By Philippe LeBaron
Vice President of Sales, CATIA WW
Dassault Systèmes

Your Sales Teams Transformation Journey Never Ends

Our job as sales leaders is to help our direct reports transform constantly, continually, year after year, every year.

This never ends.

The minute you stop running the 1+1+1=4!® Process pro-actively, things start going South. Sales is a unique discipline in many respects, starting with the fact that there are absolutely no limits to how much you can work – and it is also a discipline where you know before you even start that no matter how poor or how well you perform, you must do better next year, every year, year after year.

When businesses do not grow they die. When sales people do not get better consistently, they start missing their number and they get fired. When sales leaders miss their number too frequently they are replaced. Sales as a function is unique also because it is at the forefront of Change for any organization: Our sales people exist because they help bridge the gap between what their customers currently do in order to compete in their markets and the new solutions our companies have created to help these same customers compete better next year, by doing something different, faster, cheaper, sooner.

The paradox is that even if we agree that sales is all about Change – there are more and more books that compare selling to a change management process (Dirty Little Secrets from Sharon Drew Morgen is the best one I ever came across) -, sales people are some of the most resistant to change people you can encounter. The job of selling is so difficult, so challenging, so risky and sometimes so “dangerous” that the journey to becoming a successful sales person is a long journey that usually comes with scars, bruises, and eventually a healthy dose of cynicism that is necessary to survive in an environment where you have to question EVERYTHING (will they REALLY buy? Do they REALLY have a budget? are they REALLY telling me the truth or they’re just negotiating?, are they REALLY only talking to me?, can I REALLY afford to trust him only?…).

There is no such thing as “Naïve sales people” and they do not survive long in the job unless they transform fast into “real” sales people who question everything, challenge everyone, believe nothing is carved in stone, and are very wary about who to trust, why should we care and what’s in it for me anyway…It just goes with the sales job and that’s a good thing.

So when new trainings, new offerings, new managers or new strategies come along, sales people are very good at NOT embracing them while – because they are sales people – they still remain very good at making “naive sales managers (*)” believe that : “This is great, sure Boss, I’m all in! Let’s continue this great discussion later, sorry, I’ve got a customer call coming… “

Of all the people I’ve worked with in my career, starting as a mechanical engineer, a software project manager, a services consultant, and then a sales leader, sales people belong to the population I have encountered who hate Change the most.
And their sales managers are 10 times worse.

That is why I love them.

Because when you help them make a small change in their perspective or in their habits the ripple effect on the sales execution of their teams can be enormous.

Here is the bad news though: When you consider the front line sales manager level and above, you can multiply the resistance to change at that level by 10+… Not only those individuals had to endure deeper scars and more bruises than anyone in order to get to that level, but they also had to develop a more robust and stronger ego as well.

Ego is a good thing for a sales leader’s job but when faced with change situations, ego has to be managed carefully in order to NOT hinder change abilities and adaptability to new situations, new habits and new beliefs. When you lead sales managers you deal with another type of individuals and you need to break into their minds with new concepts, new ideas and new ways for them to consider Change at their level.

Here is the good news now : when your company understands that the front line sales managers (FLSM) layer is the cornerstone of execution (Change) for your sales strategy and when TOP sales leaders start empowering FLSMs the right way, with the right perspective, the right process and the right metrics (the right sales culture) good things start happening (see my other “Stranger Things” Blog article).

It is then, and only then, that perpetual sales transformation starts kicking in for good in order to bring in to you the double digit sales growth you can consistently expect from a high growth sales culture that permeates at every level of your sales organization (do NOT believe that you’re off the hook because you are in a sales manager’s manager position because that is usually where sales execution should start the right way in order to avoid sales kingdoms below that eventually hurt the overall consistent execution of your sales strategy across geographies, product lines, people…The powerful sales managers’ productivity metrics ensure full alignment from that level down)

A new race of SALES MANAGERS : SALES TRANSFORMATION MANAGERS

Some of us may think that sales transformation is only needed when there are big shifts in the industry, when new sales models are created (because the Internet changes the way people buy for instance), or when there is a huge financial crisis and people stop buying the way they used to and we are left hanging…

The reality is that sales management is a constant sales transformation activity and it does show its impact the most, in times of big Changes because that is when the sales teams – who do not have sales managers running the 1+1+1=4!® Process the right way-, suffer the most. It is when they need to change the fastest that they need their favorite top change accelerator the most, unless she/he was not really a change accelerator because she/he was only closing deals just like them…(70%+ of the sales manager population unfortunately)

Now, in “good times”, when less disruptive change is needed and we just need to grow faster than the economy, we still need to help our teams find better, faster and simpler ways to bring in double digit growth every year, without spending double digits % more time at work right?

Front Line Sales Managers still need to help sales people become more productive individually and collectively by doing something different from what they were doing the previous year – again.

We need to help them focus better, listen better, communicate better, add value better, use LinkedIn better to sell faster…

We need to help them CHANGE, still.

Sales Transformation therefore is not an event, it’s the job.

It’s our job.

In bad times AND in good times.

Today and tomorrow.

Welcome to the new race of SALES TRANSFORMATION MANAGERS who DRIVE CHANGE instead of firefighting it…!

“I Train Lion Tamers for FUN”
Philippe is the Worldwide Sales Leader for CATIA the leading Brand of DASSAULT SYTEMES. Prior to joining 3DS, Philippe held various consulting, sales and sales management positions at FRAMATOME, DASSAULT ELECTRONIQUE, SOPRA, DIGITAL, COMPAQ and EMC2. His past experience, has helped him transform businesses across various business units, languages and cultural boundaries. Philippe is the author of “1+1+1=4 !® : the Art & Science of getting 100% of your Reps @ GOAL”. He is the creator of the Lion Tamer Sales Manager® System. Philippe is a graduate of engineering from Ecole Centrale-France, and holds a Master of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Sales Team Arizona Resort (STAR): A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange is a remarkable setting for key members of the sales organization to come together to strengthen their bonds and improve communication, productivity, and effectiveness. The unique format also delivers robust opportunities to collaborate with other sales organizations to tackle shared challenges around C-Suite expectations; talent; sales tools; best practices and processes; changing customer behavior; and game-changing emerging technologies.

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