Sales transformers: more than meets the eye
Oscar Villamora, Jr., vice president for sales of Universal Robina Corp. (URC), is passionate about ensuring the long-term business health of his organization while pursuing short-term results.
The Mansmith Young Market Master awardee for customer development in 2010 also believes in developing the leadership pipeline and ensuring business, specifically sales, is done according to the right values and principles.
Here, he shares with us his thoughts on sales transformation.
Villamora will share more sales leadership tips during the Mansmith Sales Leadership Summit on July 5 at RCBC Theater, Makati.
Q: How did you approach URC’s 300+ strong sales force?
A: In a transformation environment, driving change entails the front line to be on board with the change. It starts with people, in the end, it is about people. The key is driving high engagement across the organization and key stakeholders. As a newcomer, I had to capitalize on the following engagement opportunities:
Galvanize the leadership team. To handle a large organization of 350 individuals, one needs a strong leadership team behind him.
Conduct dialogue with the sales team. Spend time meeting the team on the ground, conducting town hall meetings and one on ones with critical talent.
Get the support of cross functional team and key people in the organization. Understand your stakeholder’s agenda and see where you can collaborate to ultimately drive the customer agenda.
Visit the customers and distributors and discuss market opportunities. A lot of changes that the sales leader will drive should eventually address these market opportunities.
Q: Many companies with great brands have hidden sales “sins” because they have been busy hitting their growth numbers. What is your experience?
A: The hard truth is that when brands are strong, the capabilities of the sales team are at a risk of stagnating precisely because the product sells. The other context is that, in a high growth situation, there is a tendency to just focus on product supply. This can lead to transactional customer relationships if the sales leader does not recognize the need to elevate sales capabilities and customer partnerships. The key is for the sales leader to recognize when there is potential for complacency.
Q: What are your recommended steps to create an impactful sales transformation?
A: The are several key success factors to drive the sales transformation changes:
As a sales leader, it is critical that you are able to see the situation on the ground. Any change that you will drive—structural, process or people changes should be based on market realities.
Ensure that the team is behind you to support the transformation. At the core of an individual’s motivation is the desire to provide value addition to the organization and that this contribution eventually leads to a stable livelihood for the salesman and his family.
Challenge existing thinking and celebrate short-term wins so there is a business case for success. In an environment where the thinking is challenged and there is robust discussion, the team learns together. When these learnings are applied and result to more wins, these should be celebrated and built as a momentum to create more wins.
Take risk and act with speed. Never underestimate the value of small wins. Once you spot a market opportunity, be decisive and take risk to capture that opportunity. The team is energized when the leader takes [calculated] risks and is quick to seize market opportunities.
Q: Which part of your sales operations would be considered strategy-critical? How do you manage these critical processes or activities?
A: From the lens of transformation, the two strategy critical areas in sales operations are:
Sales capability and training – this is the group that will drive the standards and new capabilities of the sales organization.
Trade marketing – this is the group that drives business planning and demand generation. The winning proposition that the sales team brings to the customer starts with the trade marketing team. The trade marketing team should have capabilities on four key areas: insight, analytics, strategy and execution/evaluation.
As a sales leader, one needs to ensure that these two teams are structured correctly, the people in place are qualified to lead the organization and the processes are aligned with all stakeholders so that they are able to function effectively not just within sales but across cross functional teams.
Q: How do you cultivate an ideal sales culture?
A: In my view, a sales organization undergoing transformation should have these core value elements in their culture:
Integrity – the leaders have to be seen with high integrity and maturity. Integrity breeds high trust. One cannot transform a sales organization that does not trust that the leadership team is doing the right thing for the business and for the team
Transparency – as a leader tasked to lead change, it is absolutely critical that you need to know the situation on the ground. This means that everyone in the front line needs to feel they have a safe environment to escalate issues. As a sales leader, you cannot transform the organization if nobody tells you the truth on the ground.
Communication and collaboration – to win in the market, the sales team should champion the customer agenda into the company. To drive the customer agenda, the sales team should realize that they cannot live in a silo. They will need cross functional support from supply chain, marketing, finance and human resources. —CONTRIBUTED
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