When something isn’t working inside an organization, it takes a lot of courage to call it out and make the difficult decisions that drive change.
A few years ago, Blytheco leadership acknowledged that the sales process wasn’t functioning optimally; the Executives knew there was plenty of room for growth.
But how do you change the trajectory of the most critical team in the company? Hire an expensive trainer to give a motivational pep-talk and the latest closing techniques? Turns out, a more introspective approach was the key to creating a more engaged team, a tighter, duplicatable sales process, higher quality leads, and customers who are excited to work with us.
As a major bonus, the transformation that began in the sales teams spilled over to affect the entire organization. Today as a whole company, Blytheco is more culture conscious, customer-centric, and collaboratively minded. And it all started with in the Sales organization.
Here, two of the catalysts for the transformation share how the company was able to make such a critical shift. Alicia Anderson is Blytheco’s Manager of Business Solutions Experiences and leads the outside sales team. Jeff Blomstrom is the Director of Business Accounts and heads up the inside sales team.
LISTENING TO THE TEAM
Jeff Blomstrom: “Two and a half years ago, I arrived to a very successful 36 year old company. But it was an extremely siloed organization. Sales wasn’t collaborating with Marketing. Marketing wasn’t talking to Professional Services. Professional Services wasn’t strategizing with account managers and Project Management was just an idea. The Executive team wanted to create a sustainable growth model for the future but if we were going to be successful, we needed a way to communicate internally first and then through, within and across every division in our organization. I’m proud to say that many of the ideas that we initiated within the Sales team wound up permeating and changing the entire company culture.
“The first thing we focused on was to get a clear understanding of what the Sales team needed in order to help our clients stay ahead of their competition. At our annual sales meeting in 2014, a major shift happened that helped foster a lot more transparency and honest dialog. We learned that our account managers wanted to be clearly understood and then radically supported to meet their needs to succeed. We were able to hone in on our WIG’s: Wildly Important Goals. Our two WIGs are to increase revenue and create real relationships with our customers.”
ADDRESSING A BROKEN PROCESS
Alicia Anderson: “I think the most impactful thing we did which transformed not only our sales team but our organization was to standardize our sales process. Before, it was very haphazard and based on the individual sales person’s style. Our prospects and customers had very inconsistent experiences with us; situations frequently escalated to the executive level and we were constantly putting out fires. Once we reached our breaking point, we took several days out for strategic planning. We literally locked ourselves in the conference room and came out with a new, well documented and easily duplicatable sales process. It is a series of steps that we follow for every deal and engagement. It has been tested and proven to be highly effective. It even turned people who never sold into sales people! Now, we have a very consistent, high quality approach to what we do because we de-emphasized stylized selling. Our clients and prospects consistently have good, if not great experiences with us.”
JB: “I would add to that our satisfaction comes from being recognized as our client’s Trusted Advisor. To be clear, for us the sales process is not just about solutioning. It is truly about discovering and understanding what our client’s issues and pains and obstacles are to achieving the wants and needs they have in their business. There are a lot of products available but which one is the right one for them? Upon understanding their needs, we work hard to provide them guidance on great software solutions for use now and that will be flexible and continue to grow with them into the future.”
INVESTING IN CULTURE
JB: “As an organization, we were very intentional in invest-ing in our company’s culture. Of the various methodolo-gies that exist, we chose to adapt the FISH! Philosophy, modeled after the world famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.
“There are four basic principles: Have fun. Make their day. Be present. Choose your attitude. We did the initial training with the Sales team during our 2014 annual sales kickoff conference. The four principles were so easy to understand and apply that we started seeing performance results improve immediately. As we got more and more “fishy” with our principles, other departments in the or-ganization took notice and started asking questions. Very organically, there was a desire to have it taught company wide. Virtually everyone wanted to be a part of this new way of looking at work. So we rolled the training out to our entire team across our six national offices and to our remote team members.
“Word quickly spread around the company about the amazing experience the sales team had at their conference, other divisions were hungry for a similar experience. Our Executive team recognized what we were able to achieve with one division’s annual meeting and so re-imagined it as a company-wide annual meeting. QUEST was born and now every year the entire company gets together for our group culture meetings, team breakout session, leadership workshops and training sessions.”
THE IMPACT ON PROSPECTS AND CLIENTS
AA: “Mahan Khalsa wrote a book called Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play and it has really been the playbook for our new sales and client engagement approach. As a bonus, it works in tandem with our Fish! culture. Khalsa’s principles are about having real conversations with clients and prospects, not just a “sales” conversation. We really pull off the mask and set clear expectations around our work together. Throughout the process, we are constantly checking in and confirming, making sure we are aligned with our customer throughout the whole process.
AA: I think the most important element of the process is calling out what Mahan calls “yellow lights.” Sometimes, we get these nagging concerns about our opportunities and projects. We may be unsure about what a client meant by a statement they made or they might not seem engaged in the process. A “yellow light” conversation is getting all those nagging feelings on the table and getting clarity in a very honest and open way. The reality is it could result in a break up and that is ok. If you are not aligned, you should be broken up and you should find out early. I find that it creates a real trust in the relationship because we are not afraid to have an honest conversation and they are not afraid to be honest with us.
The quality of new clients we engage with now has changed for the better because we have more clarity around expectations on both sides of the table. Even the quality of engagements with our existing customer base has improved. From the very beginning of a new sale or service project, we are able to be more tightly alighted. They have the courage to tell us if they feel this project is not for them or if they have concerns about us, they have the courage to bring us early and we can either resolve the issue or part ways.”
THE IMPACT ON OUR ORGANIZATION
JB: “The impact of these changes we have implemented have been phenomenal on our organization. We have grown 114% YOY for the last two consecutive years. We were recognized as one of the ‘Best Places to Work.’ Our employee engagement scores are in the top 5% of all companies surveyed.
“We are now a culture of enablement, empowerment, accountability, excellence, fun, and growth. Our team members have a high level of mutual respect for each other and the clients we serve. When you make the right investment into your team, the results speak for themselves.”
Article reprinted from the Winter 2016 issue of Bellwether.
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