It’s been many months of discovery and design and you have built the perfect sales process for your team. You have mapped it to the prospect’s buying behaviors and have developed a rich set of sales aids to enable your reps to reach buyer-driven exit criteria. You have even worked to automate the sales process within your CRM system so that reps and managers can actually use a system as a productivity enhancer. You rollout the new sales process in a training event that includes well-designed courseware with interactive role-plays, and customized content. On the last day of the training event you feel the buzz; your sales teams are motivated and complimenting the new process.


Time to relax as the rollout commences.


60 Days Later – It’s a Mess

So you check back in two months to see how progress is coming. Hoping to hear stories of decreased sales cycle lengths, increased deal sizes, and improved close rates; instead you find complaints from the implementation team that reps are not using the process, managers are oblivious, and the CRM data is not accurate.


What happened?


Resistance is not necessarily irrational

If the above scenario sounds familiar at all, you have been the victim of poor planning. The degree of resistance (active and passive) was underestimated. A program of reinforcement to ensure vigorous adoption of the sales process was not developed. Not surprisingly, even though the sales team members were excited about the new process they went back to their places of work and resumed old behaviors. The managers had good intentions but had numbers to hit and lacked any framework to reshape the day-to-day reality of their teams. 


Such resistance can be expected in any effort that involves behavior change. At this point, some rely on punitive compliance measures to change behavior (see Doug Savage’s comic below for the blowback that often accompanies such a strategy). This is a mistake at least at the outset of a rollout when positive measures can be more effective to resistors.


Sale Force Negative reinforcement sales process



Reinforcement: Your key to sales process success

The key to getting back on track is developing a plan for reinforcement.  Such a plan is a natural extension of any organizational change management effort using the techniques popularized by John Kotter applied to the Sales function.  We have listed below a series of positive reinforcement actions that you should deploy as soon as possible after a rollout of a new sales process:


  1. Conduct Field Rides for Direct Observation & Feedback
    • Observe Sales Process & Job Aid Usage
    • Obtain Sales Force feedback on Sales Process
    • Sales managers provide continuous and consistent coaching


  2. Engage in Regular Sales Campaign Reviews
    • Institutionalize Sales Process Language
    • Coach through the Lens of the Sales Process
    • Discuss Phase Progression and regression
    • Test for Sales Process understanding


  3. Hold Sales Manager Debriefs
    • Run by the VP with the sales managers
    • Test for their day-to-day engagement with the new process
    • Obtain sales manager feedback on Sales Process effectiveness


  4. Publish Quick Wins
    • Share Wins with field via e-mail, internal social networking, and internal blogging
    • Support a Culture of Best Practice Sharing at the peer level (i.e. reps to reps)
    • Reinforce Common Language of the sales process in describing the ‘win stories’


  5. Conduct a formal Quarterly Business Review
    • Establish a point 90 days after rollout where a 3rd party will assess rollout success
    • Assess CRM reports, leading indicator metrics, and adoption behaviors
    • Define Next Steps for improvement
    • Issue a Report Card


  6. Set up a Continuous Improvement program
    • Announce a ‘release date’ for v2 of the process
    • Collect all recommendations for this next iteration



One Note of Caution

Usually, but not always, adoption challenges are a result of poor planning and an insufficient amount of reinforcement activities immediately after rollout. There are times, though, when slow adoption may be a result of poor design or poor talent levels in the rep or manager role. Consider both of these causes to resistance before doubling down on compliance.


Follow @mdrapeau Follow @MakingTheNumber


Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.

Once the leader of SBI Delivery, Mike is now head of the firm’s internal talent development, so he has had the fortune to help some amazing sales and marketing leaders. He starts by earning their trust. Much of this comes from his deep base of experience. With more than 25 years in sales, sales management, pre-sales and sales operations, he’s never met a challenge he didn’t like. And with backgrounds in sales leadership, marketing, and sales operations, he shuns the idea of being a desk jockey and relishes the idea of living in the field.


Mike maintains, develops, and leverages SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Maniacally focused on execution, Mike does not believe in giving clients fancy deliverables with no operational details. He knows that field adoption is key. After all, if behavior doesn’t change, the lift doesn’t come. Likewise, if those closest to the field adopt the solution, the client wins.

Read full bio >