The great Greek philosopher Aristotle once proudly pronounced that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Though Aristotle could be speaking about a variety of killer combinations – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or Lennon and McCartney, for example – it’s likely he wasn’t thinking about the surviving employees of a corporate merger.
Resulting from companies with different cultures, management styles, clients, and even hiring practices, a merged entity generally experiences its greatest heartburn from the human impact. This is particularly true for sales organizations, which McKinsey pronounced “one of the hardest parts of a merger to execute.”
Done correctly, and a merger will deliver greater revenue growth and value for the combined organization. But, to get there, the company will need to choose a singular playbook and philosophy if they are to conquer the marketplace with unity.
Here are some essentials which we believe represent a best practices approach to the integration of sales teams:
1. 20/20 Vision
It’s critical to ensure from the first post-merger moments that the combined sales team understands the vision – and related strategies – of the merged entity. If not done quickly, the sales team will likely fill in the gaps on their own. Ideally, the leadership team will communicate a one- to two-year vision and clearly explain how the merger benefits the whole. Transparency is key – all of your stakeholders, from sales reps to the buyer themselves, will need to know quickly what the new combined entity will be known for – don’t be shy about playing up the benefits.
2. Assess for Success
Getting clarity culturally will carry significant weight. At The Brooks Group, we typically recommend assessments as a means of identifying the skills, strengths, deficiencies, capabilities, and personalities of the resulting sales team. This will help to identify gaps relative to the vision and strategy, as well as what type of skill development training should be undertaken to ensure consistency in the new sales process. Ideally, you want to get everyone rallied around a singular sales methodology and the same language when talking to clients and potential buyers about your company and its offerings.
3. Coddle the Customer
Protecting your book of business is critical during this period of change, and the customer will want to understand the ultimate impact to their relationship with your company. Your buyer could care less about what’s going on behind the scenes – all they want to know is: Will the products remain consistent? Will I get my orders on time? Is my price protected? Reassurance is key, so getting your aligned sales team out into the field quickly will help build momentum.
4. Making it Happen
There’s nothing that can be more unifying that a few big wins. McKinsey recommends that the combined sales team should identify some low hanging fruit – some critical transactions that can serve as a “proof of concept” to buyers that flexes the combined strength of the merged sales, product development, and technical support teams. Also, a reinvention of this magnitude can be an exciting time for the marketplace – though McKinsey notes that the excitement tends to tail off after six to nine months. Capitalizing early on this momentum can send a message to both internal and external stakeholders that the merged company is here to stay – and play.
Ultimately, we as humans may find change difficult or uncomfortable…
And when it’s forced upon us, we can often be skeptical of how this change can affect our status quo. That’s why setting expectations and creating a reassuring environment early can be the key to a successful combination of sales teams.