There is a parallel between biology and business. Our biology is largely influenced by our DNA, our genetic makeup, which contains a set of instructions vital to our ability to function, adapt, and transform over time. Our business is influenced by two DNA-like sets; one is the DNA of the economy, and the other is the DNA that's expressed by our decisions. The quality of our decisions impacts our customers and ultimately shapes sales success.
Below is a brief overview of the steps that can lead to ongoing sales transformation. No matter what chaos or challenges we are facing today, we can at any time choose to transform and move ahead of our competition. Here are seven steps to consider:
- Diagnose. Define the current level of sales effectiveness. Assess all internal resources (people, process, and technology) and measure how effectively they align with external opportunities. Determine the external and internal disconnects. Drill down into each area: Do we have the right people who can win in new and existing markets and create more customers? What changes are needed to optimize our sales process? What would the ideal technology road map look like that would continually increase operational efficiencies?
- Get executive sponsorship. Get agreement that the sales organization is a key competitive differentiator. Articulate the new vision, create a realistic sales-transformation road map, and define what success looks like. Get the financial support needed to continue the journey as described in the road map. Collaborate with senior managers and develop a set of key performance indicators that will allow them to track progress.
- Create a culture of measurement. Sales force transformation requires a culture change from making decisions based on hunches to making decisions based on science. While, in the past, selling depended on the skills of individual players, sales organizations today are synching resources and developing a collaborative approach to create customer value. A clear set of performance-measurement tools will not only help the synchronization process, but also contribute to a predictive organization in which pipeline potential and velocity are clearly visible, forecast accuracy will exceed 90 percent, and salespeople are routinely coached on bridging the gap between actual and required performance.
- Eliminate departmental silos. To win in today's environment, sales must be aligned with marketing, service, finance, HR, and legal. Sales organizations need to seek alignment between sales ops, sales channels, and internal and external teams, but must also closely collaborate with all departments. When it comes to negotiations with clients, salespeople have greater chances of winning deals when all departments have a clear understanding of what represents customer value and what value a new customer means to the company. Once all departments are aligned and in synch, there will be little internal friction on how an order is handled, how discounts are approved, or how cross-cultural roadblocks are removed. As a result of this alignment, crisis management will be reduced, customer information will be easily accessible, and all stakeholders will clearly see how they can contribute to the creation of a new customer and the retention of existing customers.
- Shift to strategic and operational competencies. While many companies believe that operational efficiencies come from supporting legacy systems, smart companies are redesigning their entire sales operation and creating a customer-focused enterprise, where all stakeholders listen, understand, and respond to the forever-shifting demands of the customer base. This transformation cannot succeed without embracing one version of the truth, which will help create a standardized process for producing and serving customers across the enterprise. This shift cannot be achieved without bringing more art and science into the sales operation.
- Harness the collective intelligence of the sales organization. Sales transformation is not only the result of good leadership, but also a reflection of good stewardship of the information streams that all stakeholders create in the quest to win new business. As we move from a sales-pitch-based economy to a conversation economy in which the brands are a reflection of rich social-media information streams, salespeople need to become better storytellers and learn how to initiate and lead customer conversations that are focused on value. This also requires the mastery of social-media tools that are fully integrated with the sales process.
- Select and deploy the best technology. Sales technology is critical to both growth and profitability. Sales organizations have stripped hundreds of millions of dollars of waste out of inefficient sales operations. Lead-management apps have improved demand generation, proposal-management tools have improved win rates, and compensation-management apps allow companies to incentivize the right sales behaviors that improve a company's bottom line. As a result of the transformation, salespeople should spend less time tickling keyboards and more time co-creating sales with customers. Savvy sales leaders achieve successful sales transformation by aligning the best people with the best processes and technologies.