I’ve had several clients experience major ownership changes in the past year: a merger of like-sized companies, a full acquisition and partial ownership changes with private equity investment.
In any of these scenarios, new stakeholders enter the mix. How do CEOs, sales leaders and sales professionals determine where to focus time, energy and finances related to sales results?
There are short-term metrics and long-term metrics, and much of this depends on the timelines and milestones set as part of the ownership change or investment.
1. Client retention
Maintaining your A- and B-level clients through the event is critical. I teach a concept called the value spectrum, whereby sellers assess the type of value a customer might seek and determine how to deliver that value. Reputational value is near the top of the value spectrum. When clients do business with us, they use their social and reputational capital. Our role is ensuring relationship continuity and reputation. This becomes a foundation while also allowing the company to pursue new clients.
2. Deal revenue and profit for the next two quarters
One client used a method to categorize critical priorities during a merger: Now, next, future. Focus on the “now” (the next two quarters of revenue) to ensure immediate opportunities remain intact, and at the necessary revenue and profit levels. Then turn to the next 12 months and repeat the exercise for future strategy.
3. Individual sales plans
A few habits separate elite sellers from the rest of the pack. One of those is the creation and implementation of an individual sales plan. In any investment event, the due diligence process will likely uncover existing sales strategy and sales plans. Sales strategy is the overarching path; individual sales plans are at the seller level, documenting territory, tactics, implementation and metrics. Many sales teams simply don’t have individual sales plans.
4. Leading indicator activity
These are the high-value sales activities that create sales results. I consider an individual sales plan to be a leading indicator activity. A lagging indicator activity is one that tells you if you’ve reached the desired result. Quota attainment is a lagging indicator activity. The goal is to select the right leading indicator activities and see those through to create the intended result. With M&A or outside investment scenarios, key themes include pipeline strength, qualified opportunities and forecasted wins.
5. Maintaining engagement of high performers
When there’s the potential for significant uncertainty in the organization, high performers are the greatest flight risk; maintaining their engagement becomes critical. These individuals would be a tangible loss for the organization. While there’s a cloak of confidentiality around events leading up to a merger, acquisition or outside investment, an early stage plan for keeping high performers is worth having in place. Ideas include financial or ownership elements, an elevated role, a voice in planning new sales structures, a taskforce or mentoring role, or a bridge plan to ensure they maintain levels of compensation during the transition.
There’s no crystal ball on the acceleration or deceleration of mergers, acquisitions or investment events in the economy. Using these sales growth metrics in the due diligence process and after will ensure that the sales team, clients and opportunities most critical to success will be positioned to thrive. ●
Amy Franko is CEO and LinkedIn Top Sales Voice at Amy Franko Associates