After a merger, it is a mistake to expect sales reps on their own to address all of the inevitable questions from customers and tactics of competitors. Unfortunately, sales managers are often too preoccupied with integration issues, so the front line is left to its own devices.
To resolve this problem, successful acquirers create a temporary sales war room, or interim leadership group. Led by two to four high-performing senior salespeople from both companies, along with junior staff to do the legwork, war room staff are taken off their regular jobs and given a mandate to help the company retain customers and maintain sales levels during the 3 to 12 months of a transition. The war room receives authority to cut through red tape and to make on-the-spot decisions, and it has priority access to senior executives.
The sharp focus and flexibility of such a group makes it one of the most effective tools for maintaining revenue growth. It helps the new sales leadership craft detailed messages about how customers will benefit from the merger and sometimes creates customized sales toolkits for presentations. It acts as a clearinghouse for information about the concerns of customers and the strategies of competitors, and it develops and disseminates appropriate responses. When an important account has a concern, the war room can alert the appropriate executives so that they personally address the issue. It can also dispel confusion about the company’s new product and service offerings and develop creative cross-selling tools by leveraging its cross-organizational expertise and market intelligence.
In addition, the war room works with the sales force to identify and monitor accounts at risk, something sales managers often let slide during the chaos of integration. It helps sales reps to rank their accounts by profitability (not revenues), to group together accounts that have similar retention problems and can be handled in a similar way, and to flag accounts coming up for renewal. For high-priority accounts, it ensures that explicit retention plans are developed. An important part of such a plan is an understanding of what—products, personal attention, service levels—drives the loyalty of particular customers and thus what marketing messages and retention tools to use for them. The members of the war room then meet each week with salespeople to review account status reports.
Source: “Merging? Watch Your Sales Force”
Original Publication: The McKinsey Quarterly
Subjects: Marketing / Sales, Mergers & Acquisitions