Needless to say, any merger and acquisition activity can have a major impact on each business, and cause a great deal of uncertainty for employees and customers alike. In particular, these events can be especially challenging for sales professionals, who must adapt to different organizational cultures, redefined expectations and new compensation plans. If a combined sales force isn’t made aware of different policies and processes up front, the company can lose its best sales talent – you can be sure that competitors are waiting in the wings to poach those top performers.
So what can be done to ensure a successful transition and minimal disruption to the sales teams during times of M&A? Consider the following seven steps to minimize uncertainty, compensate sales people effectively and keep the entire sales force informed, engaged and retained.
- Communication is key: A well-defined communication strategy will go a long way in preparing sales professionals and managers for large-scale change, helping reduce anxiety and uncertainty among the field force. Setting expectations early and communicating consistently through meetings, emails, workshops, webinars and more will further ease the transition – there is no such thing as over-communicating in M&A scenarios. Additionally, identifying your top talent and working to build confidence in them (and in turn, their peers) can enable employees to prepare and adapt – and help reduce turnover.
- Pay attention to the customer: It isn’t just the sales force who can have an adverse reaction to Merger and Acquisition – customers must also be nurtured during this time. Identifying key accounts that will be targeted post-merger and aggressively pursuing their sales strategy will help to maintain those important accounts. This can also be seen as an opportunity to salvage troubled accounts by highlighting the benefits and positive changes for them, while ensuring the sales team is fully aligned.
- Leverage a single sales compensation management platform: Merger and Acquisition will often result in the use of multiple legacy sales compensation management platforms, which will often cause confusion, inconsistencies and extra work. The result is multiple sources of truth that can lead to incorrect data and further complicate compensation plans. As a result of these inconsistencies, the sales force may become frustrated and lose confidence in the whole M&A process, further driving the need for a unified system. Still, as with any change, managers may face resistance from sales people who must learn the new system.
- Drive adoption of new solution: To ensure the sales force uses the compensation system effectively, extensive training is necessary. Managers should show how the system can be used to their advantage to help increase their compensation as well as improve their performance. The key to gaining widespread acceptance is to integrate the new system quickly; leaving legacy systems in place can sabotage adoption. Releasing new reports, holding contests or tying training to compensation can help with the integration.
- Highlight the benefits: There are numerous stakeholders involved with sales management, and outlining the advantages of the new solution is important for garnering acceptance. Demonstrating how the field force will benefit from consistent calculations and reporting for their compensation plans, showing IT that they will have one system to manage and dedicate resources, and highlighting how the sales ops team can reduce overhead on resources, drive efficiency and fine-tune the system to meet their needs is essential.
- Partner with an agile solutions provider: Merger and Acquisition activity can lead teams on both the IT and sales operations sides to become overloaded with additional work. This, coupled with changing strategies at the corporate level, can keep sales compensation plans and processes in a state of constant change. In such situations, it helps to work with a vendor or solutions provider that can help adapt to changing needs, re-prioritize deliveries and make the M&A experience, from a compensation perspective, a success for the sales force.
- Measure success: After guiding the transition, it is important to measure the outcomes across three main methods. The first is to consider the adoption rate – does the sales force know where they can find the information they need and how to use it, and has the company seen fewer sales reps calling their compensation analysts with questions or confusion? The next is to collect feedback from the sales team. An informal roundtable or survey can reveal the effectiveness of the system and any challenges that need to be addressed. Finally, pay attention to sales performance analytics. If your approach is working well, performance across the team should improve with minimal disruption in the sales process, while compensation earned should be fully aligned with performance.
M&A has become an everyday part of doing business, but it can still cause a state of flux for the sales force. By adopting a single sales compensation management platform, companies can maximize sales force performance before, during and after the merger. Key to success, though, is having a plan to guide success each step of the way to communicate change and eliminate uncertainty. And a comprehensive system that provides simplicity, consistency in data and fully aligned with the company brand is essential to making a successful transition and driving performance of the sales team.