by Beth Banks Cohn, Columnist & Featured Contributor
I RECENTLY WORKED WITH a mid-sized professional services client on a change strategy for the implementation of a new customer relationship management system. As part of the process, I was given a couple of years’ worth of sales figures, which showed a real change in the revenue they were earning from different solutions they offered.
“I’m seeing a big increase in sales of Product X, but a decline in sales of Product Y,” I remarked. “I thought you told me you wanted to increase Product Y sales because it was higher margin and created a more steady revenue stream in the long term. What’s happening?”
The Director of Sales sighed. “We changed the way we wanted to approach the market with Product Y, and now no one really knows what’s going on.”
Turned out that the senior leadership team couldn’t agree on the revised positioning of Product Y (did they target one or two verticals, or try to go after a larger market segment?), which meant marketing couldn’t create any messaging around it – and that meant that not only were they not doing any external communications, they weren’t doing any internal communications, either. So the sales team, left in limbo but still wanting to make their numbers, was selling as much of Product X as it could while basically ignoring Product Y.
This is what I call ‘everyday change’: The kind of shifts in day-to-day business that don’t seem like such a big deal – until 6 months pass and you realize that little change, left unaddressed, has actually resulted in some big (and not positive) changes for the business. No one bothers to create a ‘Change Management Strategy’ or call in a change management expert for this sort of thing, because it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it is.
As an outside consultant who already had access to the senior leadership and was accepted as a change expert, I was able to help my client: At the next meeting, I added ‘product offerings’ to the agenda and we were able to map out a plan:
- We set aside time to finally get agreement on the positioning for the revised Product Y
- We agreed on some basic messaging
- Marketing was tasked with creating some internal communications, which were then approved by the senior leadership team
- Because leadership was now all on the same page, they could take that back to their teams
- We arranged training for everyone in the organization – not just the sales team
- Marketing prepared an external communications plan which was presented to the organization with some fanfare
None of this took very long – it was really just a matter of forcing the organization to make it a priority, and then taking the time to communicate it to the organization.
Sales of Product Y rebounded almost immediately – the salespeople preferred to sell it anyway, due to the higher margins.