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Two Levels You Must Consider for a Successful Change Initiative

sales training for financial services companies


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Change may be a constant in business, but adoption of change within sales organizations can be a slow and often failed initiative if not approached properly.

The key is to be aware of and address change on two levels:  the organizational level and the individual level. This dual-level execution is essential for success and must be orchestrated systematically so the sales force never misses a beat in delivering today’s results while also focusing on the future.

All too often, a new leader is brought into a sales organization with new ideas, a new sales strategy, and new ways of doing things. These changes are quickly communicated via e-mail, internal webs, town hall meetings, and briefings with key managers. Just as quickly, the new approach can begin to suffer in light of the tried-and-tired way of doing things.

Much of the blame lies with the way these changes are handled and communicated, failing to make them concrete to those on the front lines. For change to work its way into the day to day, people need to know what they need to do differently, and they need an opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to work effectively in new ways.

Staying competitive

Consider the IT industry. Here, the emergence of software as a service (SaaS) cloud computing has forced traditional enterprise software companies to transform their businesses to stay competitive.

A prime example is SAP, a world leader in enterprise applications. It was founded 40 years ago with a business model based on installing software systems that provided real-time data and improved business intelligence. Now, as more companies move to the cloud, SAP is positioning to attempt to reinvent itself to be the provider of choice for SaaS solutions. This kind of change will have enormous implications at the organizational level. For example, they recently acquired the SaaS talent management technology company, SuccessFactors, and tapped their CEO, Lars Dalgaad, to head up the transformation of the company. The way they create product, take it to market, and support their clients after the sale will be completely different. As the strategy changes, the processes, jobs, and talent must change along with it.

But what are the implications on the individual level? The SAP sales force had been selling very high-priced, complex systems that required a massive implementation effort and ongoing onsite support. They were richly compensated for their success. SaaS businesses typically run much leaner; customers expect implementations to be faster and simpler, and they expect support fees to be rolled into a single price per user.

Changing individual behaviors

When the underlying tenets of a business change, its supporting processes and procedures also need to change. This cascades to changes in job scope, desired competencies, hiring strategies, pay packages, and talent management. Such changes demand management to provide 1) explicit and specific guidance about what people need to do differently, and 2) include the kind of training they need to accomplish these new objectives.

Without proper guidance, sales teams will resist change, hoping to “wait it out” until the initiative loses steam or gets pushed aside in favor of the next silver bullet.

To achieve the change within the sales force requires a goal-oriented change management model known as ADKAR:

  • Awareness:  They need to know why the change is happening.
  • Desire:  They need to understand and buy into how they will benefit from the change.
  • Knowledge: They need to know specifically what they need to do differently in their jobs and what is expected of them.
  • Ability:  They need to know how to do what you want them to do – and what to say with customers to achieve the outcomes you expect.
  • Reinforcement:  They need the desired behaviors to be reinforced by leadership, management, reward programs, and support infrastructure.
Understanding the two levels of change — organizational and individual — is a first step toward achieving the expected end state. If you address one without the other, or give cursory attention to either, don’t wonder why things didn’t work out. The answer will be one of two things.
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