James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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How to Rebuild a Broken Sales Organization

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

Entering into a broken sales organization might feel like you just walked into a cocktail party and everything was on fire.

The reasons a sales team is floundering can be varied and complex. From lack of internal alignment to lack of effective leadership, take a sigh of relief when we say – no organization is too far gone to be rebuilt.

We spoke with Michael Muhlfelder, former VP of Sales (Americas) at TARGIT, about the building (or rebuilding) process of a sales organization.

Michael has extensive experience in sales management and also acts as an independent sales advice strategist.

Michael shared three key steps to scan the landscape of a sales organization before getting involved, and once onboard, how to help save a sinking ship.

Find Out What You’re Getting Yourself Into

The average tenure of a B2B VP of Sales is 18 months.

It’s a brutal statistic, but one that highlights the importance of thoroughly understanding a situation before tying yourself down.

Before even shaking hands to accept the role of “fixer”, you want to do your homework. You want to get a full grasp of the work needed to be done and the expectations that will be placed on you.

During the interview process, keep in mind that you are as much interviewing the organization as they are you.  Ask the hard questions upfront, so you don’t find yourself blindsided walking into a complete disaster zone.

First off, ask culture-defining questions.

What kind of support does senior leadership give when it comes to change? Does the culture reflect one that encourages change? What is their expectation for you to impact that change?

Next, get a feel for the sales cycle. What does their pipeline look like? How long is a standard sales cycle?

These questions can give some insight into how long you have to start producing tangible results.

Lastly, and arguably the most difficult (but important) question is why do they think they are in the situation they are in now.

It’s ugly, but listen to what they say and how they say it–finger-pointing or blatant denial are red flags.

If you’re entering into a bomb zone, you need to know how the rubble got there & what other potential hazards might be hiding beneath the surface.

This deep knowledge also allows you to prepare to hit the ground running on your first day.

Capitalize On Day One

All eyes will be on you on your first day, so take advantage of the limelight to instill confidence in your team that you are fully capable of making a positive change.

Gather your team together on your first day to make everyone aware of your intentions, share how you plan to align the sales organization, and how you’re going to sustain productivity as changes roll out. Confidently engaging with your team on your first day is the foundation on which you can build…

CLICK TO TWEET

Chances are your arrival has long been rumored about at the water cooler, so the earlier you can get in and set the record straight, the better.

Work Your Plan

During your first day presentation, you should be prepared to present a 30-60 day plan with your sales organization.

This plan is your succinct, but flexible, approach to the first couple of months in your new role. Give your new team vision for what can be and then walk them through how you plan to achieve it.

CLICK TO TWEET

Michael suggested a few basic sales-rebuilding strategies you can include in your 30-60 day plan:

  • Work to align sales with other functions in the company, with marketing being your first target
  • Schedule meetings with key customers
  • Meet with top prospects and immediately alert senior management to bad deals already in the pipeline
  • Review current forecasts for accuracy
  • Discuss plan for inevitable turnover (happens with any major organization change)

The list isn’t exhaustive, by any means, but if you aren’t sure where to start, those basics should give you a solid platform.

Conclusion

Taking on a sales management role is difficult, even when the organization is running at its peak.

Taking it on when significant change is needed requires patience, determination, and most of all, preparation.

Understanding the situation ahead of time gives you adequate time to strategize well before your first day.

Just remember, preparation can only take you so far — stay open to plans changing and always expect the unexpected.

This post is based on an interview with Michael Muhlfelder from TARGIT. You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes.

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