Merged Firms Need Unified Salesforce by Kevin Davis

In this time of record-breaking mergers and mega-mergers, creating a unified sales force with a common language and single message becomes imperative if your newly-created firm is to achieve its goals. Find out what some progressive firms are doing to achieve this.

In this time of record-breaking mergers and mega-mergers, creating a unified sales force with a common language and single message becomes imperative if your newly-created firm is to achieve its goals.

When you bring together different sales cultures and levels of sophistication within a newly-merged organization the result is often reduced sales, erosion of trust with customers and ineffective coaching of the sales process.

Your sales force is your frontline of contact with your customer. They carry your corporate message, your philosophy, and deliver the value you offer. They are the implementers of your marketing strategy. It doesn’t matter who you are, if your sales force is giving conflicting signals, rather than a consistent message, you erode your name and what you stand for.

Without a common selling language, recently merged firms may find they are fielding “bands of selling nomads,” salespeople that complicate, rather than simplify clients’ lives.

This is particularly true if your company has national accounts with multiple client locations, and multiple salespeople calling on that account. Varying communication styles, standards, and levels of expertise can cause clients to go elsewhere if another firm is more coherent and efficient in its approach.

The most progressive firms must create a new sales culture superior to predecessors, one that all members of the sales organization can master and implement. The successfully merged sales force will have shared standards of value, customer responsiveness and communication systems.

For instance, IKON Office Solutions, a leading supplier of office equipment and technology products, had purchased some 85 office equipment dealerships throughout North America, each with its own corporate culture, psychology and approach to selling. The acquired organizations, however, had a varied commitment to sales training. For example, one unit provide four weeks of in-depth training while another provided training only to those salespeople who survived ten months on the job.

A leading provider of technology products and services, with $5 billion in sales, IKON wanted to maximize market opportunity with a highly skilled, unified, and customer-driven sales force. An added goal was to install a common sales process that would enable sales managers to coach more effectively by enabling them to more accurately diagnose the development needs of individual salespeople.

After evaluating many different sales models from a seemingly endless number of suppliers, IKON selected the Getting Into Your Customer’s Head selling system as the way all of their 6,000-sales professionals will sell to customers in the future.

Much of my work with IKON has centered on helping salespeople understand clients’ eight-stage buying process and serving client needs at each stage. Research shows that when people experience a risk in making a mistake, they will go through eight predictable stages in making a decision.

Based on this understanding of buying behavior, I have created eight roles for salespeople to take on as they work with clients throughout their decision-making process.

The Student studies the change affecting customers and opens closed doors; the Doctor diagnoses the customer’s discontent and uncovers needs that may not have been considered; the Architect designs unique solutions that simplify the customer’s research, and provide a good solution; the Coach compares the offering to the competition’s and helps the client win; the Therapist draws out the customer’s last-minute fears, and helps to resolve them; the Negotiator discusses to identify any other details that need resolution to reach mutual commitment; the Teacher shows the customer how to maximize value; the Farmer cultivates satisfaction and grows the account.

After working with this system, IKON has reported excellent early results of their newly aligned sales force. Jim Lee, National Sales Trainer for IKON’s Document Services Division reports: “We are finding that within six months of attending the training account managers are have record sales months. When asked what they attribute their success to, their response is always the techniques they learned with regard to the Getting Into Your Customer’s Head sales model. In addition, our new-hires are ramping-up to expected revenue levels 30% faster, on average. In many cases, 50-60% is not uncommon.”

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