Facing the Inevitable in Sales: 3 Key Steps for Successfully Managing Change

Our brains love patterns. We are creatures of habit, so change doesn’t come easy to most of us. Everyone has probably resisted it more than a few times. After all, change takes us out of our comfort zone; it pushes us to entertain new ideas and try uncharted paths with no guarantee that we’ll end up in a better place. The uncertainty it creates makes us vulnerable, often forcing us back into the role of the novice. We may fear the unknown, or fear failure. In the business world, where change has become the rule and not the exception, opting out isn’t possible – either for the individual or the organization.

But if you have a positive mindset, and approach change confidently, it can open possibilities for growth and drive performance. With the right strategy, a strong communications plan, and a scalable and flexible sales performance management (SPM) solution, you’ll be ready for whatever the day brings – whether you’re introducing a new product to the marketplace or supporting your organization through a merger or acquisition.

A map for change

The best way to survive in an ever-changing, competitive market is to be prepared for change: whether spurred by external or internal forces, change is always around the corner. Get started by brainstorming all the changes your organization or your competitors experienced over the last 5 years. Which strategies worked? Which failed?

Make change inherent to your organizational culture by challenging your employees to explore new ideas and anticipate events. Encourage innovative thinking and nurture adaptive skills. Learning through trial and error helps leaders and their teams get comfortable with change and motivates them to keep going until goals are accomplished.

Which changes would help your organization or team move forward: launching a new product, dropping an existing one, entering a new market, adopting new technology? Prepare for those events through a collective effort. Get more people involved, ask questions, welcome feedback, collaborate. Design different scenarios for the possible outcomes. Chart a path for progress.

Take advantage of technology

Changes in competitor offerings, mergers and acquisitions, shifts in products or corporate strategy, new or changed legal considerations, and technological change can all have a detrimental impact if you don’t have an adaptable SPM solution in place that’s capable of weathering the inevitable storms.

For example, when one of the largest distributors of medical equipment in the United States acquired their competitor, it had to overcome some major challenges. The company needed to harmonize the sales forces and the variable compensation plans of the two organizations. At the same time, leaders had to adjust to managing a sales force that had nearly doubled in size.

The organization quickly realized that their homegrown compensation system would no longer fit their needs. The sales force couldn’t access it, and crucial information was out of reach. This created a frustrating lack of transparency and lack of control over performance, and reps lost motivation to succeed. Moreover, the system didn’t allow the organization to make ongoing changes and to plan in a timely fashion.

They needed a solution to streamline and automate sales compensation. And they needed to provide their reps with more transparency.

Choosing a robust and scalable SPM solution helped the company to successfully manage the acquisition. The SPM platform enabled sales operations to align, in a timely manner, compensations plans, territory management, and quota management to the internal and external forces that shape the sales process. Moreover, reps gained easy access to meaningful analytics and to crucial information about their performance and compensation.

A powerful SPM solution also drives revenue by reducing the time salespeople give to administrative tasks, compensation disputes, and shadow accounting. Costly turnover, too, is reduced. Salespeople spend their day doing what they were hired for: selling.

Communication is key

Technology is a critical tool for navigating change, but it is not enough. An open channel of communication is also essential, as it builds trust between employees and between people at different levels of the organization. Communication also helps keep the staff aligned with changing organizational priorities, strategies and objectives.

When dealing with the continual cycles of change that define modern businesses, sales staff may get confused or distracted, and be unable to see the link between new processes and future benefits.

While going through several external and internal changes, a major U.S. pharmaceutical company wanted to avoid this scenario; the company was concerned that the unrelenting cycles of change would eventually disrupt its sales force and leaders, and that they might lose valuable sales and people. They saw the pressure on their sales reps to continually adapt to changes in their compensation plan, quotas and even territory coverage, while managers had to adjust strategy and objectives.

Implementing a scalable SPM system helped ease the transitions, thus ensuring the sales team that changes connected to rep performance metrics would be communicated quickly and easy to understand and follow, and that goals would be clear and achievable. The platform also ensured visibility for salespeople and managers. Important messages were immediately posted and distributed, and documents offering additional information were made accessible to everyone. Moreover, both sales reps and leaders were energized by the immediate visibility they had into their earnings and how they could maximize compensation.

To reduce resistance to change and increase cooperation and engagement, focus on your company’s biggest asset: the employees.

Ultimately, your organization is the sum of its people. Humans don’t thrive in solitude. We are social beings; we crave belonging. Get people in sync with each other and build a sense of loyalty and belonging by showing them that their work is valued and makes a difference in the organization.

When employees are able to span functional boundaries to connect to each other, partnerships are built, and a sense of unity is created.

Emphasize the importance of communication in your company and make transparency a habit. Keeping your employees informed about the company’s priorities and vision shows them their importance, and helps them feel part of something larger than themselves, which is one of our basic human needs.

Make change work in your favor

Are you resisting change or embracing it? Your attitude will decide the state of your organization after the change wave has passed – and before the next one rolls in. Yes, change is hard and can disrupt sales performance. But it can also uncover new possibilities: a new market, a better strategy or compensation plan, a new function to ease the sales process, or new ways to respond in the future. The wide-reaching side benefits of preparing for change — the creation of a flexible, enduring, and tenacious company culture – are as worthwhile as the main goal itself.

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Georgiana Mircea

Senior Consultant

Georgiana has been helping global organizations improve sales performance and operations for over 7 years. Keen to tackle change, she’s an enthusiast consultant that became the primary project liaison for clients across multiple industries.

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