Mergers and takeovers can be very disruptive experiences for all parties involved. There is typically an emphasis on generating the integration synergies and working as quickly as possible to return to “normal” operating conditions. This often means a reduction in headcount, brand and product changes and considerable process change which can disrupt customer relationships and disenfranchise employees.
Particular attention needs to be paid to the sales force during such times of uncertainty. A high performing sales force is driven by conditions of high confidence. That confidence is fragile and if damaged the sales force is vulnerable to taking on an introverted persona. This can manifest itself as:
- dismissive statements that things are operating as normal or it is under control.
- the sales numbers this month are just a blip.
- the sales force feeling helpless until certainty in all things has been returned.
- the competition have a compelling story about the uncertainty and the pain customers will experience and why those customers should switch providers now to avoid the pain.
This is the opportunity your competitors have been waiting for. Unfortunately most PMI plans fail to recognise this and fail to deal with it effectively leaving the organisation unnecessarily exposed.
Don’t be drawn into such a disempowering state! Be aware in advance that this could occur and act early to avoid it becoming a major problem. An effective sales force have the skills necessary to repel competitors if that high confidence condition can be returned. It is therefore a business imperative to achieve this goal.
The following is an effective approach to redressing the problem.
- Reframe the problem in a way it can be solved using the skillset of the sales force. Recognise this as a new form of customer objection that can be tactfully handled rather than some other more complex problem. Acknowledge this is a mission critical challenge.
- Facilitate a learning process to discover, resolve and re-energise the sales force. Involve customers, the sales force, marketing and management in the process to achieve full alignment. Urgency here is your friend.
- Build momentum through a structured implementation plan using the sales tools of collateral, sales meetings, roleplay, joint sales calls etc.
- Monitor actions and feedback closely and course correct appropriately while maintaining a learning posture and a transparent environment.
The approach looks deceptively simple. At the process level it is relatively straight forward if the organisation recognises the need early and commits appropriately skilled resources to address the challenge. The more difficult elements are: managing the mindset of the individuals to believe that they can make a difference, recognise and accept that a small personal risk will deliver a greater personal reward (not necessarily monetary) and creating and maintaining a true learning posture throughout the work.