Acquisitions pose unique challenges for all business leaders involved. However, sales leaders are in a unique position to best help their organization better mitigate risk and unlock value, according to Gartner, Inc.
“The sales organization is in an interesting position as its perspective is both internal and external — how the acquisition impacts sellers’ performance, but also how it impacts sellers’ interactions with customers and prospects,” said Dave Egloff, senior director and analyst at Gartner. “With so much at stake, heads of sales must be deliberate about how they manage the transformation following an acquisition. This can be made even more difficult as many sales leaders lack prior experience with acquisitions and/or the support needed to execute the transition successfully.”
Gartner has identified three immediate actions sales leaders should take to manage risks and create value associated with an acquisition:
Prioritize communicating to employees before customers
Acquisitions cause uncertainly among sales employees, key customers and prospects. If unmanaged, these uncertainties can lead to employee attrition, lower revenue and missed opportunities. Clear communication is the best way to manage the risks associated with each stakeholder community — employees, customers and prospects — starting with employees.
“While many suggest a customer-first mindset, when it comes to acquisitions, employees must come first,” added Mr. Egloff. “Sales employees will not only be receivers of the corporate message, they will also deliver the message to customers. Sales leaders must prioritize how the sales force is informed. Sellers should be reassured of both the current status of, and future plans for, the company to ensure that consistent messaging is cascaded to customers.”
Promote tactical execution over strategic understanding
There are specific value creators for sales that need to be explored leading up to and following an acquisition, including cross-selling and upselling, targeting new verticals, expanding into new geographies and go-to-market strategy. Sales leaders need to evaluate these value creators to look for quick wins, develop sales readiness and create a long-term plan.
“Quick wins will come from deliberate action,” said Mr. Egloff. “In many cases, the best early steps are in defining the proper routes to market and account ownership. The sales force must be prepared to actively collaborate and reduce conflict. A ready sales force is required to bridge the gap from quick wins to future plans.”
Ensure an integration culture, not an acquisition culture
According to Mr. Egloff, “Sales leaders must not underestimate the challenges and risks associated with a sales force integration after an acquisition, including retaining key employees, managing cultural conflicts and determining go-to-market strategies.”
To mitigate these risks, sales leaders need an integration strategy that includes people and perspectives from both organizations in order to avoid alienating key talent. Gartner research shows that engaging employees in change management planning increases the probability of success.
Additional details are available to Gartner for Sales Leaders clients in the report Immediate Actions for Sales Leaders Following an Acquisition.
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Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions unlock existing growth potential and optimize sales force enablement.
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