Major sales force changes such as restructuring or downsizing are disruptive to how sales teams work and to the systems that support them. A poorly-orchestrated change can damage customer relationships, hurt the top line, and threaten salespeople’s sense of control and self-esteem. Not surprisingly, leaders often wait to implement major changes until a significant event forces them to do so.
A crisis like the pandemic makes sales leaders, managers, and salespeople more receptive to change. A crisis can also spark energy, courage, and perseverance as leaders bring people together to address a shared challenge.
As implementing change gets easier, the key challenge becomes deciding what to change. Beyond the forced move to virtual connection during the pandemic, sales organizations are dealing with critical questions. How will customers buy in the future? How much of the sales process will remain virtual? What does this mean for sales organization design, sales success profiles, sales incentive structures, and other sales management decisions? Four issues need urgent attention now, as changes will only get harder to implement as time passes.
Rethinking the Sales Process
Even before the pandemic, buyers had jumped ahead of B2B selling organizations in their digital savvy. Buyers’ expectations were shaped by online buying experiences with the likes of Amazon and Netflix in their personal lives. Three factors contributed to the slow progress of B2B selling organizations with digital. First, boosting digital and virtual selling usually meant taking some customers or sales tasks away from field salespeople. Salespeople naturally resisted, wanting to keep control of every step in the process. Second, sales leaders held back as they weighed the risk of disrupting customer relationships. Third, as the rigidity of technology collided with the fluidity of B2B selling, digital system implementation was fraught with delays and had questionable impact.
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