For many companies, sales function is an area where outcome is never closer to expectation. Companies suffer from weak funnels, missed closures, lengthier closure cycles, order losses and attrition. These are the waste that emanate in sales function. It is well known sales teams that hunt as a pack always produce better results than those that hunt individually. Unfortunately, many sales teams discourage sharing of information about networks & influence of client organizations across team members. Many a times a particular sales resource may be approaching a client organization in a certain suboptimal way without privy to alternate courses. Other colleagues may have prior experience of the account and/or situation to tide over the apprehensions. Bereft of multiple perspectives, the sales cycle would linger, and eventually the sales resource will lose interest on the account and drop it from his hunt. Incomplete sharing of information and inadequate planning for a particular opportunity is another challenge sales team face. Weak alignment, between inside sales and direct sales teams or KAM teams with others is another area that leads to sales inefficiencies. Role conflicts and tensions may also arise due to operational and personality issues. Poor policies on account transfer between direct and inside sales team, weak sales operations, and ineffective review can exacerbate drop rates. A salient issue in solution selling companies is lack of comprehensive involvement, poor alignment and ineffective role management between pre-sale and sale teams across various stages of a customer acquisition. Diffused and selective ownership without a complete coverage of customer experience management leads to lengthy customer requirement cycles, protracted customer sign off process and potential financial loss.
Companies are realizing to counter bounded rationality problems, improve commitment and camaraderie within the sales teams, they need to build coopetition teams. Teams in a coopetition collaborate to address common challenges, and address gaps and yet can remain competitive in pursuit of the individual goals. In recent years, companies like Ternary software, Zappos, David Allen Co, Precision Nutrition and others have adopted Holacracy (the system of self-governance) as an approach to build self-managing teams. Holacracy is an approach to distribute authority across the organization. In a Holacracy the organization evolves continuously adapting its structure and process through ongoing peer-to-peer governance. Common elements of organizations adopting Holacracy principles are a) constitution that defines the roles and distribution of authority related to tasks or outputs, b) roles and accountabilities, c) collaborative decision-making process enabling change in roles and authority consistent with evolution and d) meeting process that promotes co-creation and collaborative working.
Companies adopting Holacracy principles for sales organization implement following. Firstly, they create a leadership ring to build multiple owners who can eschew same corporate and sales dream and chase the horizon. However, unlike the Holacracy organizations, these rings are limited to the first level of sales, pre-sale and delivery management, the organization below each leader is still hierarchical. The leadership ring collectively evaluates opportunities, discusses approach or various sales motions (national, key accounts, acquisition, strategic account, label wins), creates proposals and pricing models, and comprehensively manages customer interaction. The group runs as a virtual organization within the company. They validate customer requirements, aligned design and delivery, and eliminate rework. Recognizing the need for flexibility to counter exigencies, leadership ring has weekly rhythm meets to discuss progress and exceptions. Any engagement model deviations, change requests, requirement changes or client leadership exits are discussed openly, opinions are considered and a comprehensive approach is arrived after considering multiple perspectives. One strategy is collectively approved individuals are given complete ownership ad freedom to pursue the actions. To support the changes in the roles and ownership of different teams over the life cycle of a customer engagement, the sales teams build a culture and process where different people wear the leadership hat. In the initial part of customer engagement, sales resources own and direct inform and influencing of customer. However, a pre-sale expert takes over the solution enumeration and client acceptance, after which the sales leader and pricing teams dons the mantle. Finally, the crown comes back to the sales resource to chase the closure. Once the order is picked, the mantle moves to delivery as the prime owner and sales as the secondary owner. Finally, what distinctly distinguishes “Holacracy” team sales reviews, is this is not the typical high octane name calling threat laced ritual. The review system moves away from status and fault finding to status and solution offering. Each review meeting is initiated with a revisit of the purpose and with a focus on actions by individuals and team can impact positive outcome.
Companies adopting Holacracy principles for sales must understand it is a cultural change and requires both management investment and patience. Sales team members must experience the trust and openness to share everyone view and the collective decision making. Parochial leaders may find the process limiting insular control of team and threatens group politics. Importantly the ability to steer the focus towards “problem solving” than “one man up” behaviour is the key to the success of the program.
Vasavi R, Sai Vinoth and Dr TR Madan Mohan