We worked with the client to review their recent history of sales improvement programs. Most had had mixed success, and some employees were understandably reluctant to attempt another complex change program. Moreover, simply providing the right tools for the job would force neither quick nor lasting change in the way the client’s far-flung sales force operated.
The key discovery was that the required behavioral changes were so broad there was really no way for the top corporate team to lead this effort, as one might ordinarily do. Instead, the client had to work directly with the middle of the company’s sales hierarchy by identifying an appropriate group of area managers to take the lead in promoting change.
The critical component of this approach was in helping the client’s 20 area managers, who had a pivotal role in the company’s sales hierarchy, to become effective and committed leaders of change. We set up central “academies” where they learned to use new tools and processes, including standardized performance metrics, diagnostic reports, and a custom-designed tool to track and promote accountability for every sales lead that came in the door.
Once the managers had “graduated” from the academy, each of them simultaneously rolled the new tools and processes out, and helped sales managers and reps apply them. To ensure the changes would endure, we worked with the client to institute recurring, structured coaching sessions in which area managers used the performance tools to evaluate sales managers and pinpoint and address what was missing the mark.