “In our view, that is a recipe for stagnation and decline.”

Change is not something that can be avoided, and organizations that help employee embrace it to become “champions of it rather than victims of it” will see their organizations flourish. Leaders must constantly emphasize the new opportunities and not be “paralyzed by some romantic view of the past,” they say.

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