A full-blown Sales Transformation typically requires a large commitment from your company due to the time, effort, and cost involved in the Transformation.
My Definition: A Sales Transformation should improve a company’s sales performance via all Routes-to-Market (Sales Team, Channel Partner, your ecommerce website) by
- Increasing Sales and Sales Effectiveness
- Reducing the time required for Sales Enablement/Training
- Aligning Sales and Marketing efforts and
- Improving Sales Operations and Sales Talent Management activities
A Key component of every Sales Transformation is a new Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) Strategy because it directly influences how you sell! This blog post will clearly focus on the CPQ part of the Sales Transformation.
Changing how you sell is not easy because
- Sales Rep tenure is getting shorter in many industries and companies. I know this from my own experience and see it confirmed through reports like this one
- Complex System Environments require time and a steep learning curve before Sales Reps become productive. To have several months “Learning Time” is not unusual.
- Plus, there are many other activities that demand time from your Sales Team, such as building relationships with customers, attending internal meetings, product training, travel to customer sites and on and on.
- Last but not least there is more than one way to sell your Products or Services. This can be via your Sales Team, Channel Sales Partners or via your eCommerce website or a Hybrid (e.g. shop online and then go to a store an pick it up)
For almost every company Sales is very important because nothing happens before you sell something!
Once the decision has been made to start a Sales Transformation and the Team and Budget is available, you want to make sure that your teams are setup for success. This should include at least these two steps:
1 – Determine if your company is ready to address the required CPQ changes
2 – Determine how complex the required CPQ changes are expected to be
(Note: Novus CPQ Consulting offers an 8-day assessment with a fixed price for these steps).
These steps help you to determine where your organization currently stands in regard to CPQ and to set future goals that are challenging but not completely unrealistic. Last but not least, they help to lay the foundation for the CPQ Vendor selection because once you know where you want to go, you can ask potential CPQ Vendors to show you how they can support your objectives.
Failed Sales Transformations and especially CPQ Transformations are probably more common than most companies like to admit and so it is important to ensure that you don’t encounter these behaviors at the beginning of the Sales Transformation (keep in mind the focus is on CPQ)
- Passive resistance from Key Stakeholders (Sales, Sales Operations, Marketing, Finance, Legal, Product Management, IT)
- Example: While some of these teams may state in meetings that they support the effort, you keep hearing that most required changes cannot be implemented for various reasons.
- Inability to prioritize business requirements. Everything is important and needs to be done in the first release.
- Example: There are 1000+ Business Requirements and 90% are prioritized as critical.
- Passive Support from Sales Transformation Sponsor(s) (Senior Executives)
- Example: Senior Executive(s) participate in promotional Sales Transformation (especially CPQ) videos and get high-level program updates every 2 weeks but otherwise are not actively involved in the Sales Transformation.
If you encounter these behaviors it means there is more work to be done before a successful Sales Transformation can be started!
Once the Sales Transformation is under way you should pay close attention to the teams performance. Here are some signs I have encountered that indicate problems:
- Senior leadership is not staying actively involved in the Sales Transformation effort. To show the importance of this project to all stakeholders it is key that the most senior leader(s) of the project, which are the senior executives that sponsor this Sales Transformation, stay actively engaged.
- Too many teams and/or people are involved. This usually leads to confusion concerning accountability and increases the turn-around-time for answers to open questions. In this case the decision process has the tendency to slow down considerably.
- Too many processes and policies need to be followed. In this case you may have the right amount of people but the environment in which they have to operate is slowing down progress or even preventing progress.
- Business Priorities are not clear. Example: What KPIs/metrics do you need to meet to consider the Sales Transformation a success? This can be related to any of the points above or can be a problem by itself.
- Roles & Responsibilities are not clear. While this should be Project 101 it is quite often not fully discussed. Either too much time is spend on Roles & Responsibilities where nobody remembers exactly who is doing what or where nothing is being done at all. To find the right balance it key.
- Sales Transformation Methodologies and/or Best Practices are followed but there is no or almost no progress. Example: Senior executive(s) make a video to promote the transformation effort, bi-weekly Transformation Newsletters are send out. While all the “mechanics” work the project itself does not make much (if any) progress.
- Managers make most decisions in meetings with other Managers. If Subject Matter Experts (non-Managers) are invited to these meetings they don’t speak up.
- Scope Management
- Too many Business Requirements. Unlimited project scope can derail any Sales Transformation or any Project for that matter. If you have several hundred or even thousands of business requirements or user stories you require a leader that can prioritize a smaller and more manageable scope! Best is a Release Schedule that shows what capabilities are needed by whom and when. Example: First Release is for your Sales Teams, Second Release is for your Channel Partners, Third Release is for your eCommerce website.
- General – Communication Challenges
- Teams that are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the Sales Transformation don’t understand what is changing and how it will impact them. This needs to be addressed head on! Every team needs to understand what they get out of the Sales Transformation.
- Teams are exhausted shortly after the Sales Transformation starts. They may work crazy hours w/o making real progress.
- Different Teams (Business, IT, Consultants) use different terminology and talk past each other. This may result in a different understanding of a problem and how it can be addressed.
- Everything works on PowerPoint slides but no real progress is made in your systems. Example: Extended PowerPoint walkthroughs of proposed solutions. The Preparation takes up considerable time, the presentation requires many teams to sit through a lengthy presentation and in the end your stakeholders don’t really understand the proposed processes.
- Keep the Sales Transformation Core Team as small as possible! More people usually means more confusion, especially about accountability. Confusion about accountability is the last thing you need. A clear focus and clear accountability are foundational requirements for any project!
- Communication is very important but you don’t need tons of PowerPoint slides! PowerPoint’s are meant to strengthen your presentation, not be your presentation! Make sure the team understands that!
- Provide clear Business Priorities! This helps to focus your teams on the key tasks and increases the likelihood for success.
- Do what you say you will do! Very trivial, very simple and very powerful!
- Prepare yourself for the Sales Transformation because it most often includes a considerable culture change. Maybe by reading a classic like John Kotter’s – 8-step process for leading change or another one of the many, many culture change books.
- Project Leadership
- PMO or Project Manager provides Project Guidelines (e.g. Project Plan, User Stories, Business Requirements, Communication Plan, Decisions made form, Risk Management Plan, Status Report Format) to all stakeholders at the beginning of the Sales Transformation.
- Clarify Roles & Responsibilities at the beginning of the project. Accountability is Key for success!
- Make decisions about the scope early! It is not helpful to keep everything “just in case” because this approach does not give the team the necessary focus.
- Stop using acronyms! CPQ, ERP, CRM etc. because everyone in the project team needs to understand each other!
- Try to have more frequent and smaller releases (e.g. one release every 3-6 months with measurable results)
- Involve Key Subject Matter Experts that actually work with the impacted CPQ processes on a day-to-day basis!
- Don’t spend large amounts of time on simulated end-to-end walkthroughs. PowerPoint walkthroughs are time-consuming and add little value (in most cases) for the users!
One final note that I would like to add since I see a number of customers who install a CPQ solution for the second or third time: while many of the notes above are certainly not rocket science, they make a difference. So take this advice into account before you start! It is a small investment that pays off big time! If you don’t heed this advice, there is a good chance you will need to do another Sales Transformation soon, so take the time to make the necessary changes and accommodations to launch your company’s success story!