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The Merger of Sales Forces Part II

What can be done to ease the tensions of merging sales forces?
By Marsha Wells and Jack R. Snader

Sales training departments can do a lot. Their challenge, during and after a merger, is to respect the predecessor companies while building a common denominator in the new company. Sales training needs to provide immediate opportunities for professional development (for individuals) while also setting the standard for the new culture (something for the new organization). And to support the corporate goals of retaining the best people and eliminating the "dead wood," sales training has the task of specifically motivating and encouraging the best people, providing something generally beneficial for everyone, yet not encouraging those who do not fit in with the new corporate culture.

Unfortunately, many sales training budgets are frozen as mergers take place. Still, sales training can communicate positive messages and ideas throughout the emerging organization to provide a basis for new training programs that will eventually be installed. And they can help executive leadership to disseminate the guiding principles of what it will take to be successful in the new culture.

On all levels of the sales organization, fostering the idea of "citizenship" will go a long way in easing the integration of sales forces. Citizenship is a reliable touchstone during times of change, combining the idea of personal integrity with the ideal of shared loyalty.

According to Systema's research, good corporate citizens are shown to be good collaborators. They have the skills to bridge the present and the future, to keep in mind both individual perspectives and new company objectives, and to get people from different backgrounds working together. Our research indicates that good citizens begin their collaborative efforts by helping each other clarify goals and communicate. They actively encourage wide participation to include varied perspectives and to ensure a broad range of skills. As work progresses, they balance a focus on accomplishing tasks with a watchful sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of teammates.

In the chaos of a merger, an excellent opportunity exists for sales training to consider a return to the basics:

  • Communicating
  • Assessing skills and development needs
  • Providing opportunities to develop citizenship behavior

These collaboration skills and values will serve both individuals and new organizations well no matter where the people land and no matter how the new company is structured. Specific job skills will be clarified after the dust settles and job expectations are outlined, but during the transition period, citizenship and an understanding of the collaboration skills it entails will help to cement the new culture and reassure sales representatives and their managers that they are moving into an organization they will want to join.

To help in merger transitions, a unique instrument is used that measures the collaborative skills of individuals, including their:

  • Focus... aligning their own job's contribution to the overall effort and concentrating on making that contribution
  • Initiative... assuming leadership in group activities and displaying competence
  • Teamwork...working with others in a positive and productive way
  • Personal awareness... observing what is going on with others in the environment and keeping in touch with the attitudes and problems of people as they work with them
  • Self-control... attending to detail; exercising appropriate restraint while pushing things to happen
  • Recognition... expressing appreciation to people for work well done, whether under their supervision or not
  • Interpersonal Relations... being approachable, dependable, and tolerant of others

Assessment of collaboration skills has been used as a way of providing new salespeople with a base reading of their effectiveness in working with others, and as a way of providing management with a list of high-potential candidates for future field management positions. Interestingly, individuals who score well during their first two-week sales training class on these types of assessments, in which they are rated by fellow classmates, generally have significant potential as future first-line sales managers. Assessments prove time and again that peers tend to gauge each other's potential accurately even before management is able to detect it. .. one of many reasons they're so effective in the development process.

Part I of this article. For information on Systema's sales management development systems, e-mail us at

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