What a difference a decade makes. In 2006, a VP of Sales typically remained in the top sales job for an average of 26 months.
By 2016 that number had fallen to just 18.
Of course, no one plans on leaving the role in less than two years, but the implications of what we’re learning about sales leader churn are significant. How could anyone effect meaningful change in such a short time frame? The window for impact has narrowed and the timeline shortened with increasing pressure to make positive organizational change faster. Consequently, new sales leaders must increase their focus on the few areas where they can deliver business results in the shortest possible time.
So, with a lot of pressure to get out of the “starter blocks,” new sales leaders must ensure they’re focusing their energies in the right direction between the lines and down the track. Many leaders respond to this urgent need to make change by doing a lot of things quickly with the hopes it will increase their chances of success. While this is understandable, it often results in wasted efforts, with scattershot impact that doesn’t build toward a compelling case to keep going. Impact requires greater focus on fewer areas with practice and effective planning that ensures what should be done – can be done.
As Einstein famously said, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem.” It’s essential to take the time to develop a detailed assessment of the current state and then quickly identify the most compelling opportunities to pursue. Arguably underinvesting here or cutting this process short is where the greatest risk of failure lies. Invest the time to figure out what you can—and should do – before you launch into execution mode.
While quick fixes can have an immediate and positive impact – more typically it can take six months or more to introduce significant and lasting change. Most organizations have limited resources and therefore, only so much capacity for change. So, apply some simple steps to increase your chances of getting an early lead that can be sustained over the distance.
Focus on Future Potential | Identify areas of the market that hold the greatest potential for higher revenue and profit while protecting your core business.
Build a detailed understanding of the current state
Develop and validate hypotheses using quick-hit analyses
No organization has perfect data so don’t worry about getting this step exactly right. Focus on the 80% and getting to good enough information that will help direct your efforts – so keep it simple!
Develop an Action Plan | Determine the two to three actions you can take that will materially impact results within a reasonable timeframe.
Identify top priorities
Develop your action plan
Secure the right resources
Assess Organization Performance and Potential | Determine the organizations ability to execute the plan and the people you should enlist.
Identify top contributors in the sales organization
Assemble and deploy your change team
Changing how a sales team operates takes time, requires resources and demands a maniacal focus on execution. While planning is crucial to success, change initiatives more often fail during the execution phase (46% in execution vs. 10% in strategy development according to a 2016 Robert Half study). For sales teams more specifically, changes must be managed quickly and efficiently to reduce the impact on both operations and customers. This means you’ll have to “rip the band aid off” vs. slowly progressing to a new way of working.
Making change is hard so look for the shortest path to the most impact, be ready to respond to new information, be open to adjusting your approach without sacrificing your goals and you’ll set the stage for many years of individual and team success. Ultimately, extending your tenure beyond two or more years requires getting to positive results faster, while minimizing the disruption that could undermine what’s already working.