How to transform to agile high performance selling

In our previous article, we talked about a growing imperative for transformation as organisations grapple with changing customer demands, growing complexity, and lacklustre performance. We talked about the power of agile work practices to unlock innovation and high performance, and we looked at how humans are tailor made to deliver value in these uncertain times.

The momentum towards agile work practices continues to grow with over 37% of organisations saying they have multiple programmes underway across customer experience, sales, innovation and product management. However, implementing complex change of this nature can be challenging. This is especially true in large organisations with entrenched ways of working. A recent study by McKinsey, showed that 70% of all transformations fail due to an inability to align people, strategy and technology to scale change across the organisation.

In the meantime, customer frustration continues to grow as sales performance stagnates. Deal win rates are now as low as 15-20% in some industries with as many as 50% of reps miss quota on a regular basis. It’s perhaps not surprising that many leaders have become disillusioned with costly consultancy-led programmes that are often complicated to implement and deliver only modest improvements.

In this article I’ll talk about why I believe we are in a new era of sales transformation success; one that combines a deep knowledge of performance psychology and agile work practices with technology and insights, to deliver lasting transformation. I’ll talk about the characteristics of agile high performance organisations and how to create a cohesive strategy to embed agile practices into your commercial organisation.

Transform to Agile High Performance Selling

The benefits of agile are clear. 81% of companies who transform to agile work practices experience an average of 1.5 times higher performance against financial measures. However, when it comes to embedding agile practices across the commercial organisation, most businesses falter. Leaders continue to prioritise short-term revenue goals and find it difficult to break away and plan for long-term success. They struggle to find that tricky balance between tactical execution and strategic mission. As a result, many change initiatives remain localised, disconnected and deliver only short-term changes that tend to quickly dissipate.

To avoid these problems, it’s important to take a whole-system approach to transformation. Bring stakeholders together to create a collective strategy for success. Take time-out to reimagine the future. Define what success looks like for customers and employees. Detail-out how to get thereWhat are the measures of success everyone can align to? What tools and technologies are needed to embed new behaviours? What insights will enable leaders to sustain change? A holistic approach across people, processes and technology is key to success.

To help visualise this future- let’s take a look at 3 characteristics of agile high performing organisations that I believe are the future of B2B sales:

High Performance Culture – Empowered and Autonomous Teams

In a high performance culture, hierarchy gives way to partnership and collaboration as leaders recognise the need for more responsive organisations and teams. Top-down command structures are deemed no longer fit for purpose as managers refocus on enablement and coaching. Teams share a common purpose and are aligned to the same goals. They are empowered to make autonomous decisions and there is a high degree of trust and accountability. Success and recognition are shared – “we are successful together”. The focus moves from short-term goals to strategic value and long-term success.

Continuous Learning & Capability Building

Leaders recognise the value of continuous learning to unlock innovation and customer value. There is a focus on individual and team capability building. Teams are enabled to take control of their own development with performance insights and learning recommendations. Learning is continuous and in the flow of work. There is a high degree of intrinsic motivation as teams develop new capabilities that are valued by the business. Individuals and teams realise their full potential.

Technology & Insight Enabled

Companies use adaptive systems to underpin agile work practices. Teams are coordinated around the customer journey. There is clarity of roles and responsibilities across the workflow. Teams are guided with standardised best-practice workflows and performance insights. There are clearly defined measures of success (verifiable outcomes) that enable teams to make informed decisions regarding their own performance. There is a focus on quality and customer experience. Leaders can capture and scale new learnings and innovations across the organisation.

How to Transform to Agile High Performance Selling

In the last 10 years, companies have made huge investments in training, sales technologies and overlay support to improve performance. But for many the return on those investments has been negligible. There is now a growing consensus that we need to think differently about how to approach complex transformations of this nature. How to make the difficult transition from traditional linear ways of working to agile high performance practices.

Here are 5 practical steps to help you on that journey:

Step 1: Capture Voices to Build a Customer-First Strategy

If customer experience is critical to future growth and success, then it makes sense that your transformation strategy starts there. With 54% of customers saying they have higher expectations for vendor experiences than just one year ago, it makes absolute sense to prioritise experience design, i.e., what is needed to turn every customer interaction into an inspiring moment that builds consensus to buy.

Companies attuned to this new reality are rapidly realigning sales and marketing strategies around the customer experience. In fact, 46% of vendors have now made customer experience a top priority in 2021. Significant investments are being redirected towards experience innovation. It’s fast becoming the number one way to differentiate over product and pricing. Leaders know that every customer interaction counts. To succeed they must find ways to break down silos between teams to deliver the exceptional experiences customers now expect.

If your transformation initiatives are predominantly focused on internal goals, rather than delivering exceptional customer experiences, then it may be time to look outwards towards a customer-first strategy.

Step 2:  Map the Customer Journey & Orchestrate Teams

If the customer journey and quality of experience is so critical to success, then highly effective orchestration of team resources and expertise is essential. Today, most cross-functional team collaboration is ad-hoc with little by way of standardised processes and aligned KPIs. There is limited focus on the quality of team engagement at key points in the customer journey. Team roles and responsibilities may be unclear. There is limited transparency, which may reduce trust and cause friction between team members. Often teams are simply unprepared to meet customer expectations. Frustration mounts and opportunities frizzle away.

If this looks familiar to you, then it may be time to define roles, responsibilities and workflows more clearly. Ensure teams are harmoniously working together to stay one step ahead of customer expectations.

Step 3: Create an environment for Learning & Capability Building

Leaders increasingly recognise that future growth is dependent on an organisation’s ability to learn and innovate. Learning is the fuel that drives innovation and it is this innovation that customers value. However, most organisations continue with traditional approaches to skill development. Training is focused on knowledge building rather than developing the higher level capabilities and innovation skills needed to succeed. As a result, the skill gap continues to grow as leaders become ever more frustrated with their inability to transform performance. Reps also lose faith. Despite having access to more learning opportunities than ever before, there is often no clearly articulated end-goal or a coherent path to high performance mastery.

Step 4: Rethink Performance Management

With so much change underway, it’s perhaps not surprising that how we manage performance also needs a rethink. Leaders still predominantly focused on tracking revenue, margin and productivity as the key measures of performance. There is little focus on the quality of team selling and its impact on revenue performance. NPS may be measured post-sale as a lagging indicator of quality, but typically no other quality performance indicators (QPIs) are monitored during the customer journey. Managers continue to prioritise short-term revenue goals, with little emphasis on the quality of team preparation and customer engagement. As a result, most companies have few insights into what great customer-centric selling looks like – making transformation to a customer-first organisation even more challenging.

Step 5: Consolidate Technology Enablers that Work for You

In the past, transformation programmes failed because of a lack of good tools and technologies to help embed change across the organisation. It was simply too difficult to monitor and reinforce using traditional change management techniques. Today we have an abundance of technologies available to help deliver transformation success. In recent years, we’ve seen the proliferation of products in CX, Sales and Marketing and Workflow Management that enable leaders to track and reinforce new behaviours. However, key to continued success is the integrating of these tools to create a consolidated view of the customer journey and team performance. One that provides teams with the visibility and insights needed to adapt and respond to changing customer needs and drive performance forward.

If you’d like to know more about how Animis can help you transform to Agile High Performance Selling, but without the heavy consultancy lift, then please reach out! We’d love to chat about your future sales success.

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