Sales

Avoiding a Kodak moment: A case study on reinvigorating and future-proofing a sales team

Sue Barrett /

Human beings, by and large, are notorious for staying with what is familiar to them. Not wanting to ‘rock the boat’, we instead chase the familiar quick fix, the easy option, what feels safe and comfortable.

‘Why not get as much out of today as I can and to hell with the future.’ A ‘boom and bust’ mentality.

‘We’ve always done it this way, no need to change.’ The ‘staying in our comfort zone’ mentality.

‘If it’s not broken, why fix it?’ This attitude means we are not keeping an open mind to new innovations, ideas, challenges.

Sound familiar?

Well, this approach didn’t go well for Kodak.

Their business model was destroyed by digital photography and the irony is they invented the digital camera in 1975.

Why?

One of the reasons was Kodak’s senior management were caught in time, they were myopic. As The Wall Street Journal reported: “They never fully grasped how the world around them was changing. They hung on to now obsolete assumptions about who took pictures, why and when. Kodak always thought that people would never part with hard prints and that people valued film-based photos for their high quality. In other words, they saw digital as a direct substitute for film-based photography.”

By not stepping back and looking at businesses from all angles, challenging preconceived ideas and exploring what’s possible and how our markets, clients, society and environment are changing on a regular basis, we are putting ourselves and our companies at risk of creating our own Kodak moments. With obsolescence the only option.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How to get it right

In late-2017, the newly appointed leader of an Australian publicly listed company knew things in the business, particularly relating to sales, had to change. He had been with the business for some time but in finance, not sales, and he recognised things weren’t right. He was looking for options and a better way forward that would secure the business for the future. But where to start, what to do?  

There was a lot to consider and it wasn’t going to be a quick fix. They had to review the whole way this business went to market and how it operated. They also needed to get everyone on board, not just the sales team, if the business had any hope of resetting itself.

So they looked forward to the future and imagined what an ideal state would look like.

  1. Having in place sales strategies that delivered real value and a sustainable competitive advantage.
  2. Culture and reputation built on trust, engagement, commitment and high performance with all employees, clients and suppliers.
  3. Minimal sales execution risk and operational risk, and the delivery of consistent and sustainable revenue and growth.
  4. Happy, engaged and satisfied staff, customers and suppliers.
  5. Being a partner of choice.

They started with a sales strategy and operations audit to benchmark all the elements affecting sales and service, customer engagement and results. This was, in short, a major risk assessment.

With the results, the executive leadership team developed a go-to-market strategy and a detailed action plan. This established clarity of purpose, expectations, direction, areas of accountability and a long-term plan of strategic intent.

They also developed a change management plan that included a communication plan, so everyone across the business knew what was happening, when and why. This delivered consistency in terms of standards, execution and communication.

The work is still continuing, but with clarity of purpose, the business has achieved a number of things.

  1. Quick profitable wins. By resetting the sales team structure and strategy, and up-skilling the sales team, salespeople were free to go after the right kinds of businesses.
  2. No more unprofitable clients. Upon examination, the team let go of a very large client who was not profitable, took up too many resources and was very difficult to work with. This was a brave move, however, it freed up an enormous amount of working capital which was redirected immediately to more profitable business.
  3. A long-term view. With the leaders determined to deliver their overarching strategy based on sound logic and business economics, the business has been able to weather the storm of short-termism by news outlets and shareholders and stay the course for positive change.  

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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Sue Barrett

Sue is a selling better strategist and advisor, sales philosopher and speaker, sales trainer and coach, writer and activist. Sue is chief executive of forward thinking sales advisory Barrett and online sales education and resource platform www.salesessentials.com. Barrett develops sales strategies, standards and education that help people and businesses sell better.

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