I just finished a five-continent project engagement with Microsoft at each of its Digital Sales Centers around the world. Within these centers, there are thousands of inside sellers with sales functions such as demand response (commonly known as SDR/BDR), account executives, customer success, and solutions consultants/sales engineers. The scope of the project was immense, and we gave ourselves a very short runway to scale a digital selling foundations certification to all these sellers. We took our experiences from deploying similar engagements at Oracle, CA Technologies, SAS Institute, and Thomson Reuters, and found ways to polish the experience.

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For most sales leaders around the world, you might have the opportunity once in your career to drive massive change in the organization. To help you prioritize, here are five key learners that will save you thousands of man hours and massive amounts of money.

1. Find Mentors, Partners, and Advisors to Ride Side-Car with You

Yes, I understand I own a sales consulting company (I’m trying not to be biased). I can tell you dozens of stories of global companies that have tried to go into the jungle alone only to get spit out 6-12 months later and call people for help. I can honestly look you in the eyes and say, “You might have implemented change before in your company, but do you really understand this subject as an expert?”

In our practice, our change management expertise is digital selling. Time after time, I meet enablement, operations, and marketing leaders who thought that, after watching a few videos and attending a conference, they were ready to digitize their entire salesforce alone. I understand math, and I understand basic accounting, but I am not filing my corporate taxes alone. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish” when making massive change investments. The companies that have done this right have increased their investments 10x to 100x in one year!

2. Being a Mobilizer Is NOT the Skill of a Lone Wolf

Corporate change is a team sport. You will not have the ability to lead real long-term change without buy-in from your supporting partners (front line sales managers, marketing, enablement, etc.). After 300+ global engagements, I can tell you honestly that I’ve never seen a successful digital change start with one lone wolf’s initiative, and he/she could rally everyone over months and months until it finally became part of the company DNA.

There are no more Caesars anymore. If you want to meet real mobilizers, here’s a group of great leaders to learn from:

  1. Jen Sieger @ Microsoft
  2. Nina Kunz @ former Oracle (one of the world’s first global programs in 2013)
  3. Andrew Plunkett @ CA Technologies
  4. Kevin Casey @ Thomson Reuters (special shout out to Jen McClure for being the original mobilizer)
  5. Danielle Miller @ Intel

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Test, Trial, Fail, and Grow

Change is necessary, and, yes, it can be scary to put yourself out there for exposure to failures. But you only score if you shoot the puck (proverb from Wayne Gretzky), so you’re going to have to take shots.The best-in-class create pilot groups (proofs of concepts) with various business units to A/B test the process, tech stack, and knowledge transfer process. There will be items that don’t take root. Identify if it’s the medium, message, or reinforcement that’s too far off your corporate culture to execute in the short term.

4. Deep Dive with Local Front line Sales Managers to Understand Their Local Markets/Objectives

Never assume—ask, analyze, and learn from your front line leaders. Your front line sales managers are your long-term partners for reinforcing change management. These leaders will indoctrinate this change into their sales one-on-ones and team sessions. First, you need each of them as allies. In fact, I’ve seen companies where one of four front line sales managers were not believers. The three sales teams thrived to change, while the fourth (non-believer) team suffered.

Take time to interview, analyze (competency bench mark), and build trust with these leaders. If you need to get on a plane and meet the team in EMEA and APAJ to build that trust, do it! A $2,000 plane ticket is a rounding error to the positive effects of change and growth.

5. This Is Not an Event. It’s a Journey

I want you to think back to a sport you learned from scratch. Did you become a scratch golfer in a few weeks or crush people on the tennis courts after a summer? Absolutely not. Change is like a tree—it first needs to take root with a pilot, and then it needs to be watered and nurtured by leadership and given time to blossom by the sales team.

If your enablement team comes to you with a strategy to do a half-day workshop and there is no adoption plan afterwards, change will not happen. Build a journey map as if you were trying to become great at golf. Work on each element of the game, one section at a time.

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Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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