“I can’t stand that thing.”  I had just asked the VP of Sales about his CRM system.


“It almost cost me my job three years ago.  We rolled it out in the fourth quarter, a traditional slow period.  It was a mess – mandatory fields that made no sense.  A confused sales force.  Guys who didn’t know how to type, let alone use a computer.  It killed our quarter and the year.”


In the quest to reach quota, Sales VPs take on ambitious projects.  In doing so, they often make a bold assumption:  That the sales force can drastically change behavior in a short amount of time.  At best, projects that fail to account for disruption risk becoming shelfware.  At worst, they cause pain, turnover, and cost selling time.  Revenue suffers.  Sales VPs get fired.


Are you undertaking a big project?  Make sure it’s the right one.  Go to our research report “How to Make the Number in 2015” to identify where you need help.


Most traditional projects follow this flow:


  1.        Design
  2.        Build
  3.        Teach


Too often each phase is conducted in a silo, with little participation from Sales.  The result? A project severely disconnected from the field. Without input from managers and reps, you’re missing a crucial perspective.


Here are the big mistakes that lead to a disruptive project:

Design:  Many projects start off poorly because they are all top-down.  Big decisions are entrusted to executives or engineers with little understanding of:


  •          the market.
  •          day to day requirements of the field.
  •          the perspective of the customer.


The end result is a solution that best fits their maintenance and management requirements.  But not those of the sales team.


Build:  Before the rollout, their solution should be tested by the pilot team.  Here are some questions they should ask throughout the pilot process:


  •          What needs to be changed?
  •          Will this help me in my day-to-day requirements?
  •          How did it affect the overall customer experience?
  •          How does this improve performance?
  •          Is this complexity at the right level?


Many companies miss this crucial step.  Then they launch an academic solution to the entire sales team.  Then they frantically re-adjust when reality sets in.


Teach: Here’s a surefire way to disrupt your sales force.  Pull everyone out of the field for 3 days.  Give them material they have never seen before.  Ask them use it going forward. Then, make some half-hearted attempts on several conference calls to reinforce behavior.


So how do Sales VPs avoid a catastrophic disruption, while ensuring behavior change?  Keep in close contact with Sales through each phase. 


Consider what successful organizations do:

Design:  Senior sales leadership is informed of the project, and a pilot team is selected. These are your top managers and respected “A” Players. The pilot team provides feedback in the design phase to the solution designers. This means they audit each of the design iterations to ensure they still make sense for their job. 


Build:  The pilot group should now be asked to test each solution.  This should be a mix of reps, managers, and all senior sales leadership.  Why Sales Leadership?  The biggest failing of many projects is a lack of senior reinforcement and understanding. This can mean adding more features OR reducing complexity. Keep in mind, some critical feedback will simply be people adjusting.  By the end of the build phase, more than 25% of your organization should have contributed to the project.


Teach: A formal training document should be produced outlining goals, past initiatives, and learning characteristics. Once the training event is complete, there should be testing to ensure everything is understood.  With results from each rep’s test, managers should individually coach to their knowledge gaps.  This coaching will turn beginners into experts. The key is that learning is continuous, and the “formal rollout” should be anti-climactic.  It’s the follow through that ensures adoption and results.


Many companies stumble on the shiny, new sales project. Don’t lProject_Success_Checklist1et yours ruin the entire year.  Download our Project Success Checklist to minimize disruption. If you’re curious about which projects can help, sign up for our Strategy Workshop here.