From Sales as an Art towards Sales as a Science - How Enabled Philips To Strengthen Commercial Capabilities
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From Sales as an Art towards Sales as a Science - How Enabled Philips To Strengthen Commercial Capabilities

Lazar Detchev, VP, Head of Business Transformation North America, Philips [NYSE:PHG]

Philips Electronics is a 125 year old company with presence in over 100 countries and truly a global vision–to make the world healthier through innovation. Our goal is to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025.

One of the enablers to execute on our compelling vision and strategy is to unlock the entrepreneurship of our commercial organizations by equipping them with the right capabilities allowing them to drive sustainable impact. Coming from different ways of working across the geographies and businesses, scattered and different tools and limited management attention, we aimed to bring one way of working, single source of truth for our business and fact based decision making. We wanted to focus on each sales professional by providing him with the right tools that are easy to use and experience, with coaching and guidance on how to become better and more efficient, ready for tomorrow.

To do this, in 2014 we set-up a global transformational program, Market to Order Excellence with the bold ambition to:

Increase fact-based decision making
Create a single source of truth for all information related to our Commercial Performance and Accounts
Implement one standard way of working and reporting on our commercial performance
Foster Best practice sharing between all global entities
Drive Continuous Improvement

I had the privilege to run and deploy the program, and in 18 months we harmonized the processes and implemented Salesforce. com across 100 countries and trained 15,000 sales professionals globally how to use it to manage their funnel of opportunities effectively. Today, 3 years later we clearly see the benefits of laying down this solid foundation resulting in increased visibility and transparency in our business allowing us to make fact-based decisions and collaborate better with our customers. Doing such a transformation in a global scale and in a short period of time is quite a challenge and we learned a lot how to execute a sustainable change that delivers business value. For those of you that are embarking on similar journey, I would like to share some of our leanrings.

  ​Salesforce is a fantastic tool and great enabler to strengthen commercial capabilities in the organization, however to unlock its full potential you should also focus on harmonizing processes and data, on the people and change management   

1. Do Not Focus Only on the Tool

There is a saying “Fool with a tool is still a fool.” Many organizations focus primarily on implementing CRM as a tool and wonder afterwards why it does not yield the expected long-term results. Leveraging a great technical platform like Salesforce. com which is intuitive, easy to use, accessible everywhere and of different devices, easy to configure, support and upgrade, with strong innovation pipeline is a key enabler and helps to drive adoption. However, equal attention should be on harmonizing and aligning the ways of working across the organization, on cleaning-up and harmonizing the data and reports, on the people—change management, learning and coaching. This will ensure that people across different geographies and management levels follow the same ways of working and can interpret information in the same way to take fact based business decisions. We had a team of process experts from the different businesses and geographies working along with data and solution architects to align, standardize and document the processes, data elements and reports. This work was input for configuring Salesforce, for developing the change management, learning and coaching materials.

2. The Importance of Data

Data is the blood that flows in the veins of the organization and is critical element for every business. There are several aspects about the importance of data—harmonized data and reports allow everybody in the organization to “speak the same language,” data should be clean and up-to-date to deliver meaningful information allowing us to take fact-based decisions. Do not underestimate and plan the time and effort to clean-up the data before migrating it to This will help you to drive adoption and build trust in the system after go-live. It is a continuous and never ending effort after the go-live to keep the data clean and up-to-date. We established data steward network in the markets and developed “Data Quality Index” measuring data completeness, consistency and ensuring it is up to date.

3. Learning, Coaching and Cadence

After giving the sales people a great tool like, it is important to train them how to use it, but also to give guidance (cadence) when and how to review and discuss the performance and how managers should coach the sales people to win and close more deals. This ideally should tie up with the performance review and forecasting process in the organization and deliver fact based inputs that will help to have visibility on the current and future commercial performance and take actions early enough. We developed standard cadence of meetings along with recommended agenda and supporting reports and dashboards for the different levels in the organization and inspect on regular basis how it is been followed. This coaching helps sales people to close more deals and drives both adoption and business impact.

4. Reporting and Analytics

Over the time, we capture and accumulate more data. By keeping it clean and updated, we can start unlocking its true power by advanced analytics. For example, usually we consider the funnel stages to identify the probability and “weight” the sales funnel. This is still a subjective view, based on how well and up to date the sales people update their opportunities. We have established a Center of Excellence on Advanced Sales Analytics that is analyzing patterns and behaviors in the past and developed statistical models to deliver more objective predictability on the funnel in the future. For example, our “Propensity to Win” methodology based on over 20 parameters helped us to increase predictability of our business.

5. Change Management

This is the most important and usually most underestimated area that can crucially impact how successful and sustainable the transformation will be on a long term. For the success in any transformation, it is very important for people to understand what it means for them, to be comfortable with and embrace the change. Designing the new ways of working, we need to understand the impacted groups of people, explain what is changing for them, and walk them through the change journey from awareness through acceptance towards ownership. We must measure the change adoption of the different stakeholder groups, starting with the leaders (change is leader-led) throughout the whole transformation and ensure that change “sticks” and is well embedded in the organization. Bear in mind that the change never ends; after go-live we will continue to enhance and develop further, our capabilities to follow the new and changing business realities, and ensure people follow them. For example, we deployed 3 years ago and still have a dedicated Change Manager and Sales Excellence Leads in the markets who are working closely with the sales teams to ensure they follow the standard ways of working and each new improvement is well embedded.

Many organizations are considering or implementing Salesforce to strengthen commercial capabilities. It is a significant effort and change for each organization, I hope our learnings can help you to be more successful and yield the maximum benefits. 

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