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Building Organizational Agility through a Culture of Testing

April 13, 2020

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how a culture of testing empowers agility in teams struggling to cope with change:

  • How a culture of testing empowers organizational agility
  • Get started with a pilot
  • Committing to change, long term

Control what you can, and let go of the rest.

We aren’t going to tell you what you already know: times are tough. Instead, let’s focus on what you can do to improve your likelihood of success in these uncertain times. 

Previously, we discussed ways to motivate and coach remote sellers. This time around, we want to look at how a culture of testing drives effective change management and fosters organizational agility.

Why a culture of testing? Because change is constant.

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden

As a revenue leader, you likely have a good handle on your buyer and the value your organization offers. You’ve worked hard designing talk-tacks and collateral to empower your sellers – but it can be all too easy to become complacent when you find a tactic that works. Why fix something if it’s not broken?

But that’s the point, you know that to be successful in sales you must stay one step ahead. 

It doesn’t matter if your current tactics are working. You should be curious how a change in one area might impact another, you should be prepared to pivot your approach based on market shifts, and your teams must trust in your ability to lead in trying times. 

Successful teams are built on a foundation of trust. Trust that allows for risks – trust that your sellers have your back, and you have theirs. 

The combination of trust and testing leads to organizational agility, and with testing built into your culture, you reduce the heart-ache change can impose. 

There are many external influencing factors that are beyond our control, so accepting change and cultivating an ability to adapt through exploration is what gives you a competitive advantage. 

Getting Started

To implement any change you must understand the current state and identify any areas of opportunity or discrepancies in expectations vs reality. 

  • Do you want to drive higher connect rates? 
  • How long is your average deal cycle? Can it be shortened?
  • Is one seller carrying the team? Why?
  • Are your open rates really as good as they can be?

Whatever you choose to focus on you need to form a hypothesis to test, for example:

  • Can you improve connect rates by calling at specific times?
  • Can you book more meetings by modifying your standard cold-call opening and talk track?

Next, ensure you have a baseline. Without a baseline, how will you measure success?

Don’t have a baseline you can trust? Assemble a pilot study. 

A pilot study is defined as a small-scale test to evaluate the impact of a change prior to full-scale implementation. 

When you initiate a pilot, your first step is to create a baseline to measure against. Salesloft’s data science team recently released findings showing a near 20% decrease in connection rates due to current events. Let’s start there.

In addition to establishing a baseline, pilots created openly and publicly (albeit virtually), can even make the long-term change more palatable as others witness the pilot as it unfolds. 

Once you know what to test it’s time to build your pilot. Let’s walk through Salesloft’s approach to pilots in 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Establish Reporting

With a hypothesis in mind, identifying metrics should be pretty straightforward. Yes, we said should.

Most organizations are already measuring the numbers you’re trying to impact, so don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Take a metric that’s already closely watched and reported on, and carve out the participants of your pilot. If at all possible, build a dashboard. When that’s too much, do what you can to track and measure.

Salesloft offers a suite of analytics within the Salesloft platform as well as through Salesforce managed dashboards to get you started.

Step 2: Spin up the Pilot

Select members for the pilot. They could be contest winners, top performers, or volunteers. Train them, create a communication forum for them that is monitored, and charge forward. It is even recommended these resources be fully dedicated to the pilot, to make it a true test. If sellers are splitting themselves between the status quo and the test, it muddies the results.

You can utilize opportunity management from the Deals tab in Salesloft to identify and track opportunities impacted by the pilot, helping prioritize and offering a bird-eye view of the test’s impact on engagement and likelihood to close. 

Step 3: Check-in

Since you already have a hypothesis and metrics, you just need to check the metrics on a regular rhythm. Share the ongoing results with the members of the pilot and the larger team so that the project remains top of mind.

For improved transparency, capture your check-in calls with Conversation Intelligence and build a playlist of calls related to the pilot to maintain a historical record. The added layer of insight offered by Conversation Intelligence will allow you to quickly review and notate calls for deeper analysis. 

Step 4: Roll Out or Roll Back

Once the pilot is complete, roll out or roll back the change. If you roll back the change because your hypothesis was wrong and you negatively impacted your metrics, it’s okay. When you demonstrate that it’s ok to fail, your sellers have permission to experiment and fail too.  Just ensure you are prepared to react to the results quickly, don’t wallow in failure, learn from it. 

If your test is a success, roll out the change!  Your tiger team can champion the changes and help drive buy-in with the larger organization who should be receptive because they, too, have witnessed the positive impact.     

“Memory and fear are failure’s force multipliers, and can easily lead to a ‘trial and terror’ culture,” say Entrepreneur contributors Mark Coopersmith and John Danner. “People are watching whether the price of even earnest, best effort failures is ridicule, exile or loss of a job.”

Regardless of success or failure, it’s important that you share the results and the learnings with the entire revenue team. Transparency breeds trust

Step 5: Take Stock

Regardless of a roll-out or a roll back, you’ve just done some pretty important work with your team. They know of a new approach that did or didn’t work, collectively, and that they will not be punished for trying something new using this methodology. 

Take time to review the impact of your test, both on your intended focus and on the team overall.  What lessons were learned? Can we refine the test to further improve results or gain more insight? 

Regardless of how many people participate, by sharing your results and offering transparency into the pilot your entire organization benefits.

Committing to Change

Great news – you’ve just introduced a culture of testing to your team! 

While you are now able to enjoy the benefits of being a more agile team there are certain things you should keep in mind for the long term.

You are not alone. Everyone is working hard to understand what works best, right now, but that is a moving target. Lean on your network for ideas and concepts, try new things, and don’t be afraid to miss the mark. Share your insights with your peer community, encourage others to form and test their own hypotheses.

A culture of testing is a culture of constant change, and that’s a good thing. The world is changing and it’s not going to wait for you to be ready. 3 weeks ago I was planning to fly to SF for a conference and working in the office. Today, I’m wearing my stretchy pants for the 100th time and eating frozen shrimp…I hate shrimp. Continually invest in new tactics, and prepare yourself as best you can. What works this week may not work the next.

Focus is critical, don’t try everything at once. At Salesloft we like to say ‘control what you can and let go of the rest’. While some change is within your control, most factors are not. Stay focused. Ensure you are building tests that drive impact where it counts (pipeline, closing, retention) and deprioritize tests that don’t.

Collaboration is key. Most would agree, sellers are competitive. We all want to be the best and while recognition and competition can be great motivators, we often learn more from our failures. Foster cross-functional collaboration, share your hypotheses, offer insight into your tests, and learn from one another. Our experience has shown you don’t need to participate in the test to benefit from its findings.

Need inspiration to get started? Check the 2-minute video below…

At the end of the day, Salesloft is still Salesloft. We built a hub of best practices, pro-tip, and news to help you keep selling in these uncertain times. Check it out!