New Tools for Leading Displaced, Diverse, Digital and Dynamic Revenue Team

The 21st Century commercial model is a team sport played by a highly distributed network of role players from across sales, marketing, and service functions. Most sales leaders are “flying blind” as they struggle to lead, manage, and enable remote revenue teams in the absence of the face-to-face coaching, physical proximity and cultural anchor points that have been central to sales management for decades. Growth leaders must find new tools to manage revenue teams that are “4D” – displaced, diverse, digital, and dynamic.

  • Revenue teams have been displaced at scale by the current pandemic, making it difficult for business leaders and sales managers to “see”, measure, coach and lead remote sales teams.  Two thirds of organizations plan to extend Work at Home or Work from Anywhere policies well into 2021.  Many, like Hitachi, Twitter, and Zillow  plan on making these policies permanent.  Others like Nationwide, Nielsen and REI are closing campuses and restructuring their real estate portfolios in response to this shift to at home work – effectively eliminating the physical “headquarters” space that has traditionally served as the cultural anchor point for most organizations.
  • Simultaneously, the task of growing revenue has evolved into a team sport. Selling to digitally enabled customers across many channels requires a wider variety of functional roles, a bigger arsenal of tools and tactics, and much more communication and coordination. There are 21 functional roles associated with profit growth in a large enterprise according to an analysis by Forbes. And most  sales nor marketing teams control even half of them. No one individual or leader is capable of driving profit growth and building deep customer relationships in a modern commercial model. They will have to forge, lead and motivate diverse selling teams if they expect to compete effectively.

This has created a crisis in sales leadership and left growth executives struggling to find new tools and approaches to managing these remote selling networks. Our research shows the effects of this change:

  • Sales productivity has fallen as executives struggle to adapt to managing, leading, and enabling hundreds or thousands of remote selling employees.
  • Employee morale, welfare and communications have emerged as top productivity concerns.
  • In addition, sales teams are going to have to be more dynamic and agile to respond to changing customer expectations for responsiveness by providing them faster and more complete answers, in real time.
  • And visibility into customer engagement, seller activity and pipeline health are now essential to sales management.

A big underlying reason most leadership teams struggle with remote sales productivity is because they are using 20th century management tools to run a 21st century commercial model.  Traditionally sales teams have been managed, led, coached and trained  to some degree in a physical sense – in face to face sales meetings, ride alongs, call centers, sales training classes, or at trade show booths – as well as through “physical or cultural” anchor points such as central headquarters hubs that provide identity, structure and common purpose.  Time tested hierarchical approaches to managing large revenue teams – mapped to a linear sales funnel, and bounded by traditional geographic, functional, and role-based structures – are failing in the face of this new selling environment.

 In the absence of these tools sales leaders risk becoming disenfranchised or sidelined in a networked selling world. As a consequence, the majority of organizations are realizing very low returns on their true selling assets – people, information, data, and technology. According the Sales Management Association, every organization can achieve double the engagement, speed of response and productivity with the people, data and selling technology they already have.

Getting the best performance from “4D” revenue teams requires a new management toolkit. Success in the “next normal” will require dynamic networks of remote sellers with the agility, information, and authority to respond to “new school” buyers who demand fast and complete response in digital channels. Growth leaders will need much more effective ways to foster collaboration and alignment at the edges of their organizations.  Sales managers must act as “super-connectors” between teams. 

Seasoned business leaders intuitively understand this, but most tell us they cannot put their finger on how to communicate the problem and go about solving it. They don’t know what questions to ask, how to analyze the situation and where to start to solve it. A big reason is they are looking at the problem of remote selling the wrong way. They tend to fall back into thinking it’s a people, process, or technology problem – when in fact they are dealing with a network problem. They need to be thinking less about organization structures and functional roles and more in terms of managing nodes, edges, connections, and bandwidth.

Forward thinking leaders that have made this distinction are starting to use network analysis tools to solve the sales network performance problem.  This approach is effective because it draws upon and applies advances in data science, network optimization, people analytics, and organizational behavior to the challenge of managing a networked selling model.

Treating remote sales team productivity for what it is – a network problem – means doing things differently in terms of:

  1. The types of data you track:  This type of organizational network analysis mines both quantitative and qualitative data drawn from operational systems and direct employee surveys. This creates the most complete picture of how effectively your revenue teams are communicating, prioritizing, making decisions, and engaging the customer. It also provides important insights into the mindset and sentiment of your sellers and the flow of communication and level of sales activity at the edge of your organization.
  2. The way you measure: You need to measure and track a mix of hard network variables such as nodes, connectors, edges, and soft network issues – such as levels of trust, collaboration, and shared values.
  3. The things you manage: You need to identify and manage the key people in the network –  such as the “super connectors” and “morale leaders” who fuel the network – and the bottlenecks and at-risk employees that impair network performance.
  4. And (most importantly) the manner in which you lead:  Sales leaders must take a more active role as connectors and communicators while clearing away the obstacles to increased information flow and autonomous decision-making.

An organizational network analysis uses these quantitative and qualitative inputs to create an intuitive and actionable picture of the current effectiveness of your selling network. It also clearly identifies the key points of failure, leverage and scale that need to be addressed to achieve its full potential. Think of it as a sales management “MRI” that helps your leadership visualize and quantify the health of your sales network and effectiveness of your revenue team by mapping the engagement, productivity, and speed at which your revenue teams are working.

This picture will give management teams better visibility into the performance of their entire distributed sales teams and allow them to make immediate actionable recommendations that will significantly improve the engagement, speed, and productivity of their selling network. A network analysis should specifically help you to:

  1. Visualize the levels of engagement, speed, and productivity of the individuals within your selling network which allows you to unlock the potential of distributed revenue teams;
  2. Identify information and decision-making bottlenecks that allow you to speed information flow and respond faster to the market;
  3. Increase the level of empowerment and decision-making at the edge of the organization where customer engagement happens, and sellers are often disconnected from management and support resources;
  4. Teach line managers and effectiveness professionals the leadership behaviors essential for connecting teams, fostering collaboration, and facilitating information flow;
  5. Unlock sales performance by redefining sales coverage, roles, and incentives to release the constraints of geographic, functional, and organizational structures;
  6. Identify the next generation of sales leaders – the “super connectors”, “moral leaders” and “information hubs” that make the modern revenue engine run;
  7. Identify at risk and disengaged employees who have been disenfranchised or sidelined in a virtual setting.

You can learn more about how to conduct a remote sales network analysis and see a remote network analysis in action at www.revenueenablement.com

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