The Challenges of Change Management & Social Selling Adoption

Learn why change is always difficult—and how inspired leaders can overcome these obstacles to help their team adopt social selling practices.

November 7, 2016

  • challenges-of-change

Enterprise sales leaders understand the benefits of social selling, but knowing and adopting are two very different things. The challenges can be significant: ensuring social selling adoption takes time, training, investment, and executive support, to say nothing of the buy-in you’ll need from each and every sales rep.

In sum, change takes committed, active, and inspired leadership. And even all of the best consultants in organizational management do not amount to a silver bullet.

Changing Change Management

The research on how to best undertake change management has been around for decades. You’d think that we’d have it down to a science, but the failure rate is still exceptionally high. Organizations have about a 60-70% failure rate for organizational changes, according to research by McKinsey & Company.

In particular, adopting social selling on an organization-wide basis is no small task; it involves shifting the culture of sales and marketing teams, among other things. Convincing your team to go social requires more than just data, white papers, and studies proving that adopting social selling is worth it.

What Needs to Change

Ron Ashkenas, a consultant who works on organizational transformation, has a theory as to why many attempts at organizational shifts don’t work. Just because managers have a road map to change doesn’t mean they have taken responsibility for it themselves. In his words, “the managerial capacity to implement it has been woefully underdeveloped.”

Instead of making themselves accountable, managers too often outsource the implementation of the organizational work out to consultants or experts, Ashkenas writes. And the executives tend to make the organizational changes an add-on to their business plan, rather than being “part and parcel” to it.

Executive Buy-In Equals Success

On the other hand, to succeed at change, the top executives must demonstrate to their teams that they believe in social. New research also shows that there are certain personality types – “mobilizers” – who know how to drive change within their organizations.

Thankfully, some executives have succeeded in pushing a social media agenda. You could look at the mid-sized technology company PTC. The company made a huge investment in its global sales team by rolling out 501 licenses for LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator—but that’s not all. It also had the high-profile sales members take ownership of the process by championing social selling across the company and ensuring that managers included social selling KPIs in their review process.

SAP’s vice president of sales technology, Phil Lurie, discussed what drove the company’s success in a post on this blog. “Senior management understands the value…” he writes. “The challenge has been converting our field managers who usually beat their sales goals and are hesitant to deviate from their successful formula.”

Elsewhere, at the IT company Softchoice, the CEO and other top brass dug in and got involved. The executives were all urged to leverage their extensive LinkedIn networks for sales teams to provide warm introductions to new customers.

Ateet Davé, head of Customers Success Operations at LinkedIn Sales Solutions, said that this kind of high-level involvement “flattens” the organization, pushing employees at all levels to work towards a common goal. 

These kinds of enterprise-wide changes aren’t easy. Your company will always have a slew of other top priorities, and some sales reps see no need to change if they’re doing just fine. However, if top leadership not only “talks the talk,” but also “walks the walk” when it comes to adopting social, organizational change can indeed be successful. 

For more on how to convince your organization and customers to change, read our free eBook: The Challenge Customer: The New Reality of Sales.