Your Reps Are Set Up to Fail

Your Reps Are Set Up to Fail:

from The Sales Challenger™ 
FailIn our last blog post, we wrote on how an organization’s operating environment, or culture, is often the biggest roadblock to behavior change. And, it’s easy to see why—while our traditional change management initiatives (involving training, coaching, and communication campaigns) promote the adoption of new-in-kind behaviors, when salespeople go back in the field, they face a culture that is built for the old world, and is hostile to the new behaviors we’re now asking our reps to demonstrate.
It’s no wonder that sales organizations committed to the Challenger Selling journey find that nearly two-thirds of their sales force either partially or fully fail to consistently demonstrate Challenger Selling behaviors. While a few salespeople are incapable of making the jump to Challenger Selling, those that are often find their current operating environment in conflict with the new behaviors expected of them.
But, what is the current operating environment in most sales organizations? And, how is it different from a culture that promotes rather than inhibits Challenger Selling? This is what we set out to answer in this year’s research study, Driving Sales Transformation. In surveying nearly 2000+ salespeople across industries and geographies, we found the environment characterizing old world behaviors to be one of:

  1. Process Discipline: Reps are expected to follow an established sales playbook and deviations from the formal sales process often result in punitive action. The sales organization is marked by clear lines of authority, with little to no discretion and judgment afforded to reps.
  2. Short-Term Focus: Sales leaders overweigh short-term opportunities and results, with reps prioritizing RFPs over building a pipeline of emerging demand opportunities, and comp plans encouraging the pursuit of established leads. In addition, metrics often skew toward velocity and throughput.
  3. Competitive Approach: The sales environment is highly driven and competitive, with a strong emphasis on individual performance. Sales leaders institute frequent contests, and regularly update leader boards, highlighting clear winners and losers in the sales force.
Sound familiar? Most sales leaders have spent years fine-tuning their organizations to operate like a well-oiled sales machine, breaking sales down into a series of well-defined, repetitive steps designed to minimize cost and maximize output in minimal time. The culture is reminiscent of a “command and control” management style that focuses on building high efficiency and low variability in the sales force.
That said, while these environmental characteristics have bode well in the past for sales organizations’ success in a transactional selling environment, the move to Challenger Selling requires a fundamental shift in the environment we build and foster in today’s sales force. In fact, the most troubling finding is that the Challenger climate doesn’t look anything like the climate most of us have today.
Watch this space as we continue to reveal the characteristics of the sales environment that can best compete with a more empowered customer and drive the adoption of Challenger behaviors.
CEB Sales Members, learn more about our latest study and listen to a replay of our recent webinar, which provides an overview of the key findings from the study. Also, register for one of our upcoming Executive Retreat or Regional Briefing sessions to learn more on this topic.

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