Leadership Operations Program Management

2019 SMA’s Sales Force Productivity Conference – Day 3

This morning Bob Kelly kicked us off and gave us a wonderful example of what it means to be agile in the conference setting. Unfortunately, two of this morning’s speakers were not able to make it due to flight delays, so there was some fun improvisation to adjust the speakers accordingly.

Keynote – Preparing Managers to Lead Sales Transformations

In this session, Andy Williams, Director, Head of Training and Sales Excellence at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health gave an overview of the approaches that he and his team have taken so far into their three-year transformation from an acquisition and a merger. Adrian Voorkamp and Damian Fergurson also participated in the panel.

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When talking about culture change, he spoke about the current culture and the aspirational culture. When looking at change programs, his advice was “it’s not really a change if there isn’t a need to change behavior.”

He walked through the process that they used, which was ADKAR.

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Reinforcement is the most critical part because it’s the accountability to ensure that the new ability is in place, the reminder of the change/desired behaviors and it continues to counter the “self-talk” that will happen. To help reinforcement, the approach that they took was a train the trainer model and building great toolkits to support agility.

When talking about the role that the Sales Manager play, he shared that the Sales Manager is expected to where multiple hats and where they invested in 2019:

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Getting into the panel, below are a few notable comments and ideas:

  • Recommendation of Prosci as a vendor to help with change management because of the expertise that they bring
  • Change management subject matter experts are embedded in new programs to help the steering committee understand the size and impact of the change.
  • For every employee, the most important influencer is their immediate supervisor, and the supervisor needs to be bought into the change, it has to come “from their desk,” not just be forwarded.
  • Most change efforts fail because of the underestimation of the size and change, the amount of unknown pessimism and the about of change aversion. People have been tormented with unsuccessful change initiatives.
  • One panelist shared that when they rolled out a new CRM, even though the data was 95% accurate, the 5% was a good enough reason for doubt and to cause the change to fail.
  • It’s also easy to have an echo chamber – for example, when discussing how the customer buys, there is a false assumption that there’s something different about their industry than how we as consumers purchase product, e.g. on Amazon on our phones.

The following risks to change and suggestions were discussed:

  • Individuals who are “playing along,” but are really not. To mitigate this, one needs to amplify the reasons why this change is happening, and the benefits to increase the enthusiasm level and buy-in.
  • Pessimism – to counteract pessimism, bring those folks into the project to give them a voice. These are the active resistors, not those who are the “Eeyores.”
  • Leverage survey instruments to get a pulse on enthusiasm and buy-in; it doesn’t always have to be something formal. Most CRMs have something out of the box that can ask a couple of questions.
  • Start seeding the conversation early with the benefits of the change – make more, thrive more, etc.
  • Focus on specific tasks as opposed to everything at once. Salespeople are trained to find the exception.
  • One company used coaches assigned to the Sales Managers to help them coach their teams on the transformation (sounds very familiar in the Agile world!)
  • The importance for career pathing for Sellers.
  • The Sales Manager is tasked with driving team performance, enabling transformation and change. For example, if the behavior is to put everything in the CRM, Sales Managers need to reference information there, not call up the Seller and ask for the update verbally.
  • In the Sales team meeting, give the Sales Managers a template, a script and the materials to use to help them make the content their own, not just “this is what corporate asked me to do.”
  • Have a task built dashboard where Sales Managers can talk about the plan for the week.
  • SMA is going to work on a Change Management Competency Framework for Managers in 2020.

Keynote – Sales Readiness, Not Sales Training: Measurable Sales Capability for Commercial Effectiveness

In this session, Gordon Thompson, SVP, Pre-Sales at MindTickle, and Tom Giffin, Sr. Director, Commercial Strategy & Execution at Endologix shared how MindTickle’s Sales Readiness platform can increase sales productivity and how Endologix leveraged the technology for their sales team.

MindTickle is a sales effectiveness platform, that in addition to training, it also connects marketing collateral. Organizations who use it see it as an investment in improving the careers and satisfactions of their sales reps. Tom shared that it’s like graduate-level effectiveness for their sales reps and his organization really likes the features such as voice over on slide shows and the upcoming connections/integrations with various data sources to be able to match engagement with the platform and results, which will give insights into seller effectiveness.

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The tool provides for hands-on coaching by the sales manager supporting that coaching and also facilitating the management of the seller’s to-dos.

Tom shared more about how Endologix approached the rollout.

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They were able to reduce the time to certification by 32% on average, which means that they have improved time to revenue.

When asked if they experienced pushback on the time commitment required, the response was that sellers saw the value on the front end, and the ability to be able to do it in bite-sized chunks helped a lot, including being able to listen to the content, if they weren’t in a place to be able to watch the video (like when driving).

Panel – Removing Sales Transformation Blind Spots, the Hidden Obstacles that Slow Management’s Change Efforts

This panel featured Linda Maxwell, CEO and Co-Founder of Business Efficacy, Erica Glenn, VP of Sales and Account Management at CVS Health and Mike Van Rensselaer, VP of Sales Enablement at Bank Independent.

The focus was on how organizations that are transforming will usually overlook many hidden obstacles that can slow or stop progress.

  • Adaption (partly in) vs Adoption (all-in)
  • Good Enough vs. Excellence as it relates to being a manager, leader and a coach. Most people will default back to their one key area when all there are needed to be successful.
  • Team performance vs. Individual Success – ensure that team performance isn’t solely carried by a few top performers.

Really appreciate the insights that the panel gave, some notables are:

  • When starting a new change effort, think about the last time that you wanted to lose weight – you know what to do, how to do it, but it’s really hard! Now imagine that a whole team/company is trying to lose weight.
  • Rethink the identity of the Sales Manager – no longer about pipeline management/closing/sourcing deals, it’s about managing/coaching/leading a team to improve their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Recognize the value that they add and be persistent about telling them.
  • RACIs help team members have role and task clarity.
  • Train to the middle, have accountability to the middle.
  • Remove the barriers for the Sales team; use the skills as the Sales Manager to influence internal partners.
  • Be mindful of new advice and the change – for example, if we were told that we only needed to brush our teeth once a day, we all probably would continue to brush our teeth at least twice a day.
  • Give visibility and awareness to top performers so that they know the impact that they’re having.
  • Run a health check – what are the blind spots of the management, what are the blind spots of the business, dig into the why, what are the key initiatives, what is being measured; focus on simplicity.
  • When talking about Facilitative and Directive models of leadership, Facilitiatve is harder for folks. For new Sales Managers, this can be their Achille’s heel and we need to look at the individual holistically.
  • Providing transparency into one’s journey as a manager also helps.
  • Sales Managers have a lot more sales experience guiding them on how to coach their teams.

Because the speaker for the next session was not able to fly in, that was the last session of the conference. Bob Kelly thanked everyone for coming and closed the conference.

I’m very glad that I attended the conference; I learned a lot and really appreciated all the connections that I was able to make with some thought leaders in the sales productivity space. It was also nice to be able to connect the content back to other areas that I’m experienced with.

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