5 Hurdles to Clear on the Way to Sales Transformation Success

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Unlike professional sports, there is no off-season in sales. As Joe Galvin, chief research officer at Vistage—and formerly a holder of the same title at CSO Insights, an MHI Global company—stated during his presentation at the 2015 CRM Evolution conference, sales departments have to continually be looking to excel. Whether it is reducing costs, growing revenues, or improving communications with customers, something can always be improved. “In sales, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse, because the game changes every day,” he said.

Often this means that a sales leader will propose minor changes to outdated processes as difficulties arise. But it’s not unfathomable that some organizations might require more drastic changes to their operations to combat disruptions in the market, keep up with changing customer expectations or employee requirements, navigate company expansions or contractions, or tackle any number of other variables.

To handle such undertakings, sales leaders will allocate budgets to technologies, process improvement, training services, and a variety of other areas. But the reality is that many of their efforts fail to make sufficient, or lasting, impact. In fact, according to data from CSO Insights, only 30.4 percent of sales transformation projects succeed in meeting the majority of goals they set out to achieve.

“The challenges of transformation—the changing of behaviors, the realigning of resources—that is not a new challenge,” Galvin said. “That is a challenge that sales organizations have been facing for years. What’s different about today’s world is the speed of information, the power of technology. The fundamentals that drive transformation haven’t changed.”

In other words, though sales is a field that will present unpredictable barriers as time goes on, there are common and timeless reasons these projects fail—ones any organization that wishes to transform should look out for, if it wants to see decent returns from its investments.


According to Galvin, sales transformation initiatives often fail due to a lack of commitment from executives—those signing the contracts associated with the plans. “It’s a lot easier to write a check than to commit to something,” Galvin emphasized. When executives make tangible commitments to a transformation, they’ve indicated that they are in it for the long haul.

Support for transformations must come from the top down, according to Vinda Souza, director of marketing and communications at Bullhorn. Souza has found this to be true with her clients deploying Bullhorn’s Pulse email tracking software. “If we don’t have executive buy-in, nobody has a leg to stand on,” Souza says. “The leaders of an organization have to consider an investment in a CRM system to be salient and worth it. They have to have an idea that there’s some good that comes out of it.”

Getting executive buy-in, after all, is an essential first step to getting end-user buy-in. Leaders should nurture a culture that embraces proposed changes, whether they involve more collaboration among teams or transparency when it comes to sharing data and communications.

Bullhorn’s CRM system (and many technologies available on the market today) operates under the assumption that sales professionals ought to be concerned with sharing insights on how best to communicate with customers. A central function of Bullhorn’s tools is that they enable users to view and learn from successful email conversations their coworkers have had. Without establishing a culture that embraces such a sharing mentality, adoption is going to be a struggle, especially since email is still widely regarded as a private, closed-off channel in many companies.

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