The stress associated with big changes, such as a merger or an acquisition, often causes a decrease in sales performance. According to Christine Corelli, author of Wake Up and Smell the Competition (Cardinal Business Press, 2000), it’s up to sales managers to ensure a smooth transition in times of change. Corelli offers these tips for helping a sales force adjust.
Establish an atmosphere of open communication.
In any changing environment, salespeople lose their motivation if they aren’t kept informed about what is going on around them. The less informed they are, the more likely it is to have a negative affect on their performance. Communicate what you know and never censor yourself. According to Corelli, “Sales managers should share information, both good and bad. Otherwise, people will think you’re holding back and being dishonest.”
Introduce change gradually.
It takes time to assimilate new information, learn new systems or procedures and do things the way the new parent company does. Corelli warns, “People do not respond immediately to change so the key is to introduce change gradually whenever possible.” Sales managers must make sure that their sales reps understand the company’s new needs and that they move at a pace that ensures business goals are met – while giving sales reps the opportunity to process the changes for themselves.
Ask for accountability.
One of a sales manager’s most important functions is to ask sales reps to be accountable to each other for maintaining high morale. Corelli believes, “It’s always up to the sales manager to set the tone, ask people what questions they have regarding the change and ask them to be accountable to the company.” Even if change is difficult, people still need to be held responsible for making the required changes. Reward those who make the transition and work the way you expect them to in the new culture.