How to Successfully Manage Go-To-Market Change in Your Organization

Your organization (and the people within it) needs to change in order to drive predictable and sustainable growth.

Currently, companies are stuck in a cycle of random acts of sales and marketing, trying to consistently produce high quality leads and opportunities, but failing. Leaders are facing the hard truth that they must transform their go-to-market motion – becoming more customer-centered and embracing a strategic demand state if they want to reach growth goals.

The need to confront this truth leads many companies to embark on a transformation initiative, but unfortunately, 70% of all digital transformation initiatives do not reach their goals. The most common roadblocks are reported as a lack of employee engagement, inadequate management support, poor or nonexistent cross-functional collaboration, and a lack of accountability. In short, transformation initiatives fail because success is dependent on the most unpredictable resource you have: people.

Transforming your go-to-market is highly disruptive to your business – and people are, well, people. They experience discomfort with disruption. And so, to achieve successful change takes vision, commitment, and time to realize success.

ANNUITAS has led dozens of organizations through successful, holistic demand transformations. Throughout these initiatives, we’ve seen that there are five pillars of change management that, when planned for, greatly improve your chance of success. By addressing these core needs, you’re laying the foundation for widespread and long-term adoption of a customer-centered go-to-market.

Check out the related podcast episode: How to Manage Change. Click the player below to listen.

1. Understand everyone’s motivation for change and establish a vision

As stated before, go-to-market change takes vision, commitment, and time to achieve. It’s a long-term investment that requires organizations to holistically address multiple areas of the business to achieve real results. If your teams aren’t completely on board, then your initiative will fail. Before moving forward take a step back to understand the motivation for change and set a vision that everyone can agree with.

Start by understanding the stakeholder personas at play. Ask questions including:

  • Why is change important?
  • How is success measured in your specific function and role?
  • What is your business priority?
  • What excites you about a demand transformation initiative – and why do you think it will fail?

These answers become data points that should influence your messaging regarding the change. Be clear about how transforming to a strategic demand state will impact their role, and ultimately help them gain efficiencies in meeting (or exceeding) their goals. If you can’t answer the “so what” and communicate it in a way that shows you’ve listened to what matters to them, they won’t be in alignment with the overall vision and goal.

Once you get going leverage early adopters who have been able to realize efficiencies from the new process (for example, Lead Development Reps who have had better conversations with prospects, field sales reps who have closed deals faster, etc.) and make them your allies. This will continue to keep teams aligned to original vision and motivate them to keep working towards success.

2. Identify the individuals that are going to be successful in partnering to drive change

Early on in your transformation initiative you need to identify people within each business area who will act as champions for the program. The tricky part is finding out who these champions should be.

Start by asking around. Who do people look up to? Who inspires people within their department? Who commands attention when they speak and drives positive change, not only within their department but across the organization?

There are key indicators that some people are better candidates for driving change than others. We explore those traits extensively in the blog post, “The Four Key Traits of a Successful Go-to-Market Changemaker.”

Remember that poor or nonexistent cross-functional collaboration and inadequate management support are two of the main reasons why transformation initiatives fail. Solve this problem by doing two things.

  1. Have champions that offer representation across functions, departments, and levels within the organization. This adds a shared sense of stewardship, encourages peers to get on board, and gives the initiative an advantage by providing a lens into potential problems before they become actual problems.
  2. Recognize that change needs both top-down and bottom-up representation. While you may have leaders at the top driving the message and setting the requirements, it’s necessary to have boots-on-the-ground involvement across the board to drive authenticity and support. Seeing peers lead by example is not only impactful, it promotes adoption across departments. Those that rely exclusively on top-level leadership to drive change find that their initiatives often fall flat.

Finding the right champion(s) to lead your demand transformation initiative can be a huge challenge for organizations and hiring a partner to help drive change is invaluable. To read more about the benefits of a partner when driving change, read “Selecting the Right Demand Marketing Transformation Partner.”

3. Prepare for internal points of friction

Most companies are not at all prepared to handle the friction that comes with demand transformation. Even though they may feel like they’re well-equipped, almost every organization is surprised by the level of resistance to change that they have to overcome.

No matter if it’s big or small, change is hard. Transforming the way you go-to-market is highly disruptive to your business – and people are, well, people. They experience discomfort with disruption at varying degrees and paces.

Undertaking demand transformation forces teams to move outside of their comfort zone and confront challenges head on. Without the pressure of a transformation initiative 9 in 10 sales and marketing professionals already say they are misaligned across strategy, process, content, and culture. You must be prepared to address points of friction and expect that there will be battles along the way.

To help mitigate conflict, get people engaged early on and keep them informed at every stage in the process. Give them a continuous mechanism with which they can voice their concerns, ask questions, and move forward with the process in a way that makes them comfortable. This immediately adds legitimacy and ensures that all parties keep working towards the same goal.

Additionally, take a comprehensive look at the impact of your transformation across the organization. It is highly unlikely that this will be the only major, active initiative. If you’re competing for attention with other highly visible projects it becomes very easy to become overwhelmed and de-prioritize. If IT is busy implementing a new CPQ system that sales is trying to learn then odds are neither one of those teams will be able to dedicate much time to transforming demand. Prepare for these types of scenarios by proactively working across departments to understand how this initiative will impact everyone’s day-to-day.

4. Build a strong internal communications plan

When management teams establish a clear story of change for transformation within your organization, the initiative is 3.1x more likely to succeed, according to research by McKinsey. It’s critical that your message is consistent and that your vision is aligned across departments and functions in your organization.

Your teams will be learning new ideas, processes, tools, and ways to interact with each other, so set them up for success with a robust communications plan. Centralize all communications and materials to create self-sufficiency and a self-paced learning environment.

Remember that people learn in different ways. While some may do better with smaller format, bite-sized pieces of information, others may prefer detailed walkthroughs or open format workshops. Some may want infographics, while others prefer video. You must understand the content consumption preferences of your stakeholders and provide materials in the formats that they best absorb information in.

If you’re unsure of what to include in a communications plan, ask the people on the frontlines. They’re the ones who will ultimately operationalize the transformation. Your teams bring an immense amount of insight and experience to this process, insight that leadership is oftentimes disconnected from. Build a communications plan that addresses their needs while also providing opportunities for direct feedback to allow quick wins and faster fails.

5. Recognize that change management doesn’t have an end

Change management is risk management, and the risk of failure doesn’t go away just because the project has launched. Change management doesn’t have an end. It’s something that needs to be woven into the fabric of what you do to make sure that it sticks.

Your organization is aligning around a goal that will be truly transformational and reverting to ‘the way things were’ will be tempting. You will be faced with disruptors throughout the process (a champion leaves the company, a new team member comes on board with new ideas, new projects receive more attention, budget cuts, etc., etc.) and at some points it will feel easier to throw the towel in. Don’t fall into that trap.

Bring in an experienced partner to identify challenges early on, hold teams accountable, act as a guide, and build a customized a plan to successfully drive sustainable change within an organization. Walking down this path with an ally, someone who can be a trusted source of both knowledge and action, will make your transformation much more effective.

The road to change is hard, and it’s full of bumps, roadblocks, twists, and turns, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Building alignment around a central vision, calling on champions to act as drivers, buckling up for the challenges ahead, and keeping a clear and open line of communication are all actionable steps that you can take to successfully manage change in your organization.

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