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Changing a Sales Culture that is Institutionalized


Your organization has decided that you must develop new processes, methodologies and technologies to increase the effectiveness and compliance of your sales force. Those you have, the ones that used to bring you great results, are not working or not accepted in today’s economy. You know that if you do not change and adapt, your organization will become a follower, not a leader in your industry. Maybe your situation is not quite as drastic as this, but you know that your current approach will only have limited effectiveness in the current economy. How can you ensure a successful  change in selling behavior, a winning cultural transformation?

The Current Atmosphere of Change Fast evolving technology and a perennially challenged global economy are forcing businesses to significantly change the way they operate. Delivering goods and services is becoming increasingly complex. Businesses have to use advanced information systems, organizational structures, improved production methods, and ultimately new ways of thinking to meet the increasingly sophisticated and complicated demands of the end user.

To keep pace with the changes in the marketplace, companies are always in a state of change. Organizations must understand how to manage change. If you change your sales and marketing methodologies without understanding how to execute the change, your initiatives will not be sustained.


Although it seems counterintuitive—because we always think of change as chaotic—change is a manageable process that has a definite structure and outcomes that you can reliably anticipate. If you attempt to implement
major corporate change without understanding this process, you’ll be confused by reactions that are a natural part of the process. Implementation guidelines can help managers anticipate the unexpected and manage the outcomes of major corporate change.

Based on our experience in implementing sales and marketing processes in hundreds of organizations around the world a consistent and highly effective change management process for implementing large-scale process changes in sales and marketing organizations is essential. (see picture below) 

Achieving organizational effectiveness

The traditional model of training focuses on training as an ‘event’, not a process. Using the traditional model for training people, Sharon, the Vice President of Sales, would inform Keith, the Director of Training, that she wanted the entire sales force to receive sales training to improve their account planning. Keith or Sharon would then select the best supplier to deliver the training and schedule the times for the training courses. After lining up the
classes, Keith would send a memo to all sales personnel informing them that they must take the class and ask them to enroll. The sales force can sign up for any class at any time they want.

Mike, a sales person in London, took one of the first account planning classes, but the rest of his team didn’t attend class until several weeks later. After the class, Mike had several questions about applying what he learned to his current accounts, but he had no one to ask since his sales manager was too busy to attend the training. Mike also tried to integrate the information from his new account plan into the Company’s current CRM system, but there was no place on the screen to add the information. And, when he asked technical support why, they didn’t seem to know what he was talking about.

Mike was consequently very frustrated about taking several days of selling time to learn a process of which he was only able to use a small fraction in his daily activities. He communicated his perception that the new process was “pretty much useless” to the rest of his team, so by the time they took the class, many had little motivation to learn or apply the new process. Eventually the rest of the team was trained and Mike’s sales manager had the knowledge he needed to coach and support Mike but it was too late to change Mike's perception. In the end, the sales force employed some of the techniques, but overall the company didn’t receive the maximum value from their training investment. They could have achieved a much greater ROI by using a change execution process that ensured the new process was institutionalized and embedded into everyone’s daily work habits.

Speed is key to achieving success

Every additional month that you add to the implementation of a new process dilutes its effectiveness and increases your opportunity cost. Condensing the implementation time window helps embed the process because everyone starts using the process simultaneously, which creates momentum for change. By rolling out a structured change program you can ensure that teams start using consistent and manageable processes. Generally, but not always, the smaller the organization and the simpler its structure, the speedier the implementation.

If your company’s sales force has traditionally been an individualized, almost maverick sales force, then in the current economic climate your company really needs to implement a consistent sales methodology/process for their entire worldwide sales force. This can be a major culture change for the company, which required a structured approach for rapid implementation. If the change limped over several months, the existing culture would have absorbed the change. An externally formulated change execution process discussed with the customer can allow a rapid implementation, which, in turn, gave the company an immediate return on their investment while achieving a culture change that is needed.



Change Execution Process

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