There is a proverb that says, “Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare.” This is a great saying with broad appeal and application. Clearly, we can use it to examine sales transformations.
Most Chief Sales Officers recognize that change is the new normal. Continually, CSOs must respond to shifts in market dynamics, buyer behavior, competitive threats, employee needs, internal demands, etc. Unfortunately, transformative change is not easy and the results often fail to deliver the anticipated results. To improve the chances of success, CSOs should focus on clarity of vision, stakeholder management, and planned execution.
Clarity of Vision
While some suggest that CSOs should define the transformational vision, the best leaders take a different approach. Instead of solely defining the vision, they create a platform in which the vision can be defined. To build a platform for change, CSOs should:
- Cultivate a culture of calculated risk-taking
- Assemble an inclusive team to work collaboratively
- Leverage a mix of business acumen and analytics to inform decision making
Great leaders define and refine the vision with help. For CSOs, help comes from front-line sales managers, sales operations and other key Go-to-Market stakeholders. Once set, CSOs should lead the charge to communicate the vision and manage stakeholder expectations.
Employees, customers and prospective employees (“prospects”) are all key sales stakeholders. Since sales transformations uniquely impact each group, CSOs need to develop a dedicated plan when relaying a vision. CSO communications should:
- Relay a vision — Even without all details worked out, a vision will help relieve uncertainty and build (or sustain) leadership credibility.
- Show empathy — Recognizing that key stakeholders are going through a potential disruption will strengthen loyalty and show that key groups are not being forgotten.
- Maintain engagement — Major changes are a distraction and can temporarily harm relationships. Sales leaders need to address concerns proactively by imparting a sense of purpose and belonging.
Undoubtedly, most CSOs delegate the day-to-day execution and administration required by the transformational project(s). This is a good strategy to avoid bottlenecks and maintain momentum. However, CSOs must still play a key role in all transformations and should be:
- An executive sponsor — Absentee support will not work.
- A change agent — Embracing continuous improvement starts from the top.
- Realistic about capabilities — People, processes, and technologies are already at full capacity and may be strained by the new tasks to accomplish.
- Agile — Work should be done iteratively and incrementally.
- Transparent — Communicate your appreciation for things done well and provide support when is needed.
Sales transformations are exciting and stressful. While transformations may be risky, it is often more risky to avoid change. As they say, “fortune favors the bold.” If you are considering a sales transformation, be sure to define your vision, manage your stakeholders and plan your execution.
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