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Transforming complex sales organizations - The sales transformation journey - EY - United Kingdom

Transforming complex sales organizations

The sales transformation journey

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As a result of the EMEIA integration and subsequent sales transformation process, we were able to improve our performance considerably between 2008 and 2011.

We put the customer at the heart of the transformation, ensuring that client experience was enhanced at every single client interaction and process.

While delivering the program, we continuously spoke to our clients to obtain and measure their satisfaction and obtain feedback. This focus on the client experience, internally known as the “Ernst & Young Way,” was a cultural and behavioral journey.

Connecting sales with service delivery

The first step was to perform a diagnostic to evaluate the effectiveness of the sales function and to develop a roadmap to a desired future state.

This required steering the EMEIA sales function towards a consistent organizational framework and delivery model. The objective was to make everyone more accountable for sales in some capacity.

To bring about a stronger sales focus, we created new roles — Accounts, Industries and Business Development Leaders (AIBDs). These were senior partners who were responsible for all sales interaction with clients, client communications and marketing collateral.

The AIBDs became stewards of change within their geography. It was essential that they bought into the overall approach, felt empowered to add their own insight where needed and then delivered on it locally during the course of the integration exercise.

Aligning sales transformation

The AIBDs’ remit involved aligning five key areas of sales transformation as part of the change management journey:

  • Sales strategy and planning
  • Sales management
  • Sales process
  • People and skills
  • Technology and tools

The following table encapsulates the steps we took to achieve its sales transformation objectives

All of this was undertaken using our own sales transformation methodology, developed from extensive experience of working with blue chip sales-focused clients.

Having performed an internal diagnostic and review of the gaps in performance relative to the desired future state, a road map was developed, agreed with leadership and other stakeholders and then used to drive the next phases of the transformation.

What was achieved?

As a result of the EMEIA integration and subsequent sales transformation process, we were able to improve our performance considerably between 2008 and 2011.

Embedding the new methodology enabled us to outgrow our competitors by delving deeper into existing accounts and serving markets more effectively.

There were four key areas where performance was measurably better as a result of implementing the sales transformation methodology:

  1. Growth leadership: The strategic planning framework that we introduced enabled us to boost growth figures significantly, relative to our main competitors.

    From 2008 onward, we closed the gap with our rivals by between US$200m and US$500m, and between 2008 and 2011 we were the growth leader, outpacing rivals by between 0.7% and 3.5%.

  2. Share leadership: A more integrated approach to account planning and the deeper, better-managed client relationships, engendered by the new sales framework, enabled us to increase our market share of audits of Global Fortune 100 companies headquartered in EMEIA from 16% in 2008 to 27% in 2011.

  3. Growth of its largest accounts: We successfully grew the proportion of our largest accounts between 2009 and 2011, building on the foundation of a more coherent, consistent sales process and better management of opportunities.

    Accounts that earned US$50m-plus in annual revenues for the organization grew by 10% and those that earned US$35m-plus per year grew by an impressive 14%.

  4. Attracting the right talent: Attracting and retaining the right people is crucial to the long-term success of any sales transformation program. Putting a more consistent, structured framework in place made it considerably easier to achieve this.

Transforming the future

For us, the sales transformation is part of an ongoing journey; like any large, complex sales business, transformation is a journey that never really ends. Today’s new processes are tomorrow’s outdated methodologies.

To sustain the sales transformation journey, specific new methods, new approaches and new strategies are essential. But to keep moving forward, the main thing that needs to change is mindset.

The transformation within our own firm reinforced the importance of sales for organizational success. It became a culture that expected results, set stretching targets for getting those results and gave the firm’s people the support and development they needed to achieve them — along with a clear and consistent process for addressing underperformance.


*Ernst & Young member practices are prohibited from evaluating and compensating audit partners based on their success in selling non-assurance to an audit client. All references to cross-selling relate to Ernst & Young's non-audit clients and do not apply to the Assurance service line.

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Sales strategy andplanningSales managementSales processPeople and skillsTechnology and tools
Articulated anddemonstrated clientvalue propositionGlobally consistentsales methodologywith universal trainingRobust, multi-yearaccount planningEscalated the caliberof sales leadershipGlobally consistentCRM toolimplementation
Rigid adoption ofaccount segmentationand investmentapproachGlobally consistentpipeline managementand sales forecastingapproachPrioritized investmentin the most criticalrelationships andopportunitiesExecutive focus onsales “tone atthe top”Customized salesanalytics andreporting
Pricing framework andspecialist to supportaccount teamsSales metrics withowners across thematrix of thebusinessValue-based solutiondevelopment,contracting andservice deliverySales-focusedcompetency modelsfor all professionalsEnterprise-wide salesenablers with focuson cross-selling onaccounts
Refined approach to client feedbackProcesses andcontrols to ensureadherence Alignment ofperformanceevaluations and reward 
Marketing workingwith sales function andacross account teams  Ongoingreinforcementof marketingprograms 

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