For many organisations, the key to improving sales prospecting and getting the desired sales results lies in implementing a transformation strategy. This may mean a fundamental change in sales behaviour, skills and/or focus, all with the ultimate goal of succeeding in an environment that is increasingly complex.

Yet, according to the Harvard Business Review, the reality is that around 70 percent of all change initiatives fail. Although the reasons for those failures can vary significantly, with sales transformation, a number of issues come up time and time again. So what can make your sales transformation fail?

Transformation Targets Are Set Too Low

One of the biggest reasons transformations fail is simply because sales leaders set their sights too low. The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Performance Optimisation Study revealed that just 57.1 percent of salespeople made quota in 2015. Moreover, while 58.4 percent of companies cited capturing new accounts as a top objective, 53.3 percent of sales managers pointed to sales prospecting as a major execution challenge.

What these statistics show, beyond anything else, is that most companies have enormous room for improvement. Nevertheless, far too many transformation strategies aim to deliver small improvements when it comes to results. Of course, ambition requires investment and you will only achieve big things if you provide the necessary resources.

Short-Term Incentives For Sales Teams

Another frequently encountered problem when trying to implement a full-scale sales transformation is that staff are often given short-term incentives. For instance, they may be rewarded based on the number of sales they make. While this is a perfectly logical incentive, it can inadvertently discourage new sales skills or wider change.

With such an incentive scheme in place, sales reps will naturally do what gets them the results in the quickest or easiest way. In this case, as David Meyer, the founder of Clarify points out, that may be using old sales methods, or selling familiar products, or continuing to target known customers – even if it is against the purpose of your transformation – because they will be financially rewarded for doing so.

Unrealistic Expectations of Technology

Additionally, while technology has an important role to play in any successful sales transformation strategy, it is important to have realistic expectations. Unfortunately, many sales leaders expect new technology to provide all of the answers to their problems and end up disappointed when this is not the case.

“A critical key to sales transformation success involves the intelligent use of technology to optimize sales effectiveness,” says Byron Matthews, President & CEO of Miller Heiman Group. However, it is critical to understand that technology is merely a tool for enabling success and it will never compensate for a lack of basic sales skills.

The Wrong Approach to Corporate Culture

Finally, we come to the issue of corporate culture. Peter Drucker famously stated that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and it is true. However, when it comes to sales transformation, businesses often make one of two mistakes: they fail to make necessary changes to their culture first, or they fail to tailor their transformation.

If you need to make changes to the way your sales staff sell, you should replace the old ways with the new before embarking on your transformation project. Alternatively, if you are happy with your corporate culture, you must tailor your transformation to work within that culture. Ignoring culture completely will doom you to failure.


Although many sales transformation strategies fail, the majority of these failures are avoidable with the right planning. Indeed, the key to success in this area is to aim high, while keeping expectations realistic; avoid providing incentives for sales reps to stay in their comfort zone; utilise technology to facilitate change, rather than be the change; and tailor your transformation based on the unique culture within your organisation.



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