Executing Sales Transformation – Who Needs Transformation?
Transformation is a much bandied word. Many regular improvement initiatives are sought to be positioned as a transformation exercise. Worse still in some organisations, a new ‘vision’ of the future qualifies as a transformation program.
There is nothing derogatory about incremental improvement initiatives. In fact, they are the vital signs of a living and thriving business organization. An organization that has its ear to the ground and is constantly improving. All successful organisations display a high degree of incremental improvements.
‘Transformation’ is different. It represents a major make-over or over haul where the regular process of incremental improvement initiatives won’t do. The starting point of transformation is strategy which itself is the plan to get from where you are to where you want to be by overcoming key obstacles. Contained in a strategy statement are the roots of an execution plan, the ‘how’? Execution of the strategy requires the organization to focus resources and initiatives to the key tasks that are contained in that ‘how’. If the strategy, for example, is to grow market share incrementally by maintaining the current product leadership gap, then the execution focus is going to be mainly on product development, monitoring the competition, tracking innovation and on an efficient go-to-market. This is not going to require Transformation.
So, what situations demand a Transformation program in the revenue generating functions of sales and marketing? Here are some situations:
1. When you believe that the current system will become obsolete in the future. For example, airline ticketing thrived on a travel agent network for decades. Now, most of that business has migrated to self-service online aggregators. This was a transformation opportunity 5-10 years ago.
2. When your industry is facing sudden disruption from an adjacent or new player. The rise of shared cab apps has disrupted the automobile and public transport market. Automobile companies that saw this disruption coming, re-organised themselves into a better selling unit. Think of the car models that plied as cabs prior to Uber/Ola and the ones that do now.
3. When your revenue growth has been stagnant. A good internal barometer of the need for transformation is growth and market share trends. If a business is not growing or gaining share fast, be sure that something big needs to change soon. The telecoms industry in India had reached a stage where market shares of the 3 major players were mostly stagnant and growth came from incremental consumption of expensive mobile data. Any drastic change in the offering meant a risk of reduced revenue and margin. The incumbents became sitting ducks for a new entrant with no baggage to change the way customers were acquired and serviced.
4. Sometimes, the signs of change are in the operating metrics. Over dependence on a few customers, low addition of new customers, low win rates of large deals, inexplicably long sales cycles are some indicators that the revenue generating engine is stuttering and needs a major over-haul.
5. When the business has embarked upon a major growth strategy and doing more of the same won’t be enough. High growth organisations are pace setters that need to constantly reinvent themselves to fuel their hunger for growth. As they pivot their businesses, their sales functions need to be recast as well.
Having identified the need for a sales transformation, the next step is to build a consensus on the specific actions needed. We will examine some of them in the next blog. What are your thoughts on transforming your sales function? We will be happy to hear.