Aligning sales teams for success

We talk to Nicolas Lihou, Sales Enablement & Channel Marketing Director at Cegid, a leading provider of cloud business management solutions for finance, about strategy and planning for the year ahead. Gazing was tasked with revamping the sales strategy for the business in line with Cegid’s challenging growth expectations that form part of a plan to double the value of the company within five years.

Here, Nicolas chats to us about how two recent Red2Blue conferences – one in Lyon and one in Madrid – formed an essential part of his strategy to align his sales teams for success.

What’s been your biggest challenge when aligning the sales teams across the business?

The first challenge was to try to understand where the gaps were, so that I could provide some initial recommendations on what should be done to ensure that the sales populations were aligned with the company’s expectations of growth. What I discovered was a bit scary.

In direct sales, there was a lot of work to be done – and not only from an ecosystem or structure point of view. The skill set was inconsistent – it was a very traditional way of doing business and it had to be totally reworked. Likewise, when I looked at indirect sales with the channel business and resellers, it was a very opportunistic way of doing business, and not really structured with a key channel value proposition. I was tasked by our CMO and COO to try to build the story.

Success begins with a common language

It became clear that after many acquisitions that had led to teams being merged, a common language did not exist. In January, I took on the responsibility for building a business school, which we called Cegid Sales Campus. The kick off conferences in Lyon and Madrid were the big bang to launch ‘Cegid Forward’.

It was essential that these conferences engaged and inspired everyone. Selling is based on humans, and human interaction, and that needs to be done face-to-face, which has been challenging during Covid. Having worked with Gazing in previous roles, I reconnected with them, knowing that the Red2Blue process would help bring people together.

Mindset is a critical driver in improving performance and getting people aligned. Building on this mindset and combining it with the skill set for the first block of sales training, was the alchemy of the success. Honestly, what we achieved in that week was far above my expectations. We were all blown away!

How did people engage with Red2Blue?

Martin did a fantastic job of explaining that this is not just about selling, it’s also about your life. It’s how you improve, how you deal with what’s coming to you – either the things that you can control or the things you can’t control. When we look at how we work, of course there are challenges, but we can deal with that.

I had a lot of very enthusiastic feedback, even from the older guys who have been selling for 20 years! They admitted it had been a while since they’d practiced any new sorts of methods. And, just like football players or tennis players who can be at the top of their game for a couple of days after a world championship, they still need to practise and be coached to get better.

How did Red2Blue provide a launchpad for the year ahead?

The Cegid company has been built from multiple expertise, so it’s five big business units that have worked in isolation for years. That means there’s no ‘one Cegid’ – there were multiple Cegids. Buying and acquiring new companies exacerbated this, as people were not connected. We needed to really focus on how we were doing business, and what commonalities we had.

I needed something that could bring everyone back to the table and Red2Blue did just that. The beauty of Red2Blue is it talks to everyone in an organisation, from the most junior salesperson up to the top exec.

A cascading approach to alignment

The approach with Cegid was to work at different levels. First, I worked with Martin at the C-suite level, to get our COO, Laurent Blanchard, on board, so there were no hidden objectives. We needed to achieve something a little bit bigger than just launching a business school; we needed to get a team under ‘one Cegid’.

Laurent addressed his GM colleagues on the different business units, and I took the cascading process to the sales directors of each business unit. We trained our directors upfront on Red2Blue and on the first sales training course module, which is Selling Under Pressure. By doing that, not only did they understand the big picture, but they are all part of it, and understand that they’re playing a big role in this transformation. It was a cascading process from top to bottom with the goal of eventually getting everyone fully aligned.

How will you ensure that Red2Blue doesn’t get forgotten after the conference?

It’s so easy and simple to understand that people can use it every day, even at home with their children. You can absolutely get them to understand those Red head moments and how you can improve and, zoom out, and all these tricks and tools that help you to cope with what’s coming. That’s the beauty of things that are very simple, but very pragmatic.

How will you measure the success of Red2Blue at Cegid?

We have a couple of different objectives and KPIs. The first one is that I’d like to hear Red2Blue being used in meetings, especially when people are getting into the Red. I’d like to hear people practicing, talking about coming back to the Blue, and people saying ‘Okay, zoom out – you’re too in the details”. I want to hear that people have totally embraced the concept and that they’ve got it.

It’s also about how we measure the impact on the efficiency of an overall model because Red2Blue opens eyes to another way of looking at things, making sure you focus on the right thing. And I do believe that if it’s gaining efficiency, we can measure that in the overall improvement in the business.

Pressure is a strong driver for performance

The learning path has been put in place in Sales Campus for salespeople and sales managers, and I’d like to hear that first level sales managers are practising using Red2Blue. It’s important to make sure that they really understand that pressure, if you use it correctly, is a strong driver for performance. We can build the other blocks on that framework – the skillset and the structures – and I think the simplicity of the model will help everyone to practice, practice, practice.

I’ll align my sales enablement team with the different business units so that they can see in the field if we’ve changed the way they work. That’s a big thing for me – we’ll measure, not just in qualitative terms but in quantitative terms too. What is the efficiency in the business, how accurate are people, and how do we impact on business revenue?

Cegid is a leading provider of cloud business management solutions for finance (treasury, tax, ERP), human resources (payroll, talent management), CPAs, retail and entrepreneurial sectors. You can read more about what they do here.

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