The merging of two companies is a familiar scenario for many professionals. Oftentimes it’s a larger organization buying up a smaller competitor, and suddenly the battle lines are redrawn—everyone’s on the same side, working toward a common business goal.
These mergers and acquisitions, which occur daily, impact the entire staff, including sales teams. One of the biggest challenges comes at the C-suite level where the executive teams must merge the workforces of two operating organizations. This delicate transition should be handled in the least disruptive way possible, and in a manner that minimizes disruption to open opportunities and long-term customers.
A McKinsey survey of senior executives shows that when two companies decide to become one, sales and marketing are the most challenging departments to integrate into the new, larger enterprise.
Below are suggestions for sales leadership to help ease the transition in a merger or acquisition.
Open the Lines of Communication
It’s crucially important in these situations that leadership communicates changes and updates with their teams in a transparent and positive way, as opposed to generating a sense of protectionism and holding ground with an “us vs. them” message. More often than not, mergers and acquisitions can usher in negative outcomes for staff on any team, in any department. So it’s important for sales managers to hold candid discussions regarding any possible future career opportunities that may or may not result from the merger and also be clear on how roles may change before communicating with their direct reports.
No matter the terms of the merger, both companies involved have their strengths and weaknesses, which is a good thing. They can learn from each other. The larger of the two companies shouldn’t dismiss what the smaller company does well. That would be a missed opportunity for learning, so the top leadership of each organization should commit to collaborating closely to discover what works and what doesn’t, and then merge and implement the best practices from each team to create their new sales department. This involves identifying best practices in things like sales methodologies, sales coaching and training, and sales management and forecasting.
The success of the new, larger organization rests on identifying those strains of within the sales organizations that can be expanded company-wide. By the same token, the leaders who are driving the transition forward must identify sales processes that don’t serve the new organization. It’s the same with technology adoption. It’s important to ensure that whatever technology you’re using dovetails with your best practices. The flipside of that is sun-setting tools and activities that don’t have a clear purpose in the new normal of the organization.
Develop a Robust Onboarding Strategy
Sales professionals joining a legacy sales team must also acclimate to new sales processes, methodologies, systems and tools. They’ll also have to become well versed in a whole new product line. To facilitate a smooth transition to the new way of doing things, leadership must recognize the challenges faced by their teams—and accordingly develop a management plan that puts in place the appropriate training apparatus.
Remember, change may be necessary—and ultimately a very good thing for the business—but it’s not always easy. And that’s to be expected. The ocean might be choppy for a while, so the boat needs to be as seaworthy as possible in order to navigate to calm waters.