Sustaining Sales Performance During Mergers: The Tough Stuff of Acquisitions
It’s a textbook reaction: the moment a merger or acquisition is announced, panic runs up and down the sales organization. Resources are immediately dedicated to integrating products, operations, IT. But what about all the things that impact the morale, focus and productivity of the sales people? Leave those details too long unattended or manage them poorly and the cost of the acquisition skyrockets with colleague turnover, reduced sales and lower customer satisfaction. Our experience shows these losses can be minimized if a few merger fundamentals are tackled head on.
One of the secrets to the success of a truly great company is its culture: the underlying beliefs, behaviors and values from which everyone works and interacts. It’s that special, cultivated environment that attracts, retains and nurtures the right people to provide exceptional value. It’s extremely risky to assume an organization’s carefully built sales culture will survive a merger without careful attention and a conscious effort to ensure it remains and/or evolves appropriately. The cost: uninspired sales people’s sales activity and effectiveness go down, reducing sales productivity.
Without customers, most acquisitions are meaningless – this is a known financial and operational fact. In pursuit of retaining customers during mergers, sales organizations declare the goal of “x %” yet do not set clear expectations on what is to be done well and what that looks like. During the chaos of a merger or an acquisition, unscripted sales people and sales leaders have a tendency to become overly familiar with their customers, sharing their frustrations and saying things which are not conducive to creating a positive impression. Sales teams typically become internally focused, leaving the customers to make up their own conclusions and feel abandoned…just at the time the competition picks up their calling efforts on both merger partners’ customers. The cost: unsatisfied or disenfranchised customers open to competitive sales efforts.
The question comes down to: Whose job it is to ensure the culture is retained and the customer experience is continued? The answer – if the question is actually asked – is management. Yet, if management was asked what they are supposed to be doing, they would answer in many different ways all equating to some version of, “I don’t know” or “It’s not my job.” These managers aren’t necessarily unwilling to lead the change, however – it’s just that they don’t know what to do, how to do it or even that the organization expects them to fulfill this vital role. The opportunity: Customer and colleague retention and sales productivity.
Leading the charge through an acquisition or merger isn’t truly that tough, but it does challenge leaders to be focused, motivated and prepared to take ownership of the culture and customer experience. Our experience assisting with mergers and acquisitions has shown that most leaders are willing to step up, championing the core culture beliefs, values and behaviors as well as drive accountability of delivering a quality customer experience. The gap that prevents this happening is lack of its prioritization and ill-equipped leaders who have never experienced a positive merger. But with the right support and guidance, a sales organization can not only survive a merger or acquisition – it can actually emerge stronger and more successful.
Want to see this in action? Keep reading for a case study from one of our recent experiences.
Overcoming Merger Adversity to Achieve Unprecedented Performance
Industry: Banking (Regional Organization)
Challenge: Following lackluster first-quarter production, the organization needed to increase loan production by 30 percent to stay on track for their year-end goal. Adding to the challenge was the need to achieve this goal while in the midst of being acquired within six months.
Solution: Knowing management holds the keys to performance, Business Efficacy equipped mid-level managers to more effectively focus, motivate and hold their people accountable to the activities that matter most. An accelerated 90-day performance coaching program was introduced for regional managers and the director of branch banking. Alignment and priorities were established for 1) performance metrics 2) high-impact activities 3) sales-leader activities, tools and skills.
Business Efficacy then worked side-by-side with each regional manager in the field as they coached their teams.
Results: The bank exceeded its goal by more than 500 percent! Perhaps even more remarkably, the results were driven by people uncertain about what the future of the merged organization held.
Noteworthy milestones achieved through the engagement:
- Largest monthly loan production in the history of the bank in May and June.
- Surpassed Commercial Lending Division in loan production for the first time ever.
- Lowest-performing region experienced 483-percent quarterly growth and also achieved a 114-percent quota in June and a pipeline exceeding 100 percent in July.
- Second-lowest-performing region experienced 300-percent quarterly growth, with 130 percent of quota achieved for June.
- The highest-performing region experienced 208-percent quarterly growth. Its $8.9 million June production significantly outpaced the previous monthly record of $6.5 million.
- A 183-percent increase in division loan-production revenue over the first quarter, with a 68-percent increase in growth from May to June.
“I’ve never had someone so productively challenge me to become a more effective sales leader. Linda helped me see my opportunities for growth that I couldn’t see and then gave me the support needed for me to get breakthrough”
“I’m so impressed with how each of the Regional Managers were able to get breakthrough. Each Regional Manager significantly improved their effectiveness and ability to improve branch performance. I didn’t think it possible in this short a period of time nor with this degree of impact.”
Director of Branch Banking