Sales Executive Corner

Organizational Change Can Successfully Transform Your Business

Anna Baird, Chief Revenue Officer at Outreach's Avatar

Anna Baird, Chief Revenue Officer at Outreach

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Organizational change has, historically, required meticulous planning across teams. As executives, we like to have all the moving parts in place before a major shift.

This year, though, there was no planful progression toward change. The global pandemic catapulted us into a world we did not recognize, and we had to find our way in the dark. Somehow, we did (and continue to) navigate it all. Instead of awaiting a return to “normalcy,” we adapted, controlling what we could control. There was no choice: The options were bend or break.

Leaders who oversee go-to-market teams understand that better than anyone. You have transitioned from working with an in-house team of reps to managing people remotely. The events and in-person meetings your teams relied on for leads or relationship-building were canceled. Instead, your reps have to rely on technology to make those connections. Everyone now belongs to the “inside sales” team. The learning curve for leaders has been steep.

The companies that shortened the learning curve were the ones who changed before they had to. Leaders who saw the early signs that they needed to pivot their go-to-market strategies were set up for success in ways they never could have imagined.

Look for Early Indicators That Change Is Imminent

At our recent Unleash Summit Series event, I spoke with our customer Britney Bartlett, senior director of Global Virtual Sales Specialists (GVSS) at Cisco. She told me that her leadership team saw an opportunity to pivot even before COVID-19. “What we realized is we had this very enterprise-centric, face-to-face, one-person sales model,” Britney said. They are now altering that model to effectively engage with customers at scale.

Taking a step back, Cisco’s leaders re-examined the structure of their sales team. They adapted their team and process to allow for quicker responses and faster expertise. They also implemented tools to reach customers through the right channels and messaging.

“One of the first things we did, actually, was invest in a sales acceleration and enablement tool,” Britney said during our conversation. “Outreach was one of the first things that we looked at. We have seen dramatic results. It genuinely has increased productivity in terms of number of touches per rep by over 40 percent.”

Pilot Before You Pivot

Piloting is also an effective way to earn buy-in at every level of the organization. Executives get proof of concept. Sales leaders gain confidence in what they are doing on a small scale, with less risk. It allows all parties involved to see the benefits — to the company, their team, and themselves — before it launches.

In fact, one of our other Fortune 100 customers piloted Outreach — along with some changes in their process — before integrating it companywide. They were experiencing challenges with pipeline, ramping up new reps, getting team activity visibility, and scaling the same teams. Sound familiar? They needed to shift their strategy to unify sales processes with technology to gain visibility into their team and rep performance. That would allow them to quickly identify what worked and what to throw out. No matter where their reps were located, sales leaders would have the ability to see where greater support or coaching was needed.

After three months, the pilot group accomplished four times the activity in half the time as before. Meetings booked increased by 50 percent, and opportunities increased by 69 percent. The pilot team became the top-performing team in the region.

Change is hard. But seeing tangible results like these can alleviate initial resistance from leaders and reps alike.

Mitigating Change Resistance

People are creatures of comfort. We get used to our routines and way of doing things, even when they no longer serve us. When you launch an organizational change, pushback is part of the process. Mitigate change resistance by involving key stakeholders early on. One of my favorite partners in Outreach’s organizational change process is Tonille Miller, our transformation practice leader.

Tonille advises that you start by creating a project team and asking sales leaders to co-create the change with you. It gives them the opportunity to voice challenges they have experienced or anticipate concerns their team may have. Getting all the feedback up front improves the change strategy. It also gives team members a feeling of psychological control over the change, she adds.

Once you have a plan, you might ask your project team to develop a persona map that shows how the change will impact different roles.

Create a persona map that answers these questions:

  • How will the organizational change impact their role?
  • What will be expected of them?
  • How will they be held accountable?
  • How will they be rewarded?
  • Why is it beneficial for the individual to adopt these changes?

Develop clear messaging to announce and build excitement around the changes to your go-to-market team. Using the personas, draft talking points that speak directly to each discipline (such as sales, marketing, and operations). Reflect on how the change will both impact and benefit them.

When you roll out the changes, make sure to weave them into your organizational culture and processes. You want your team to understand that they are now part of “business as usual.”

Choose a Visible Leader Who Will Champion Change

To help with adoption, choose a visible leader who can champion the change internally. Ask your project team to nominate someone for the role. The candidate should be someone who will champion the change not because they have to, but because they truly believe in its merit. Authenticity is key.

Maybe that leader hosts an internal webinar on the pain points the change will resolve, with time at the end for a live Q&A. After the organizational change rolls out, they might share progress updates, quick wins, and success stories across your go-to-market team. Recognizing change advocates publicly is a great way to motivate others to get on board, too.

“Change management should never be something launched in hindsight,” Tonille said. “It should start ahead of the program launch, woven into the pre-launch activities and continue post launch, until it’s part of business as usual.”

It is normal to feel uneasy about change. Our brain registers uncertainty similarly to how it perceives an error. New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss, who was also an early-stage technology investor/advisor for Uber and Facebook, says it best: “Most people choose to be unhappy rather than uncertain.”

To overcome this natural instinct, we can take a proactive approach to change. Look for early indicators that change needs to occur and be on the offense instead of the defense. Be open to trading broken processes for something better. Celebrate successes together, and encourage everyone to take time to restore between challenges. These organizational change strategies can help you lead your team past fear to see change as a bridge to the future desired state.

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