CSO are actively looking for new sales methodologies to accommodate a rapidly changing selling environment. Think: the increased dominance of digital tools in the sales process, increased use of digital channels along the buying journey and more stakeholders. A sales methodology helps direct sales teams and buyers with a set of guiding principles deployed through selling channels to navigate the purchase process.
But successful evolution requires leaders to look beyond the change itself to invest in the infrastructure that helps affected team members make the switch. Too often, sales leaders are under pressure to deploy the new methodology fast. As a result, they don’t take the time to align with others who are involved, such as frontline sales teams, or to confirm relevance to the seller’s and the customer’s needs. That almost guarantees low uptake of the methodology.
“If the ultimate desire is to have the sales team use the methodology, CSOs must follow a process to ensure both short-term and long-term success,” says Elizabeth Beard, Director Analyst at Gartner.
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CSOs who understand and embrace the following six steps for a successful sales methodology launch enable sellers with key skills and resources to improve their results.
Step 1: Gain cross-functional alignment
CSOs should start the sales methodology change process by aligning with the leaders of the functions that will deploy and use the methodology, and agreeing on everyone’s respective commitments. Leaders of the frontline sales team, sales enablement, sales training, marketing, product marketing and customer success should all be included — each with a distinct role to play. The sales training leader, for example, would be responsible for identifying the training and materials that sales managers will need to coach their direct reports. The product marketing leader, in turn, will need to work with sales training to confirm that the product messaging is consistent with the methodology and that it resonates with sellers.
Step 2: Gather frontline sales leadership feedback and gain buy-in
Frontline sales teams’ adoption of the new methodology is critical, since they will be the ones deploying it in a way that has a direct impact on the buyer. Their leadership needs to believe the methodology will increase success.
With an eye on building confidence in the potential impact of the methodology, CSOs should engage frontline sales leaders to understand their vision and ideas about an effective sales methodology. Complement that feedback by gathering data on the current capabilities of the frontline team to identify the must-have success factors they lack and the skills gaps that exist. The chosen methodology should realistically deliver improvements in these areas — and reflect feedback on the areas frontline sales leaders identified as critical for delivering results.
Step 3: Plan for change
Avoid the mistake of assuming that all sellers, sales managers and supporting functions agree on the importance of the new methodology. They probably don’t. Therefore, it is better to assume that they will need convincing and put together a plan that prioritizes early communication about the need for and value of the methodology change. CSOs should ensure that team members understand the connection between the change in methodology and any shifts in seller approaches and actions that will need to take place.
How you communicate is as important as what you communicate. Keeping in mind that change scares people, it is important to consider the context in which you communicate (large group vs. small group, virtual vs. in-person) and the words you use.
Step 4: Determine reinforcement activities
Change is a long-term process that extends far past an initial launch. To ensure it “sticks,” plan to maintain a cadence of activities that support and reinforce methodology adoption. For example, CSOs should make the case to frontline managers to provide coaching to maintain change momentum and support of the methodology training provided prelaunch. Coaching has the benefit of helping teams beyond the methodology. Gartner research suggests that coaching by frontline managers has the potential to produce a 19% increase in success.
Step 5: Establish a plan to enable sellers and managers
CSOs must develop the tools and materials to enable sellers and their managers to easily adopt the methodology in their daily work. Some examples include designing training modules for sellers and utilizing any tools and technologies they will use when deploying it. Training should have a reinforcement cadence for small groups, as well as a system to update materials to ensure they are current. Failure to do so can lead to a loss of trust from the sales team.
Managers also need specialized training, not just in the methodology, but also in how to coach it and how to identify when team members aren’t using it. Enabling managers puts them in a stronger position to identify who needs additional coaching and how to give it. Building sales manager confidence with the methodology can produce strong returns through higher methodology adoption rates.
Step 6: Determine measurements for success
CSOs need to know what is and isn’t working so they can adapt the methodology to meet the organization’s goals. Measuring impact is key. To do so, translate the goals of the methodology change into clear, measurable targets for business results. Increased revenue is an obvious metric to use, but it should not be the only one, since many factors can affect revenue independent of the sales methodology. Consider adding complementary metrics such as impact on sales cycle times, deal sizes, and seller attrition and effectiveness, to name a few. Once you decide which metrics to track, partner with sales operations to establish the current baseline for these metrics and define how — and how often — you will measure changes.
When analyzing results, take steps to isolate the impact of the sales methodology from other factors that can confound the metrics. Doing so will allow you to identify the return on investment from the methodology in dollar terms and communicate it to the organization.