managers often think about the effectiveness of the sales team, sales strategy or sales process. However, there is one vital ingredient of sales success that is generally overlooked. That is the health of the sales organization.
A sales team’s strategy, process or skill-set may not be enough to ensure sustained long term success. There is another vital ingredient linked to the achievement of almost every KPI in sales, but generally overlooked by sales managers. It relates to factors such as the cohesiveness, clarity, productivity and motivation and is called your sales team’s organizational health. A healthy sales organization is characterized by:
Most of us have, at some stage in our sales career, worked in an organization that was bedeviled with politics, dysfunction, confusion and bureaucracy. These are the characteristics of poor organizational health and we know only too well that they impact on job performance, as well as satisfaction.
How Healthy Is Your Organization? That sounds like a strange question, but it is a very important one.
A book called ‘The Advantage’ by Patrick Lenconi points out that: ‘The single greatest advantage that any organization can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free and available to almost everybody who wants it’. It is a message that all sales managers need to hear.
In times gone by organizational health might have been called ‘culture’ and dismissed as touchy-feely. However it is our belief that improving organizational health goes straight to the top line, as well as the bottom line. To put it simply, organizational health and organizational wealth go hand in hand.
We see it every day, sales teams suffer from negativity, politics and lack a clear purpose or strategy face a performance penalty. It can be measured in terms of: low productivity, employee turnover, lost innovation, customer attrition and so on.
teams that suffer from poor organizational health face real challenges such as:
• People pull in different directions
• Doubt, anxiety and a lack of confidence
• Confusion, inertia and fear of change
• Poor leadership, mixed messages & absence of vision
• Poor communication, with low levels of openness & trust
• Fear of change, defensiveness & blame culture
• High levels of politics and turf-wars or boundary disputes
• Protectiveness and defensiveness
• Confusion about roles, rights and responsibilities
• Poor accountability & reporting
• Negative internal narrative – ‘bitching and moaning’.
Check the organizational health of your sales team against the 11 factors listed above. Tick the ones that are or could be present, if you ticked 3 our more of the above factors then the health of your sales team could be affecting the wealth of your organization.
Organizational health provides the context for strategy, finance, marketing, technology and everything else. It may be more important than talent, knowledge, or innovation. The implication is that managers need to nurse not just the strategies and skills of their sales organizations, but also its health.
What to do if the organizational health of your sales team is failing? Well, there is a 4 step treatment plan to improve organizational health prescribed by Lencioni and it reflects what we have seen work well for high performing sales teams.
Step 1: Build a cohesive leadership team
Confusion in the ranks mirrors confusion among management. The challenge is to unify managers and to get them ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’ and ‘walking the talk’.
This is something quite radical because many sales management teams are no more than working groups. Borrowing a sporting analogy from Lencioni’s book the members are playing golf rather than basketball – that is to say they play as individuals rather than as a team.
In most organizations managers and their teams have their own targets, but these can sometimes put them at odds with their colleagues. To ensure co-operative synergy it is vital that different teams, departments and functions share some common goals – for example 20% of the target being measured in terms of the overall/organizational sales figure.
Step 2: Create clarity
There should be no confusion or ambiguity about: the course of action, the principles/values involved, how success is measured, accountabilities, responsibilities and so on.
Mixed messages are not uncommon in how sales teams are managed, but even subtle misalignment at the top can have a major impact in the field. Each manager should be able to clearly articulate the strategy and the key priorities.
People must be rallied behind a clear purpose, but it is not just about slogans or mission statements. There has to be a plan on paper and it must be one that people have co-created. Furthermore a clear organizational chart and reporting lines are required.
Step 3: Communicate Clarity
There is no point in management setting a clear direction unless it is communicated throughout the entire sales organization. It must be loud and clear, where everybody is on message and that message does not keep changing.
Step 4: Reinforce clarity
Ensuring that all policies, programmes and procedures are consistent across:
– All departments & functions
– Systems & structures
– Recruiting & hiring
– Performance management
– Compensation and rewards
– Recognition & accountability.
organizations can struggle inspite of sophisticated sales strategies, efficient sales processes and clever sales managers. That is because ‘culture eats strategy and just about anything else’ – it can curtail the success of a sales team. So, while managers worry about strategy, process and skills that is not enough. They need to pay more attention to the health and culture of the sales organization.
Using our SellerNAV methodology we help sales teams to optimize their performance and unlock hidden sales potential. That includes addressing the issue of organizational health for sales teams.
Want to find out more about Organizational Health – click here to buy a copy of ‘The Advantage’ by Patrick Lenconi