article | January 6, 2013
3 Keys to Navigating Change Management in Sales
Change comes by the truckload at the beginning of a new fiscal year. It just makes sense from a financial and measurement perspective. As a Sales Operations leader part of your role is enabling field sales to adopt change. Here are best practices on adopting change in your organization.
3 Keys to Navigating Change Management in Sales
1. Leverage the Power of Inclusion
Remember back when you were a kid growing up. Did you ever feel excluded? How did it make you feel? Lonely? Sad? Frustrated? Angry? I remember all of those feelings. My sixth grade year in middle school was awful. Corporate America is no different. The difference between success and failure of a sales force change hinges upon the power of inclusion.
How do we leverage the power of inclusion when we talking about change? In our experience there are three key ways to increase adoption. They include:
Conduct an Expert Panel on the topic.
Expert Panels are discussion forums designed to capture feedback on organizational challenges. Typically expert panels are made up of top sales representatives. The objective of an expert panel is twofold. First, it is to initiate the psychological process people go through to come to terms with a change. Second, it is about obtaining feedback on potential changes. The expert panel excels at getting people through the change process quickly because they can impact the solution.
Survey your Sales Force
Sales force surveys are a key mechanism to collect direct feedback from the field. Anytime a major sales force change is considered you should survey your sales force. A survey will initiate the transition process and capture unidentified pitfalls and feelings. In our experience these surveys are best done by a third party. You will find it enhances unfiltered feedback.
Spend Time in the Field
Spending time in the field is the absolute best medicine. A field ride will show the field their feedback is valued and test your ivory tower thinking. You will begin to ask yourself, “Would this change really work?” “How would this impact our clients?” To conduct effective field rides download this form.
2. Embrace Transparency
“The Mothership” “The Ivory Tower” “MT Doom” “The Evil Lair” These were all acronyms I heard last year referring to Sales Operations and Corporate headquarters from field sales. Not a glowing recommendation to say the least! With frustration high, how can we expect the field to adopt change? By embracing transparency.
What is this transparency? Transparency means to be open about the who, what, where, when, why and how of your planned change. You might use the term total disclosure.
Why be transparent with field sales about our changes? The simple answer is because you are still a team. The best and brightest sales operations leaders are intimately involved with their field sales teams. They are walking arm in arm. They are also extremely transparent in what they are doing when the engage with the field.
How do you embrace transparency? By sharing as much as you possibly can with the field. For example, organizations on a fiscal calendar year are finalizing and distributing quotas right now. Specifically, the quota setting process is a myth to many sales reps. The typical quota feedback from Reps is, “I don’t know where you came up with that quota but your nuts. That is not attainable.”
Move forward by explaining the quota setting methodology. This type of action gets field sales aware and on the road to acceptance quicker. (It also gets people selling faster because they know it is going to change!) As you explain the methodology provide details. Share the thought process and the conclusions that were made. In preparation for the conversation you might even find some flaws. That’s okay, they can be fixed.
The more transparent you are with field the more respect they will have for you. The more respect you generate the more likely reps will support your recommended changes.
3. Deliver Support
The final way to enable your sales force to adopt of change is to deliver support. Delivering support is the creation of tools and support mechanisms that increase selling time and effectiveness.
There are a vast number of tools that operationalize process and technology. Making sure they are in place will excite you sales force.
9 times out of 10 when a new comp plan is unveiled sales reps run off and build an excel model to see how the company is trying to screw them. Instead of sales people wasting time build comp calculators just give it to them and walk through examples of how the changes impacted them.
Tools like the compensation worksheet also reduce compensation administration time. Recently I was working with an organization where the Sales Operations had to spend hours explain to sales reps why their homemade calculator was wrong.
Organization change is tough. Most likely you are dealing with some kind of organizational change right now. Leverage the three keys to enabling field adoption.
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