The key to a successful change process lies in a thorough preparation, where management needs to clarify and prioritize a wide range of strategic and organizational matters.
Defining and planning a change process, your organization will go through different stages, similar to a complex buying process.
Research – WHAT initiatives are necessary
Should the organization change or slightly improve?
You have to consider whether you really "just" need to do a little more or less of what you are already doing to achieve the desired result, or whether it is a real process of change that is needed.
For example, if the goal is for you to improve revenue, your employees probably just need to improve effectiveness or increase activity – and do a little better than what they already do.
If, on the other hand, it is a change in the sales strategy to become buyer-centric and to meet the increasing demands of the modern buyers, the organization must learn to think and act in a new way.
An example: The buyers have changed dramatically over the last 10 years, and the modern buyers have become digital and empowered with access to unlimited information and connections. Therefore, you need to change your internal procedures and processes in sales and marketing, being able to address the buyers' needs, and maybe work in new ways with more value-driven customer dialogues, more compelling content, etc.
To achieve this, it is up to you to define the new task and ensure that the framework is in place so that the employees can do what you ask them to do.
Does the organization understand WHY change is needed?
In many cases, if the goal is mainly improvements in what we are already doing, the need to implement a change process is evident.
Often the need for change is more extensive if the organization does not know why change is needed and first has to learn, think, and act in a new way.
For example, if the need to change in sales and marketing, being able to address the buyers' needs, both sales and marketing need another type of content to support the dialogue matching each stage of the buyers’ buying journey, and the interests of the different personas involved. You have to define what is needed and ensure that the whole organization knows what's expected from them.
Building a new Sales Enablement Strategy
As the modern buyers have higher expectations than ever, and up to 6-10 stakeholders are involved in a business decision, it is of the most significant importance that marketing and sales are addressing them with compelling content and insights.
Being able to deliver a buyer-centric sales approach addressing the needs and expectations of all the people involved, is a way of enabling the buyers, helping them to complete their buying process with relevant information.
When an organization is to go safely through a process of change, there must be a definite "Why". If employees (not least the younger generations) do not understand the purpose of a change process or do not feel heard, there is an increased risk that they are walking away.
The importance of realistic timing
Many organizations have unrealistic time horizons. Often internal friction is not about the change itself, but about the time horizon or the possible clash towards other ongoing projects that also need resources.
Therefore, be realistic when planning the change process, so you do not build up resistance even before you start.
If you are planning a change project (e.g. a CRM, new sales methodology, or other major initiatives) and employees are still changing or learning from other recent changes, it may be wise to postpone the planned project if you can.
Most projects fail due to not prioritizing the required hours or the timing being off. Do not look at the calendar and put your finger in a random place - respect the process of change and what it requires, and give the organization the best conditions for success.
Is there enough leadership power to drive change?
More significant changes should always start at the top management level. If not, you need to get them involved before getting started. The effects of a change project are required for the organization, like launching a Sales Enablement initiative, but do the various managers have time to conduct the change or are they hung up on tasks?
And as necessary, do they understand the essential WHAT, WHY, and HOW behind this change project?
After all, you can only do one thing at a time, and if you have to manage and coach your employees to make changes in their way of working, you need to be able to prioritize and allocate the necessary amount of time. Ressources for leading and coaching is important, so you have to make sure that leadership is present throughout the entire organization at all times during the change process.
[Further reading for inspiration, How to successfully drive change in your organisation]
Who is affected by the change - and HOW to involve them in the process?
Far from everyone in an organization will benefit from the effects of a change process. For example, if the change is about the company changing its sales strategy becoming Buyer-centric, the production department may hardly notice anything. Still, Sales and Marketing will be profoundly affected. Depending on the level of change and ambitions of the project, management and sales excellence will be affected quite greatly.
Therefore, analyze which functions and persons who will be affected the most. Divide into functions and score employees according to a 1-5 graduation scale, where those who are most affected will receive a 5. Getting that overview, you also have an overview of areas of possible resistance and can decide when and how to involve the different departments and employees.
The next step to consider is if your employees can accommodate the change. Capacity for change depends on timing as described earlier, but also the fact that change requires reflection and being able to relate to and act on the changes. Bear in mind, reflection takes time!
How to avoid pitfalls of organizational change?
If there are too many structural barriers in the organization, you run the risk of change fatigue and to slow down the speed and effect of the change process.
Make sure that you have no inconsistent messaging.
You need to carefully connect the vision of the transformation with clear and consistent information and stories to all levels of the organization involved.
Do not assume that “One-size-fits-all”.
To avoid frustration, identify the different functions and groups of employees in the organizations affected by the change and their ability to adapt. Combined with the evaluation mentioned above on who is affected the most, you can secure that people participating in the transition will receive relevant information and support at the time they need it.
Unrealistic expectations of adoption.
Efforts are often focused on technology and less on what changes this means for the user. In many IT-related projects such as CRM or Sales Enablement, the main difference is often just training. The user retains only a small percentage of what they have learned, which can cause frustration. The successful organizational change includes ongoing training to maintain and secure the new behavior.
Risk of change fatigue.
Commercial and Digital transformations projects involve multiple simultaneous tasks, often places on the same group of stakeholders who may be overwhelmed by the number of changes and the workload. Ignoring change fatigue is a crucial contributor to change failure.
What is needed from the management team to run a change process?
You have to look inward and take the question seriously - because it's going to require management.
For example, if the goal is a change in sales strategy to become buyer-centric, not only the different teams and employees in an organization must learn to think and act in a new way, you as management does too.
As part of a transformation, management needs to build a new operation model for the areas involved. If the required change is developing and implementing a new buyer-centric sales strategy, a simple form could be the answer to these three questions:
What drives sales in our organization?
Define priority = Doing the right things.
Describe the activities needed to support the overall goal of the change project.
What type of conversations supports and influences these drivers?
Define behavior = Doing things right.
Describe the needed interactions between Management, Sales Managers and Sales reps.
Which tools or processes ease the conversation?
Management cadence in daily/weekly/monthly management model.