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Transforming a Sales Organization: A True Sales 2.0 Story

16 June 2009

Phone Works is helping the Media Division of a $14 billion communications company completely change the way they sell.  Our client is not unlike many companies, whose growth and margins have slowed or even gone negative in recent years.  What makes our client unique is their willingness to make bold, innovative changes to a traditional model that has worked for them for decades – until recently.   We have every confidence that with their dedication to re-invention,  they will become the clear market leaders in their industry. Why?

We have seen this borne out in other forward-thinking companies we’ve worked with – former employers and clients – who have been willing to take risks and fundamentally change the way they do business. As profiled in the Sales 2.0 bookOracle captured “low-end” and international customers early its history – and ahead of the company’s competition.  Syneron established a first-mover advantage by daring to sell to doctors and their office staffs differently -using the phone rather than expensive vacation junkets to fill the pipeline with qualified sales opportunities as well as serve customers with dedicated telesales reps.  Other businesses that have transformed their sales organizations and cultures to establish market leadership include Xerox, which created Team Xerox and IBM, which launched both phone and online sales organizations (IBM Direct and ibm.com).  All these companies decreased their cost of sale while increasing revenue by changing their sales coverage models.

Essentially, our work with this media giant includes building an additional sales channel to serve buyers through a centralized sales organization.  The first phase of implementation – serving the company’s smallest customers (in terms of annual revenue potential) -includes:

  • creating sales goals and objectives that fit the new channel and sales culture
  • addressing supporting compensation plans and incentives for both inside sales and field sales
  • establishing distinct roles and responsibilities for inside and field sales that best serve customers
  • building infrastructure, as well as all new sales processes,  in a new location
  • evaluating sales talent, writing hiring profiles, and recruiting and training reps and managers
  • redefining marketing programs to address customer needs and provide value while supporting sales goals
  • implementing systems to increase sales productivity and effectiveness as well as capture market and customer data

In addition,  the field sales organization is being evaluated.  Not only has it become unprofitable to serve every customer with face-to-face visits from a sales team but it has become clear that not every sales rep is selling to their customers in the way they want to buy – with a consultative approach, focused on helping the customer improve their business results.  We will create an inside sales organization that follows customer-focused, Sales 2.0 principles: marketing programs will support sales goals, the sales process will be measurable and built according to the steps in the customers’ buying process, reps hired will provide value to customers rather than pitching products, and the organization will be technology-enabled.  The new inside sales channel will be the future footprint, leading by example and paving the way for field sales to embrace and model Sales 2.0 approaches to customers.

This is not to suggest that change isn’t difficult.  It is uncomfortable and scary for reps,  especially when organizations are transformed, job descriptions changed or positions eliminated, compensation is “adjusted”, and time frames to get up and running appear unreasonable.  Sales managers worry about keeping reps motivated and generating revenue during such times of potential upheaval. But doing nothing is no longer optional.  Our client company has shown leadership not only in its decision to undergo a sales transformation, but also in its implementation and roll-out of the changes.

Last week, I attended our client’s meeting to address “future state”, as they call their post-transformation world. In attendance were marketing and sales managers at all levels, from all over the country and from both the field and corporate organizations.  The participants were chosen for their openness, willingness to embrace change, and ability to help explain the necessity and opportunity ahead to their colleagues and staff members.   Regional sales vice presidents presented goals, desired outcomes, and a proposed new sales strategy and restructure and then quickly made the meeting interactive, breaking the group up into work groups to address possibilities as well as concerns. I noted that the concerns raised were very similar to other organizations undergoing Sales 2.0 transformations, especially when multi-channel team selling is implemented:

  • How do we make sure customer relationships are taken care of  (i.e., who “owns” accounts?)
  • What is our kick-off message internally and to customers to describe our bold, new, customer-driven sales organization?
  • How do we support a team sellling approach through our new compensation plans?
  • How do we staff our future sales team? Who on our current staff will fit into the new model with training and coaching and who won’t be able to make the shift?

This was not a meeting of whiners,  though.  After raising concerns, the groups then brainstormed about possible solutions. By getting participation and “buy-in” from key field sales members who are seen are leaders by their peers as well as their staffs, our client is taking key steps to a successful move to the Sales 2.0 world.

How is your organization rolling out Sales 2.0 initiatives? And why? What are your experiences, including obstacles and challenges? Share your do’s as well as your don’ts!