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A case study of rapid Post-Merger / Post-Acquisition sales force integration

When it comes to integrating sales organizations Post-merger, the million-dollar question seems to revolve around how quickly the respective sales teams should be combined. While rapid assimilation leaves less time for employees and clients to fret over the proceedings, it forces a quick introduction between egos and corporate cultures that could benefit from a little finesse.

In order to avoid loss of sales momentum and the wilting of team morale, our team at BrainWare Consulting, in conjunction with Acquisition Integration, was engaged to help ensure a smooth transition between the merger of two software companies. The objective set by the Operating Partner of the acquiring firm: To present a unified sales force within two months of the merger.

This aggressive task would be accomplished by combing through accounts in excess of several hundred million dollars, along with the 40+ sales people who serviced them. It was an ambitious timeline, and one that called for the precise, methodical scrutiny of the revenue data belonging to the target company, along with the gaining of knowledge about eminent deal closures and the risks involved in the termination of certain sales people. In addition to typical due diligence measures such as determining the margin contribution, the growth potential of the customer portfolio and the assignability of customer agreements, we gained necessary, in-depth knowledge of the sales processes in both companies and the intricacies of the contracts thereof.

We decided on a plan of action which would exceed the Operating Partner’s expectations and bring significant value to the PE firm. The goals were:

  1. To allocate generous separation packages to team members on the termination list, provided they will actively assist in the transition;

  2. Within 14 days, gain the ab

ility to service clients with the products of the combined companies, and with newly modified contracts;

  1. Within 30 days,

  • notify members of the combined sales force of either their retention or termination;

  • identify customers with negative margins and increase their fees, except where prevented by contractual terms or when identified as a growth customer; and

  • enable the sales process to function on the operating platform of the acquirer.

The Emerging Culture Clash

Directly after announcing the merger, management teams from both sales organizations commenced with the new initiative. Although each group enjoyed a history of solid performances, it was quickly noted that their company cultures differed. While sales reps from one company were accustomed to exercising a higher degree of individual authority with their transactions, the team’s counterparts were part of a more rigid structure where manager-level input was integral to each deal. Additionally, the companies had opposing perspectives regarding monetary compensation and sales evaluations, which resulted in unequal comparisons.

We engaged a team of third party analysts to determine the effectiveness of the merged companies by examining the sales data of each entity. They employed a standardized system with which to rank individual sales performance, and then used it to formulate a proposal for sales team integration. This proposal defined territorial assignments and outlined how the merged entity would serve the customers most efficiently and with the least amount of disruption.

Designing the Integration Blueprint

While the sales leaders began to build a new compensation and benefits package, assemble an improved set of training procedures, and lay the groundwork for support protocol, a schedule was developed for daily activities that would be required post-merger. These activities included issues that would need to be resolved later by the newly formed sales force.

Common ground was found and established and, after multiple meetings between upper management, new company objectives and a set of new goals emerged for the combined teams. A new selling model of solution-based concepts was introduced, as was the concept of measuring company success by the success of the client. By monitoring real-time responses while the leadership teams were in session, an understanding developed of the cultural differences, which was integral in successfully uniting the companies with a new set of styles and policies respectful of both groups.

Post-merger, the implementation of integrated procedures and policies were carried out well ahead of schedule, and the combined sales team was further refined through workshops even as a national sales meeting assisted in the development of a new combined identity and company culture. Effective communication and constant feedback between leaders contributed to the success of the merger and continued efficiency and motivation of the sales force, although management burnout was monitored closely due to the aggressive pace of the assimilation.

The Results

Through the guidance of BrainWare Consulting and Acquisition Integration, upper management was able to enjoy a significant reduction in the difficulties commonly faced when merging two strong sales teams. Sales people felt informed, engaged, and respected, the result of which was a very low attrition percentage amongst retained team members. Excellent communication between staff at the executive level and the sales force helped keep customers engaged and informed. This continued, positive customer interaction, along with the offering of an improved product portfolio and greater service area, furthered an atmosphere of stability and jumpstarted the revenue of the integrated organization.

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