One sure sign transformation is off the rails
If you ever hear yourself, or others, say that the reason your company cannot transform from X to Y is because salespeople won’t change, you are probably off track with your transformation efforts.
I have had multiple transformation experiences in my professional life. One reoccurring theme is the organization of people into camps for and opposed to change. This happens in the larger “civil” political arena as well, but let’s not digress. In the business arena, the people with a revolutionary zealousness for going in a new direction, at all costs, are as dangerous as those opposed to it. Both camps are problematic, but this article focuses on the former.
Ok, so the “decision” has been made that transformation is needed, the company is rolling out change, and anyone who does not sign up for the change needs to be executed, because they are immorally opposed to the path of the righteous. Sales is a common villain in this drama, a stage on which we are all actors, and all play our part. Everyone who has become used to the “right” way of doing things for 5,10,20…years is part of this drama, but Sales is a particularly important piece of the puzzle.
Relationships with sales are complicated. Sales brings in the money, therefore they have political clout, therefore they can be said to have “privilege”, in the vernacular of these woke times. As they have privilege, it is easy to slip into a mindset they are bullies, and therefore, the only way to tame the beast is with strong, top-down mandates. Powder keg!
We’ve all heard the management cliches before, business is not a democracy, and so on, and when “corporate” decides something,…It has been a couple of decades since the U.S. military realized that the old models of command and control are going to struggle in the presence of non-nation state-based guerrilla insurgents. An insurrection can be organized in a few keystrokes with today’s pervasive communication capabilities. You can cut off the heads of the leaders, but more leaders will arise. Overwhelming force? Perhaps. Do you have the time and resources, and what is the opportunity cost?
In any relationship, if it becomes a power struggle, then the relationship is over. When the goal becomes asserting or maintaining power, instead of focusing on the issues, and working with purpose, then the relationship is over. If it gets to this point with the sales team, it is not going to end well for anyone.
Sure, someone in corporate may bring in new sales leadership, and they can replace enough people to get a critical mass aligned with change, but that process is going to impact the bottom line as well.
I’m not one for frequently reposting cliche-ick leadership posts, but this one did get my attention:
Ambition is refusing to quit on ourselves.
Leadership is refusing to quit on others.
Too many people approach change with more of the former, and less of the latter. We see this in the larger political arena that is so troubled and toxic today, and we see it inside business as well.
If a sales team is telling you something is hard to sell, then it might be because they are resistant to change, or it might be because it is hard to sell, and for the customer, it is hard to buy. If it is the former, then time to strap on your big girl influencer pants. If it is the latter, it is time to consider the issues. You have to delineate the two with an open mind and heart, ensuring that confirmation bias does not cloud your perspective.
When managing large numbers of people, there are hard decisions to be made, no doubt. Sometimes the hammer has to be bought down, and the guillotine dusted off. However, the consideration always has to be where is the company trying to go, and will the course of action get it there, in the best possible way, considering all the options practically available. If the “where is the company trying to go” is expressed in terms of a power struggle, or in terms of an abstraction that is irrelevant to the customer, for example “we need to be an X type of company”, then chances are, the transformation is off the rails.
In transformation, small or large, put on your influencer pants, listen, and stay focused on what is in it for the customer and the company’s bottom line. Everything else is a sign that the focus of the transformation is headed in the wrong direction.
A value chain, without a value proposition, is an organization without purpose or value.