Sales Transformation Happens One Customer at a Time
At first, I really liked the catchphrase “sales transformation.” Transformation evokes images of a massive shift or something entirely different. The concept that businesses can transform themselves and become a dramatically different kind of organization is powerful. That a sales organization should play a vital role in that transformation by leading the shift in how clients buy and what they buy is something I advocate for. But unfortunately, most transformation efforts are anything but. I’ve seen a lot of these well-meaning efforts quickly devolve from a sales revolution into modest changes so subtle they can hardly be noticed (especially on anyone’s bottom line), or cosmetic changes with no real impact.
I recently had the chance to sit in on a review of a major transformation effort. It was articulated as hundreds of “workstreams,” individual projects that were designed to create an essential shift for the business. I’m a believer that aggregated marginal gains can yield strong results. But after digging into the day-to-day outcomes of these projects, it was clear that this “transformation” was an overly complicated project focused on cost reductions. Few if any of the workstreams would make a substantive impact on the value being provided for clients or the company being able to earn a premium for that value. Hardly transformative.
Sales transformation happens one client at a time. When your client buys something from you that is fundamentally different than what you have sold to them before. When you sell to them in an entirely distinctive way and are able to bring value and earn a new premium for the work you do. When your client says, this is unequivocally different than what we’ve gotten before. That is a sales transformation.
Succeeding with a true sales transformation requires 3 things:
1. A new understanding of how sales create value for customers.
2. An updated approach to the sales process and client relationship.
3. A fundamentally different way of managing and leading the sales organization.
Your efforts don’t need to be entirely transformational all at once. I’ve seen progressively small changes in these three areas make considerable differences over time. These are not the kind of changes that happen on spreadsheets though. These changes require leadership from executives like you to communicate a vision for the sales organization and create pragmatic strategies for implementing new approaches.
Below are links to a few articles I’ve written for Harvard Business Review that go into some depth on these topics.
- Harvard Business Review: How to Get Your Sales People to Execute Your Strategy
- Harvard Business Review: The Metrics Sales Leaders Should be Tracking
I’ve worked with a cartoonist to capture some of the humorous things I see in organizations. I’ll share them every other month and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did creating them!
A Slice of Life Balance
I’d like to say thank you to many of you who sent kind messages of condolence about my mom passing away last month. I appreciated each of those notes, and every one of them was a reminder that compassion is one of the best qualities we can express as human beings. The genuine compassion we feel and display when someone suffers a terrible loss is an important part of our humanity. But we are capable of compassion in small ways too. And I think we’d all be better off if we mustered a bit more of it.
You don’t hear a lot about compassion in the world of business in fact, in our focused drive for results, compassion is often thrown under the bus. But I encourage you to think about it in your interactions with others. Compassion helps us to understand and connect with others. It helps us to appreciate different perspectives and recognize some of the intentions behind the behaviors of others. Adding a small dose of compassion to your leadership efforts can make all the difference in motivating individuals, uniting teams and collaborating across divisions. I promise you won’t have any negative effects and the upside may be tremendous.
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