Posted: 21 Dec. 2020 4 min. read

What are the drivers of a successful sales transformation in a B2B context?

What is a sales transformation?

Transformation is and has been a hype word for some time, and yet it requires some sensemaking. I define a sales transformation as a company’s attempt to develop its sales function, so it is fit for today’s and tomorrow’s purpose. The scope varies. It may include one or several topics under the umbrellas of commercial strategy, sales management, sales process, people and capabilities, and technology. The scope cannot cover just design, planning, and fancy slides—it must include implementation and tracking results.


Typical drivers of sales transformation

“No pain, no change.”

In a B2B context, change is always driven by someone’s “pain.” This kind of pain is something that is personal and job-specific, that is related to person’s position. A good example of such pain is, for instance, sales VP’s pain due to being 5% behind growth targets.

In the context of sales transformation, the big question is “What is the pain?” As I see it, far too often the “recognized pain” is actually a reason for the “actual pain,” and there may be several other reasons leading to that actual pain. In the sales VP example above, a too low hit-rate might be recognized as pain, and it is the consequence of four reasons: (1) a too low hit rate, (2) a too small average opportunity size, (3) too few opportunities, (4) a too long sales cycle. It is crucial to understand pains and reasons to find a cure that works.

The same also applies to the drivers of sales transformations. Far too often the driver is not a real pain but one of the following:

  • IT getting old. Quite often sales transformation is driven by a new CRM or CPQ. The old IT tools are not supported anymore and “it just makes sense to change the sales at the same time.”
  • Compliancy. Companies need to comply with many things, such as legislation, stock requirements, or sustainability topics. Similar to the above, companies tend to bundle sales transformation together with necessary compliancy activities.
  • Competitors’ moves. Imitation works if your competitor has got it right. But have they? Too often companies struggle to get to the same level as their competitors, even though the competitors’ direction may be wrong.
  • Internal priorities. Examples of this might include employee satisfaction, new management practices, or lean implementation. All of these are important topics for sure, but they should not be drivers for changing your sales since they do not create value for your customer per se.

The proper drivers for sales transformations

“Make sure you know your pain before you start driving the change.”

I strongly think that sales transformations should always be initiated by your customers. Why? Because your strategy should be there to ensure that you meet your customer needs efficiently and in the best possible way. And when you change your strategy, you need to change your commercial strategy as well.

I categorize customer-based drivers in the following way:

  • Changes in customers strategy. Believe it or not, your customers also create new strategies to be successful. The best sellers understand customers’ strategy and reflect this in their selling. When your customer’s strategy changes, you may want to consider reviewing your sales operations as well.
  • New customer behavior. This kind of change may be caused by many things, such as changes in the competitive landscape, changes in customers’ key positions, or corona implications. When your customer starts behaving in a new way, he/she expects and needs new things from the sellers as well.
  • Deeper customer understanding. The sellers do not always understand the customers in the best possible way. When you as a seller understand your customers better, you need to focus on topics that matter to them, that is, create value for them. Therefore, you most likely need to streamline your sales operations and stop doing no-value-adding activities.

The way forward?

I claim that sales is the most important function in every company because that’s the function that brings in the revenue. When you start thinking about changing parts of your critical sales function, make sure you have the right drivers. In this way, you ensure that you serve your customers in the best possible way, and they are the ones who pay your bills. 


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Ville Tiainen

Ville Tiainen

Ville Tiainen vastaa Suomen Deloittella B2B-myynnin transformaatioista erityisesti teollisissa yrityksissä. Villen intohimona on arvomyynnin ja asiakaslähtöisyyden suunnittelu, juurruttaminen ja johtaminen. Villellä on yli 10 vuoden kokemus erilaisista myynnin transformaatiosta ’commercial excellence’ kärjellä teollisessa kentässä. Briefly in English: Ville Tiainen is responsible for B2B sales transformations in Deloitte Finland, heavily focusing on industrial companies. Ville is passionate about designing, implementing and managing value based selling and customer centricity. Ville has more than 10 years of experience in various sales transformations with commercial excellence edge in the industrial field.