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When Business Processes Change, Minimize the Impact on Sales

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Businesses are complex and require constant attention to remain competitive, profitable, and productive. That quest often leads to change, which can be targeted to specific parts of an organization or be company-wide.

Any change will likely be disruptive, but that’s to be expected and hopefully minimized. The greater concern comes when companies introduce changes to one part of the business without fully exploring the impact on other areas, including sales.

Here are six issues to consider when approaching a business process transformation:

  • What key indicators is the business changing? What is the potential opportunity with (or threat to) the sales organization?
  • Is sales being included in the process changes? Selling is a business process; therefore, it will most likely be affected by the transformation plans at some point.
  • How will changes in other areas of the business affect sales?
  • Will changes to other business units require the sales team to do something differently?
  • If sales will be addressed, how will it change? Structure? Compensation? Processes?
  • Is measurement of effectiveness (e.g., sales effectiveness, productivity) being considered?
Companies that are transforming their business processes (e.g., structural, operational, compensation, organizational) will ultimately transform the sales process as well. Sales is always affected, so as a business, it is your responsibility to get involved in business process changes before the sales organization is directly changed.

Motivation for Change

What’s the motivation for the change? What’s the business trying to achieve? It can generally be categorized in a few ways. The first is to insert tighter controls on how the business functions. From a sales perspective, this could mean introducing more steps for gaining approvals, which could slow down the process and also limit the authority of those who used to have it. You need to follow the new rules but also remain effective and responsive to serving your customers.

Some changes are meant to do the exact opposite — to loosen things up to allow greater freedom and flexibility.You might find this one difficult to believe, but when companies are experiencing periods of growth, expansion, or fast development, you might need to relax some processes that stand in the way of keeping pace. Of course, you need to maintain some controls to prevent the Wild West, but at the same time, you don’t want to stifle or impede productivity.

Other reasons for introducing change could be to adhere to new rules and regulations or just to shake things up. In the case of the former, it is imperative to comply by the imposed deadlines or else face consequences. With the latter, while making a change is sometimes necessary in order to find the right combination that works, be careful not to do this too often; management by “flavor of the week” is typically recognized for what it is and ignored to the greatest extent possible.

Don’t Let Change “Happen” to Sales; Be a Part of It

Whether the business process change is narrow or broad, don’t wait for change to “happen” to sales. If sales is not directly involved in the changes taking place, meet with your peer business leaders who are going through internal change to discuss what they’re doing, what they hope to achieve, by when, and the possible ramifications for sales. Even if there’s no direct connection, it doesn’t hurt to stay informed and possibly glean ideas that can benefit sales.

What can you do to engage in business process transformations?

  • Have facilitated planning days to look at the areas of connectivity that impact sales. Develop a plan to quickly understand the business and how it is changing.
  • Employ process mapping to identify the current and future state of business.
  • Evaluate the current metrics, and look for leading indicators of organizational changes in the company.
  • Impact productivity by discussing the most important things to focus on to drive productivity in the sales organization.
  • What is the timing for the change? At what point will it have the greatest impact on sales processes? Does that coincide with your busy season? If you had a choice, is there a better or worse time to migrate?
As a result of the change, what will you expect people to do differently? Is it internally or externally focused? Will it add steps and therefore time to a process, or will it smooth out some wrinkles to increase efficiency? Will training be required to impart knowledge, learn new skills, or change behaviors?

And as with any change, speed is of the essence. The longer it takes, the more complicated it becomes — and the more likely that your people could be “living in two worlds” (those being the old and new). Do what you can to minimize the distractions of your sales teams while keeping them on track to hit their numbers and successfully transitioning to the new processes.

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