Transformation: How to lead through a sales and marketing transformation

– Mar 2, 2022
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This is the final piece in a series of six articles that will guide your own sales and marketing transformation. This article identifies the critical role that leadership plays in a transformation program and the behaviours they should adopt to help achieve success. Don’t forget to read the first five articles in this series; It’s time for a sales and marketing transformation, setting your transformation up for success, the secret sauce to run a transformation program, phases matter and why change champions are like waiters.

Transformation leadership

In this article series we have discussed the various stakeholder roles in a sales and marketing transformation, including change champions and the transformation team. Now it is time to talk about leadership; specifically managers and the C-Suite.

Leaders should be given their own briefing before a transformation program begins, adopting an approach similar to in-flight demonstrations; “in the case of a transformation, please equip yourself for the change before assisting others”. To effectively lead during a transformation program, leaders must be on top of the changes ahead of the rest of the organisation. They also need to adopt a unique leadership style to support others through the transformation. Leadership should proactively tackle these two unique challenges so they can maximise the potential positive impact on driving successful transformation outcomes.

Managers must support their teams, and need support themselves to do so

A transformation may derail your sales and marketing team

Sales and marketing teams are some of the most structured and process-driven employees in any organisation. They eat, sleep and dream sales strategy. The strategy they have meticulously honed throughout their career may be replaced by a sales and marketing transformation. All of a sudden, they will need to learn new rhythms, tasks, processes and metrics.

As can be expected, the disruption of transformation is likely to cause sales and marketing team members to struggle. They will have difficulties managing their pipeline and will likely see their conversion rates take a painful hit. To put it simply, they are going to lose their sales mojo. This is where managers need to play a role in supporting team members to keep their confidence and get back to their stride.

Managers will need help providing a unique style of support

The support and coaching that managers need to provide during a transformation program will extend beyond their usual duty, and perhaps their comfort zone. They will need to:

  • demonstrate empathy for what their team members are working through.
  • use coaching techniques that will support and encourage team members to persevere with the changes (rather than fearing being called out for making mistakes).
  • understand which coaching technique each of their team members need depending on their unique personalities and what stage they are at in the transformation.

It is highly unlikely that managers will be fully equipped with all of these skills. Therefore, organisations should consider investing in upskilling managers. This could take the form of introducing dedicated training sessions, coaching support forums, online resources or access to coaches.

The C-Suite have a domino effect on the uptake of transformation changes

Executive support, buy-in and ultimately adoption is fundamental to the success of a transformation program. The actions of the C-Suite have a tremendous impact on a business. Their behaviours, communications and interactions set a standard for how others in the organisation should behave, communicate and interact. This is why it is paramount that the C-Suite wholeheartedly adopt the changes put forward by the transformation program. It is also why it is critical that they act as role models for certain leadership behaviours to encourage others to support the transformation outcomes.

It is critical that executives proactively adopt transformation changes

In many respects, the disruption experienced by the executive team will be similar to that experienced by frontline teams, only heightened. Like their sales and marketing teams, executives have also honed a certain approach to decision making, and they too will need to let go of many tools, techniques and reports they have confidence in.

Unlike frontline teams, executives do not have their own manager who is responsible for monitoring their work and keeping them in line. Consequently, it is not uncommon for the C-Suite to resist the change and revert back on their old ways of working. But the consequences of this are substantial. Something as simple as requesting old reports can have a significant flow-on effect. It forces staff to return to old tools, metrics and practices, and consequently impedes the transition to new ways of working.

It is important to build executive buy-in from the beginning and to bring them along the journey to help the chances of the C-Suite adopting transformation changes. This means providing regular updates and clearly articulating the drivers (or burning platform) for the changes. But it’s important to remember that at the end of the day the accountability ultimately sits with them.

New leadership behaviours will motivate others through the change

The changes required by executives to support a transformation do not stop at day-to-day activities. Alongside managers, executives need to develop new leadership practices that will play a valuable role in motivating the organisation to lean into the transformation.

Executives should regularly share organisational progress that demonstrates the achievement of desired outcomes. Such updates should recognise what has already been achieved, while also clearly articulating what still needs to be done. It is not always common for organisations to be transparent in highlighting gaps, but this approach will balance communications with recognition of what has already been accomplished. Most importantly, it will build a sense of accountability and motivate the organisation to keep pushing towards the ultimate goal.

Executives should also find opportunities to be vulnerable and openly share challenges and mistakes experienced during the transformation. This may be calling out decisions they have made which had unfavourable or unintended outcomes. Or discussing examples of when they have personally struggled to adopt new ways of working. This openness will give staff the psychological safety and motivation they need to work through the changes, and stick with them even when they are struggling.

Contact us for more information on how to adopt the right leadership behaviours to maximise engagement with your transformation program.

This concludes our article series on a sales and marketing transformation. Our series covered:

  1. How to recognise if you need a sales and marketing transformation
  2. How to determine what your transformation program needs to deliver
  3. Tips for setting-up a successful transformation program
  4. Guidance on how to roll-out changes
  5. The importance of change champions
  6. The above article on the role of leadership in the transformation
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