The clearest conclusion from our observations on sales structure is that change in this area is constant; it’s likely your sales force will be segmented and redeployed on an ongoing basis. Therefore, the key is to create flexibility to support shifts in deployment. At the same time, recognize that churning salespeople can alienate the customer base and can dismantle a sales culture. As such, change management considerations should be integrated into the restructuring activity and structures should be designed in support of organizational agility.
Tips for guiding restructuring activity include:
Acknowledge the difficulty of change and prepare your salespeople and your customers to navigate it (early and ongoing communication is critical).
Explain the benefits to customers (perhaps they will be getting a more local or more specialized resource).
Explain the benefits to salespeople (better targeting means more face time and more revenues, less travel time, more support).
Be able to clearly explain the impact on performance evaluation (as the saying goes, people do what is “inspected” not what is “expected”).
Build a plan to ensure that the next salesperson has a warm transition (this may call for an in-person introduction by the current salesperson) and just as importantly has access to all of the relevant data.
Build consistency into operations across the sales structure so that if a person changes sales teams, processes and systems do not have to be relearned. This will reduce ramp-up time.
Put specific territory guidelines in place to minimize conflict among the various parts of the structure.
Create formal mechanisms for uncovering best practices and replicating them across different parts of the sales force. Some structures will lend themselves to this kind of communication and some will not. The key is to make it happen anyway.
Give salespeople a greater sense of the organization. If their only relationship to an organization is with a particular selling team, then they will become disenfranchised as they are moved to different parts of the sales organization.
In addition to ensuring a smooth transition, special care should be taken to make sure that no matter what their position in the new structure, all sales professionals feel part of the bigger team. Too often, organizations continue to structure themselves in ways that discourage this, building silos only to tear them down again in a self-defeating cycle.