Your Sales Machine is Obsolete

Your Sales Machine is Obsolete:

from The Sales Challenger™ 
In my last blog post, I introduced our newest research findings on sales culture, and how most sales organizations today have a sales culture or climate that is hindering their ability to build a Challenger sales force. Most sales leaders recognize that while traditional change management initiatives such as effective training, coaching, and communication campaigns are required to embed new behaviors, change is destined to fail if it’s not supported by the right sales environment.
In fact, when we asked reps what’s preventing them from adopting new sales behaviors; over half of them reported their operating environment or culture as the biggest inhibitor of behavior change. And when you look at the cartoon illustration below, it is easy to understand why.
Picture1On the left is an illustration of sales leaders’ perspective on change: a big national sales meeting with all the bells and whistles (e.g., great inspirational speaker, maybe even the author of The Challenger Sale, new materials on the sales portal, exciting breakout sessions, and great training for reps and managers to come). If this sounds familiar, it’s because it represents how most sales organizations roll-out change initiatives. And for the most part, these are essential and effective strategies for driving change.
The key to understanding why sales culture inhibits change lies on the right hand side of the cartoon. When reps return to their desk following a great national sales kickoff, jazzed and excited to start Insight Selling, they are unfortunately confronted with the reality of their job and the excitement quickly fades. So, what causes the rep inertia we are all familiar with and the reversion to old sales behaviors?

  1. It is the sales machine – or the operating environment that most sales organizations have built (for good reason) to run their operations in the most efficient and consistent manner possible. For decades sales leaders have been instituting rigorous sales metrics, that track seller activities, and perfecting the sales process to allow for maximum control of sales outcomes. But what we failed to recognize is how it feels for reps to have to operate, or try to change their behavior, when working in these highly transactional, activity-driven sales environments.
  2. Our research shows that reps do buy the need for change conceptually, but they simply can’t enact it the change operationally. As the cartoon shows, when reps are bombarded with signals from the sales machine (e.g., pending funnel reports, manager weekly “pull-ups” to inspect deal progress, stack rankings, RPF responses, etc.) they have no option but to perform the activities the machine is designed to incentivize, and to continue to behave in the same way they have in the past.
What this simple cartoon implies, and what our research has exposed, is the big disconnect that exists today between the behaviors that sales leaders aim to drive in their sales organizations, and the sales culture in which those behaviors are expected to take place.
Stay tuned for our next post on the types of sales cultures that exist, and which one is most prevalent among sales organizations today.
CEB Sales Members, be among the first to know what our research says by registering now for an upcoming Executive Retreat or Regional Briefing session.
Share your thoughts with us, and let us know why you think driving sales transformation is difficult in today’s world.

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