The successful transformation of a distributor’s sales department can only take place once a clear future destination is agreed upon by the company’s executives. Mike Marks, managing partner at Indian River Consulting Group, made these remarks early on during Tuesday’s Sales Transformation Roundtable web seminar, and the event’s speakers reinforced the sentiment throughout the two-hour preview of MDM’s upcoming Sales GPS virtual conference.
“You cannot delegate [sales transformation] to the sales VP,” Marks said. “You need CEO, executive-level involvement. If you don’t do that, you’re just going to wander aimlessly in the dark.”
The disruption to business as usual brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic has a growing number of distributors motivated to take action to address problems that have been brewing in the sales department for years.
According to Marks, common executive beliefs that trigger a transformation include:
- Field salespeople are overcompensated for the real value they bring.
- The firm is being held hostage by a salesforce that can quit and take customers with them.
- The salesforce does not respond appropriately to executive direction/leadership.
- Growth rates are declining and ongoing efforts to fix it aren’t working.
- The selling function is expensive when compared to industry benchmarks.
- The firm has grown to the point that customer service issues need process developments to improve.
Know Where You’re Going
As the market has changed, traditional selling processes have only gotten weaker, Marks said. However, distributors have not transformed to meet the changes. Often, he said, it’s because they do not know where or how to start. His recommendations for getting started are to first design the end-state and then get buy-in to work toward that goal.
Provide the salesforce with a solid starting point and center it around a phased rollout of the new plan with the goal of producing the largest impact for the least amount of cost and disruption — “something that lets you put numbers on the scoreboard,” Marks said.
Once the journey gets started, it is never complete, he added. Rather, the company will develop a muscle for innovation.
To further improve the likelihood of success, Marks recommended designating from within or hiring a person who excels at change management and understand project management and organizational behavior. If there is still resistance to change, one of the first things he suggested distributors examine is the company’s incentive structure. It is likely they are not properly aligned with the end goal.
Marks will go into much more detail on this topic during MDM’s now-virtual Sales GPS Conference, taking place online September 1-2, with a pre-conference session August 31. Please visit https://salesgps.mdm.com/ for much more information.