We recently spoke with Paul Loftus, the Vice President of Sales and Revenue Retention at Wolters Kluwer. Paul leads a team of 400 sales associates, and is responsible for setting and executing the revenue acquisition and retention strategy. The topic of our discussion was executing a sales transformation. What does this mean? It’s a complete overall of an organization’s sales strategy and capabilities. Typically it involves items like new budgets, new sales processes, new sales methodologies, new talent, and so on. And Paul has made a career of executing sales transformations.
It’s a lot of work. So, why would an organization want to take on something of this magnitude? It’s usually for one of two reasons. Maybe the CEO has decided to take the company in a completely new direction. For example, if a company wants to enter a new market. This new market may have new potential customers and new competitors. This would drive the need for a sales transformation.
Another option is that your sales strategy has been so off base that results have been consistently poor. The leader of the organization may decide to hit the reset button. This means recruiting a new leader, and beginning from scratch.
Paul’s most recent, and potentially the largest, transformation experience has been at Wolters Kluwer. Their business and customer have truly evolved and the market has changed. “If you look at our business, we were, not too long ago, primarily a publishing organization,” explained Paul. Now, they are primarily a software company. With that type of evolution, everything needs to change. From a sales and go-to-market strategy perspective, there were three things Paul focused on: talent, process and messaging. Do you have the right people in place? The right processes? And are you delivering the message that resonates with the marketplace?
Paul went on to explain that the transformation was three years in. It started with changing buyers and a new CEO. But, what does it look like now? What kind of results has he experienced?
His organization was over 100 years old. This may see like it would be hard to move things forward. Lots of red tape, bureaucracy, etc. But that was not the case. “We’re actually a very nimble and agile organization because of this transformation from heavy publishing to software,” explains Paul.
When he started, they had a very large sales force with not a whole lot of infrastructure. Sales operations wasn’t understood. There was lack of awareness around the importance of someone managing the technology and processes behind it. Additionally the whole sales enterprise was being viewed as one. But now? They have changed quite a bit. What has changed? Their hiring profile, their messaging, their processes, and procedures.
Even better, they are meeting their financial objectives. A critical part of Paul’s decision to come to Wolters Kluwer was an extremely loyal customer base. They help their customers drive their business. And it’s critical for their customers to have software that works in the way they need it to. This comes with a lot of responsibility, but the talent on his team has stepped up and embraced the evolution of the business.
Steps to Success
One of the first changes Paul made was to the sales process and sales methodology. They didn’t scrap what they had, but instead tweaked it. “Our sales process was not very clear and a little bit undefined,” claimed Paul. Instead they needed to make it very clear and consistent across the board.
Another major change was around the org model. How did they do this? By listening to their customers. Prior to the transformation they had multiple sales people selling multiple product lines. They learned that their customers wanted one person from who they could buy all of the products and services.
Another big initiative was launching inside sales. They launched an alliance partnership program. It was down market, and needed folks with heavy expertise and a high touch. The coverage was tough, but they’ve had great success with the launch.
The talent profile Paul looked for also had to change. “We evolved from needing someone who really knew how accounting works, and really knew the workflow to someone who is a business person that is going to change the status quo. It really had to be a person that can drive or even provoke someone to make a change,” he explained.
As you can see from Paul’s experience, a lot goes into a sales transformation. And you’re going to make mistakes along the way. But the key is your reaction. How do you correct them? And Paul always goes back to his original recommendation. Focus on three things. Think through the talent, process and messaging. They are the foundation to a successful transformation process.