Change Management Strategies to Navigate Mergers and Acquisitions

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Sales enablement at its heart is a lever for change, facilitating transformation and influencing the culture of the sales organization. Their role as change facilitators becomes especially important when navigating mergers and acquisitions, as they can help smoothen transitions and create alignment across various teams.

By establishing a vision for change, educating teams cross-functionally, and integrating the most effective resources, enablement helps drive transformational outcomes while showcasing their capacity for agility and adaptability. This expansion of enablement’s role during prolonged change builds their credibility as strategic business partners across revenue teams, increasing awareness around their ability to positively impact the organization.

“Having a sales enablement function is incredibly beneficial to sales, but also to any supporting team that helps businesses accelerate the rollout of any enhancements, changes, or new processes being put in place,” said April Logan, senior manager of global sales enablement at Reuters News Agency.

Learn four change management practices that enablement can keep in mind when supporting a merger or acquisition.

Put People at the Forefront of the Change

More often than not, change generally falls apart or succeeds based on how people are guided through it. When navigating a large-scale change like a merger or acquisition, enablement can help ensure that people are not feeling fearful, uncertain, or doubtful, but are confident in their ability to thrive, armed with the most effective tools to succeed.

“The biggest change is to get people’s mindsets around supporting the vision and implementing the changes and then sticking to the new way of doing things,” said Helen Cummins, head of Americas enterprise field productivity and readiness at Amazon Web Services. “If people can’t share the same vision, then you’re not going to be able to successfully execute in the new direction.”

Particularly in a merger or acquisition, people can feel uneasy as team structures, roles, and dynamics evolve. Helping reps understand the roadmap for the change and the ideal future-state can ease their concerns and increase their confidence by showing that the business has a plan and wants to support them through the transition.

This begins with communication around what the change is, why it is happening, how it impacts them, and what they need to do with it. By communicating a strategic vision from the beginning of the change, sales enablement can inspire those impacted by the change to share that same vision while driving it forward.

“If you can make it very clear to the people who are going to be basically executing the change…what it is and what it is that you’re trying to achieve and why you’re trying to achieve it, often that gets more buy-in versus the kind of dogmatic, autocratic, ‘you guys need to change,’” said Aaron Evans, co-founder and head of training and enablement at Flow State.

Integrate Sales Managers as Change Management Liaisons

When brought in early as agents of change, sales management can serve as role models for implementing new processes and adapting to the new way of doing things. Not only are they able to showcase what is expected from their teams, but they are also able to bring rhythm and rigor to the overarching sales organization, helping to lessen the ambiguity that can be inherent to large transformations.

Managers play an important role in nurturing the culture of the sales organization, which can be fragile as companies experience transitions that change how individuals operate within their day-to-day. By keeping their teams engaged with clear goals that they can continue to deliver against, while also creating space for change, they are better able to achieve goals.

“Sales managers are so key to having team meetings where everybody is checking in on their personal feelings and status as well as their account status,” said Cori Hartje, director of global sales enablement at Mitel. “Sales mantras cannot just have pipeline reviews during this change management. It has to be really on a personal level.”

To initially engage sales managers, enablement can begin by co-creating the execution plan with them to start building collective engagement. Doing so with the involvement of several different managers across teams is especially important when combining sales teams, allowing each to maintain representation of their legacy products and processes. In addition, this helps to ensure that reps across the entire organization feel that their interests are being advocated for.

“That will help them be engaged,” said Hartje. “When they don’t feel like they’re hearing anything, that they have no responsibility, that they’re sort of left out there and no one’s getting their feedback, that’s when you start to lose really good people who think, ‘I don’t see a place for me here.’ You want to make sure that everybody is engaged and that really goes beyond the sales enablement team to the local sales manager.”

Sustain the Momentum of the Change

Especially when a change effort involves multiple stages over a long period of time, which is often the case with mergers and acquisitions, it is important to approach the change as an ongoing effort rather than a one-time event. In doing so, enablement can help drive momentum for the change effort over time until it becomes a natural and accepted part of reps’ daily environment.

To help maintain the momentum of the change as processes become solidified, consider the following strategies:

  • Create and advertise quick wins: Seeing evidence of success can help generate support and encourage reps to embrace the new ways of doing things. Find or create opportunities for short-term wins, such as setting and meeting key milestones, so that reps feel progress rather than stagnation. Then, communicate these wins broadly.
  • Reward positive behavior: Publicly recognizing and rewarding people who are moving things in the right direction sets the right tone for the rest of the organization. This also helps motivate others to emulate those behaviors.
  • Take visible steps to reduce the burden reps experience: Empathy is a major component of this. When teams feel that the pain points they feel are being acknowledged and actively addressed, they are more likely to reciprocate by engaging fully.

“You’ve got to get everyone rallied behind the changes and it has to come at a rolling thunder of positive communication and engagement with all the impacted employees,” said Cummins. “It will take a change in mindset. It’s going to take inspiration among the entire organization to make the changes accepted and permanent.”

From the onset of a merger or acquisition, sales enablement can help to steer organizations away from disruption with intentional change management. From putting people at the center to partnering with sales management and communicating strategically across the organization, enablement can help sales teams navigate large-scale transformations and come out stronger on the other side of change.

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