Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Mike Brooks, founder and principle of Los Angeles-based inside sales consulting and training firm Mr. Inside Sales, on the challenges and keys to implementing successful changes to your sales culture.
Changing sales processes and procedures is relatively straight forward; changing attitudes and actions of experienced sales reps isn’t. Anyone who has been involved in managing or directing a sales team knows first-hand the resistance of reps to change the way they sell, even if the current efforts aren’t producing positive results.
Regardless of the change you are hoping to implement, one of the biggest challenges you are likely to face is getting buy in from your existing sales team to adopt and implement the skills, processes, and procedures needed to make the change successful.
There are three keys to ensuring you achieve that buy in. Careful and thoughtful implementation of these strategies will not only give you the best chance of bringing your team on board, but also help you to sustain the early momentum and success required to make transforming your sales culture possible.
1) Have a Clear Strategy for Rolling Out Your Initiative
It may seem straight forward to suggest devising a planned rollout strategy for something as complex and integral as a new sales platform, but you might be surprised by the lack of planning and cohesion often involved. A lack of clear strategy can not only sabotage many good intentioned and much needed changes, it can often introduce more problems than the change attempts to solve. The first key to giving your new sales initiative a fighting chance is to carefully plan out each step in its development and implementation.
Often, the best place to start is to find ways of enlisting the support, feedback, and ideas of the very sales people who will be asked to implement the new strategy. There is a fine line to walk here. The key is to solicit input from your sales reps by asking them to identify the sales situations they need help in most, thereby focusing and directing their feedback, proactively.
In order for sales reps to buy in to any change to your sales culture, they need to feel like they are a part of its design, and, more importantly, they need to see how they can benefit from it. Again, you’d be surprised just how many companies develop a sweeping new sales platform in the safety and comfort of the senior management think tank before mandating it down to the reps. It’s no wonder reps think their best strategy is to hide out and outlast the new program. And they are right — without their buy in, sooner or later, it will go away.
The next thing to consider is the development of your new sales playbook. As it’s developed, it’s easy to become caught up in the belief that new and improved scripts and sales procedures can have an immediate positive effect on sales right now! But once again, careful timing and the enlistment of your reps is key. Their input and revisions will be crucial to the playbook’s acceptance and implementation. It’s also important to resist the temptation of passing new scripts out before they have been thoroughly tested by your managers or top reps.
The last key to successfully rolling out your new sales platform is clearing addressing your goals and benchmarks during the initial rollout – usually the first 90 to 120 days.
The mistake many companies make is in expecting total buy in and adoption from the reps right away. Instead, measure and reward gradual adherence and adoption starting with the first call. Bring the reps along slowly, and reinforce each success as it comes.
2) Win Key Buy In and Get Champions Involved Early
By developing a clear rollout strategy for each stage of the new sales platform, you will be able to better identify and enlist potential champions early on. The following are key groups and tactics for securing their buy in:
Front line managers: The formula is the same as for the reps – enlist their feedback and input on the key areas of change you have identified and committed to. Manager feedback can be particularly useful in providing overviews of the entire sales process and sales cycle.
Top producers: Your top producers are intimately familiar with the best practices of closing your particular sale – let them know you realize that and incorporate their feedback accordingly. Securing their buy in is crucial to optimizing your initiative and will typically go a long way to getting the rest of the team on board, as well.
The rest of the team: Sales reps all want to know one thing: “What’s in it for me?” If you can help them resolve the problem areas they run into – the objections they have trouble overcoming, the blow offs they can’t get past, etc. – you will more easily win them over.
Other champions include support staff and team members who will be involved in compiling and updating the new metrics and design of the sales dashboards and reports. By identifying these key people in advance and having target areas for their involvement, you can ensure the steady development and implementation of your new sales platform.
3) During Implementation Focus on Progressive Success
After investing the time, energy, and money involved with developing a new sales platform you may understandably be in a hurry to get the team to buy in. Don’t worry, they will, but it takes time and a plan.
The first key is to coach, measure, and reward the adoption of each part of the new sales process one step at a time. For the first week, have your managers focus on getting reps to apply the new opening to their first calls, then move on to building rapport, qualifying, and getting commitment. Once your team is scoring high — using a script grading adherence form — on the first call, turn your attention to the closing call and build momentum, and buy in, one step at a time.
Next, focus on the reps who have displayed the most buy in and emphasize their successes in team meetings. Record them using the scripts successfully; highlight their script grading adherence percentages, and reward them for their closed sales. Once the other reps see that the new playbook and techniques work, even the more senior or stubborn reps will follow suit.
By aligning new sales initiatives with a clear strategy and a defined process you will be able to establish an environment in which the new platform can truly take root and transform your sales culture.