We met with several customers and prospects last week, all of which are mature companies in mature markets. A common theme we noticed was the desire to change the mindset of their associated sales organization. Changing the sales culture is no easy task and I admire organizations with big ambitions and serious commitment.
Sometimes sales functions get out of sync with customers and the market, particularly in established companies where the sales organization may have been assembled based on out-dated sales philosophy. Changes in customer needs, the way they buy changes and the competitive landscape all contribute to the need for a sales organization to make sure it is aligned with the corporate objectives (See Building a Culture of Success)
When the decision is made to change, the challenge companies face is how to get the rest of their organizations to go along with the change. Middle management who are either not intimately familiar with the plan, or not committed to the execution are a big focus of the change effort. Getting these players on board will go a long way to getting the rest of the organization to change. The organizations we met with last week understand this and I commend them for being proactive.
A few years ago we worked for a national level telco that wanted to change the sales culture in one of its divisions. The company wanted to shift from a transactional culture to a solution mindset. We were invited in to help them replace about 20% of the sales force virtually overnight. This was a risky move on the part of senior management, but it worked because the company carefully weeded out the reps that might object to the changes and kept team members who most likely to be able to adapt. As it turned out the company was able to hit an aggressive growth target in year after they made the change.
Changing the sales culture requires serious commitment from all levels of management, but the payoffs can be enormous.
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Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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