Meet the missing ingredient in successful sales transformations: Science

McKinsey 12 Jun 2019 12:00

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Despite years of championing transformation initiatives, too many sales organizations still struggle with lackluster performance. Big investments in training, sales technology, and sales and marketing support have delivered negligible returns. Sales leaders have become frustrated.

It is no surprise that change at this scale is inherently difficult. We have written before about the fact that 70 percent of all transformations fail.1 1.Homayoun Hatami, Candace Lun Plotkin, Kevin McLellan, and Patrick Schulze, “The 90 percent success recipe: How digital and analytics can help commercial transformations beat the odds and the market,” McKinsey .com, September 2018. There are many culprits in failed sales transformations, including the size and dispersed nature of sales organizations, high attrition rates, and a culture of decision making based on “gut feelings.”

It doesn’t have to be like that. In our work with thousands of sales organizations, it has become clear that advances in the “science” of change—digital, analytics, and supporting methodologies—can make a big difference, increasing the odds of success three to four times. This scientific approach to sales transformations is made up of four elements (see exhibit):

1. Comprehensive design: solve for ‘how,’ not just ‘what’

2. Agile deployment: Rely on ‘test and learn’ to move quickly

4. Sustain impact: Balance automation and the human touch

Sales transformations aren’t new. But by understanding how to use data, analytics, and the personal touch, sales leaders can drive change that matters and sticks.

About the author(s)

Michael Harney is an associate partner in McKinsey’s New York office, Roland John and Steve Reis are senior partners in the Atlanta office; and Maria Valdivieso is a partner in the Miami office.

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