Today’s post is by Mike Kunkle, a renowned sales transformation strategist, practitioner, speaker, and writer who has spent 22 years as a corporate leader or consultant, helping companies drive dramatic revenue growth through best-in-class learning strategies and his proven-effective sales transformation methodology. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @Mike_Kunkle.
Force Field What? Sounds Like Sci-Fi
Force Field Analysis (FFA) is a methodology developed by social psychologist, Kurt Lewin, in the 1940s. For those interested in exploring Lewin or his change models, some of my favorite descriptions appear on Change Management Coach, where you can explore articles on The Kurt Lewin Change Management Model (unfreeze, change, refreeze) and Force Field Analysis.
If you’re like me, however, you’ll be more interested in the practical business applications of FFA for improving sales performance. I’ll start with a brief description of my method for FFA for sales projects and offer a few examples of how I’ve used it to drive sales results.
Conducting a Force Field Analysis
You start with a Gap Analysis. Today, you are at Point A, your current state. You want to move to a pre-determined Point B, your desired future state. For sales, you may be thinking of increasing revenue, improving quota attainment, addressing win/loss percentages, achieving key account objectives, or more.
To apply FFA, you begin by documenting those states (including objectives and desired outcomes for the future state) and conducting a factor analysis to document the driving forces that are pushing you toward achieving your desired future state – and the restraining forces that are holding you back. Then, as much as possible, you document the weight of the forces, perhaps on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the slightest force and 5 being the strongest.
This now represents the “force field” that is holding you in place today, similar to sitting in a car with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake – applying equal force to both. The car may rock, but it won’t move forward.
In the action planning phase, you conduct root cause analysis, troubleshoot, and apply other critical thinking and problem-solving methods to create an action plan that will
- Minimize or eliminate the restraining forces
- Enhance or add to the driving forces
Using Force Field Analysis for Sales
When I say that sales training, sales enablement, or sales performance improvement work in general is really change management, I can usually feel the tension in the air. It’s a known fact that many change initiatives don’t produce the intended results. If you truly want to move the needle with performance initiatives, though, you have to treat them like a change project and manage them well.
One reason sales improvement projects become derailed is a lack of disciplined and focused execution with staying power. Another factor is a lack of critical thinking and planning, which is why FFA works.
Here are a few real-life use cases where FFA helped me move the needle for a client or employer:
Increased sales results by 28.7 percent over previous year
- How: through the development and implementation of a highly successful new-hire sales curriculum focused on the performance levers of sales planning, territory management, consultative sales skills, account selection, product knowledge, opportunity management, and strategic account development – as well as a focus on developing sales managers as coaches.
Increased performance of new hires
In this case, newly-trained sales reps with 120 days on the job outperformed a control group of reps with five years at the company.
- How: through updated selection practices, redesigned sales training, sales coaching training for managers, and performance management practices.
Increased sales per rep by 47 percent in nine months.
- How: through changes in territory management, prospecting approaches, consultative selling skills, sales coaching, and performance management.
Further penetrated and grew the top 18 key accounts
In this case, annual account objectives were achieved in 18 of 20 key accounts in only 10 months, resulting in more than $4 million in accretive revenue. Eighteen of the 20 accounts had an account objective of growth. The remaining two accounts were “retention” accounts that year, and remained accounts at the end of the year.
- How: through the application of FFA to the strategic account management process. This yielded very specific and targeted account plans, which were reviewed for progress monthly and re-evaluated quarterly with an FFA review and update.
While a combination of critical thinking, problem-solving methods, the actual work performed (meaning: the solution development), and good execution factored into the success of these projects, every project started with a Force Field Analysis and included updated FFAs throughout the journey. In each case, business leaders credited the FFA method as a significant factor in the success of these projects.
Why not give my approach to Lewin’s Force Field Analysis method a try on your next sales improvement project? If you do, I’d enjoy hearing about your efforts and successes.