Changing Course

Following a recent discovery over a few cheeky Jamesons and consequent investigative webtertainment, I’ve become quite a fan of management consultant McKinsey’s article repository. As they request registration, I shan’t steal their thunder, although I’m compelled to point out that whilst my interest extends into their core strategic management competence (due to my academic and business start-up background) a couple of thought-provoking experiences about sales strategy do happily get recounted. Furthermore, their articles for me have an easier flow than Booz‘s alternate considerations.

Two examples of McKinsey findings in Sales I will draw on both examine how to change the course of a salesforce. The first treats an issue I myself have had productive exposure to, namely how to get disparate business units within an industrial conglomerate cross-selling each other’s wares.

The project which I supported (160 total field salespeople across 6 engineering/construction divisions) had two main strands; a new opportunity management software system (failure) and a lead-sharing meeting and publication mindset (success).

What was eye-catching about the first McKinsey’s resolution was twofold. They managed to get 10% of a salesrep’s bonus based on peer assessment of their contribution to the initiative. Wow. In addition they appear to have had formalised laser targeting of those individuals that needed serious mindset-adjustment through workshops, shared account plans and mini-mentors, known as ‘navigators’.

The second experience concerned a huge 2,000 fieldrep outfit that were suffering from around 100,000 un-followed up leads each year, “because of weak management tools and processes”. Their remedy was surprising in that they chose to “work down from the middle”. Previously, the frequent sales organisational shifts were perceived as failing because they were in part, too top-down, so this time they elected to create a “university” which all 20 Area Managers attended. They then cascaded the new tools and skills throughout their own 10-strong sales management team, who in turn each coached their own 10 fieldreps.  Their summary quote is fascinating:

“Just having the right tools won’t force quick or lasting change in the way a large and dispersed sales force operates. But companies can achieve that kind of transformation by identifying an appropriate group of managers, distributed across the organization, to take the lead in promoting change and by adopting the university approach, in which trainees in turn train the employees who report to them.”

And the results sound impressive; 20% higher lead-conversion rate, 25% more self-generated leads.

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