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How to plan a global sales transformation – 6 steps to success
I've been working with a diverse range of clients in the telcos, manufacturing and consumer sectors. Although their cultures are all very different they all had the same aim in wanting to initiate a change in mindset across their global sales teams.
A change in mindset from the sales teams can be driven by many factors. Speed of disruption in the market, rapid growth through acquisition or the changing nature of the customer can all necessitate a new way of thinking and the improved performance that comes from it. The biggest challenge lies in sustaining that change, particularly on a global scale. As a global sales transformation programme is a major investment for our clients they often ask for our support on the planning phase.
As global behavioural change specialists, Huthwaite is well placed to help companies on this journey. If you’re considering a similar programme in your own company, here are 6 steps that can help.
Step 1. Define your objectives
The ultimate goal for sales change programmes is to improve sales capability and results. But the most effective sales organisations will also define objectives based on customer need. Knowing that is key to knowing what behaviours salespeople must have in order to meet them. Key questions to ask include:
- What are your customers needs and challenges?
- How do they buy and what are their processes?
- How and why does performance vary across different teams?
- Have you done any benchmarking and defined what makes a successful sales person in your organisation?
This can raise further questions about whether your sales structure is set up to match customers buying processes but it is important to separate technical knowledge / processes training from skill development. It may be that you move on to developing a sales team core competency model or review your sales process. Skill development though is aimed at changing behaviour. The core common core objectives for a number of clients is to:
- build the ability for your sales people to be more proactive when managing customers
- improve how you listen to your customers
- enable your sales people to have more consultative and impactful business conversations with more senior decision makers
- be able to sell solutions, rather than just technical products
Step 2. Engagement
For a programme to gain long lasting traction across regions it is essential to have buy-in from those influential to the project at all levels, not just sales leaders. Consider how to build excitement and recognition of the need for change. Getting a senior sales leader, or ideally the CEO, to launch and give visible backing to your programme is a great way to start. This can have a great impact if you decide to run a top team event to define the objectives and shape of your programme. Once you have buy-in from the leadership team it is important to work on how you can cascade this across the teams, particularly if you have regions who will receive training ahead of other areas. Ideas include ensuring you have a mix of levels and representation from different regions or business units in any pilot. Itican work well to ask broader teams, rather than just a senior steering committee, to consider options such as roleplay content and facilitator selection. Clients who have successfully created a sustained change in behaviour have spent time planning how they build and sustain engagement before a programme launches.
Step 3. Consistency
Consistent results and language require a consistent approach. And while an appreciation of cultural variance across regions is key, this can normally be addressed by selecting local trainers and facilitators with local knowledge. What’s more, Huthwaite research shows that there are many factors in buyer psychology which transcend region, culture and business sector. By running a pilot programme pulling in key people from different regions you should be able to develop the blue print for how the programme will run in all of your regions. It is then important to communicate the benefits of having a common, customer centric sales approach to your customers and sales performance teams, at both a group and individual level.
Step 4. Measurement
The pressure to deliver the numbers will always be the top priority for any sales leader. To obtain their long lasting support for the programme, it’s important to demonstrate a clear ROI. With most learning initiatives qualitative methods are the easiest to capture. Participant evaluation reports and impact surveys are important but are limited in showing true behaviour change. To achieve quantitative measurement consider whether you want to run a benchmarking exercise before and after a programme to track the changes in behaviour. At Huthwaite we support clients in quantitative measurement at both individual level and also at group level. As sales managers will also have more access to very detailed analytics from CRM systems you can work out how and when you will use this performance data.
Step 5. Review
It takes time to implement a global sales transformation programme, and although one Huthwaite client went from decision to implementation in a matter of weeks, this was an exception. The plan for the majority of clients is 1-3 years and almost 30% of Huthwaite’s clients have been working with us for over 5 years. The key to continued success is flexibility and regular reviews. Regardless of its shape, a programme needs flexibility to cope with ever changing markets, customers and internal talent. Programmes that work well have a plan A and a plan B for every step. An example of which would be to have a pool of facilitators that you can rely on in each region.
Step 6. Reinforcement
It is important that reinforcement is planned and discussed right at the start of a project. Core questions to ask include who is going to be responsible for reinforcement? And how will you ensure at group level that reinforcement is happening?
There are a number of digital tools and methods to support reinforcement which you can consider in the context of your specific environment. For example:
- Do you have a coaching culture that can be used to embed the change in behaviour and ensure that any training intervention isn’t just a one off event?
- Is social learning and platforms such as Chatter an option for your organisation for peer to peer learning? We have found these to be especially successful in field based teams.
- Can you adopt and embed reinforcement tools into your working practices?
People learn differently and making sure there is a range of reinforcement tools available is an important consideration.
In conclusion, there are key advantages to going through a global sales transformation programme. Sales teams speaking the same language can share customer insights more easily, therefore improving value for customers. A truly global sales team also enables a stronger talent pool and increased opportunities for your strongest performers. Customers will receive the same world-class experience wherever and whenever they deal with your organisation regardless of region, culture or division. Ultimately, developing and supporting your sales teams will drive their engagement and enthusiasm and that will lead to better performance.
Seven companies share their ROI stories and how they improved performance, changed behaviour and transformed fortunes. This report is important reading for anyone evaluating their company's sales performance and / or considering a skills improvement programme.