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Transforming Sales Requires a Major Organizational Shake-up

March 20, 2015
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Telemarketing Software Contributor


There are certain products that seem – at least for a short time – to “sell themselves.” It’s not a great idea for a company like this to rest on its laurels, however. Who could have imagined 50 years ago that the once-mighty Kodak would be creeping out of bankruptcy flailing around for an identity, which is the case today? Shortly after the launch of the iPhone (News - Alert), Apple seemed like the only unstoppable force in the consumer electronics industry. Today, facing a dearth of market-changing ideas, Apple is now simply one voice among many.


A company’s ability to survive in the long term seems inextricably linked to its ability to adapt to the marketplace. Particularly in the technology industry, positions at the top of the heap are very precarious, and too many companies simply aren’t willing or able to do what it takes to change with the market, according to a recent article by Homayoun Hatami, Kevin McLellan, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Patrick Schulze writing for The Financial, a business website based in Georgia.

“While most major companies understand the need to adapt to the marketplace, we find that they often don’t have the level of commitment needed for a commercial transformation to succeed over time,” wrote the authors. “Yet this is increasingly a decision leadership can’t put off. That’s because better commercial capabilities are necessary to respond to something that we observe more and more often in the marketplace: competitive advantage just doesn’t last very long anymore.”

When it comes to undertaking transformation, the authors recommend that companies begin by identifying their strengths and weaknesses against all their capabilities. The next step is to map them against their goals so they understand which capabilities to prioritize. While the transformative process is a long-term commitment, experts recommend putting first the changes that will result in quick wins.

“Transformations don’t succeed unless they deliver substantive wins within six to twelve months,” wrote the authors. “That’s why leading companies build momentum by focusing first on initiatives that have early impact — and help fund the transformation — then on building a case for further change efforts.”

Often, these early efforts involve the sales department. It may involve opening up new sales channels (retail instead of wholesale, for example), hiring salespeople in new territories, looking for leads outside of traditional areas, or revamping the sales enablement process. Essentially, any task that will help bring products and services to new segments is a great place to start.

The authors also recommend breaking old habits when it comes to sales coaching. Coaching isn’t something that happens only after an employee is hired, or for low performers. It should be about real and ongoing commitment by sales managers to regularly offer constructive feedback, empathize, help sales personnel work through issues, reinforce their strengths and lead by example.

“In sales, companies have found that a structured coaching program with at least weekly contact between coach and sales rep is vital to changing how people work,” wrote the article’s authors. “For example, a consumer-services company mandates that sales managers conduct daily 15-minute check-in calls with all reps who fail to hit their monthly targets. Reps who make their targets get weekly one-on-one sessions, and reps who exceed their targets get a ten-minute praise call every week.”

Most companies today are looking for a way to improve their sales. Many, however, are unwilling to make dramatic changes. The graveyard of failed companies is full of organizations whose executives didn’t want to rock the boat. While there is certainly risk in making broad, cross-organizational changes, there are no rewards for companies unwilling to do so. 





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