Q&A with URC VP-Sales Oscar Villamora, Jr. on Sales Transformation

I had an insightful conversation with Oscar Villamora, Jr., who was appointed as the Vice President for Sales of the Universal Robina Corporation (URC) in May 2018. Oscar was recognized as a Mansmith Young Market Master Awardee for Customer Development in 2010 when he was still a National Sales Manager for a multi-national firm. Even then, he had his sights clearly set on the long-term business health of the organization while balancing out the short-term results. He is passionate on developing the leadership pipeline and ensuring business is done with correct values and principles. Today, Oscar shares with us how to align for sales transformation.  He will share more sales leadership tips during the Mansmith Sales Leadership Summit on July 4, 2019 in Rcbc Theater, Makati.

Q1: What do you think should a new Head of Sales do? How did you approach URC’s 300+ strong sales force? 

A: In a transformation environment, driving change entails the frontline to be on board with the change. It starts with people, in the end, it is about people. The key is driving high engagement across the organization and key stakeholders. As a newcomer, I had to capitalize on the following engagement opportunities:

• Galvanize the leadership team. To handle a large organization of 350 individuals, one needs a strong leadership team behind him. The sales leader cannot engage everyone, but if you have a solid leadership team that drives the right agenda, then it will make things a lot smoother.

• Conduct dialogue with the sales team. Spend time meeting the team on the ground, conducting Townhall meetings and One on Ones with critical talent. It is critical to be on the ground, to listen to their concerns and understand their context. It’s critical not to come out with “guns blazing”, it is important that the leader listens and fully understands the team’s context.

• Get the support of cross functional team and key people in the organization. Ultimately, your customer agenda needs cross functional support coming from Marketing, Supply Chain, Finance and HR. Understand your stakeholder’s agenda and see where you can collaborate to ultimately drive the customer agenda.

• Visit the customers and distributors. Coming in new into the organization is the best time to assess the situation from the outside looking in. This viewpoint is enhanced when you capture the customer’s perspective into the business. As the sales leader, one must know what is happening with the business on the ground, from the viewpoint of the customer. A lot of changes that the leader will drive should eventually address these market opportunities.

Q2: Many companies with great brands have hidden ‘sins’ of sales practices because they have been busy hitting their growth numbers. What is your experience on this? 

The hard truth is that when brands are strong, the capabilities of the Sales team are at a risk of stagnating precisely because the product sells. The other context is that, in a high growth situation, there is a tendency to just focus on product supply. This can lead to transactional customer relationships if the sales leader does not recognize the need to elevate sales capabilities and customer partnerships.

The key is for the sales leader to recognize when there is potential for complacency. If you flip the lens, when the brands are at the strongest is actually the best time to forge stronger customer partnerships, hook the shoppers to your brands and accelerate sales capabilities to solidify your position in the market.

Q3: You have done a great sales transformation on your first year. Your direct coverage buying customers has increased significantly since you started the transformation. What are your recommended steps to create an impactful sales transformation?

The are several key success factors to drive the sales transformation changes:

• As a sales leader, it is critical that you are able to see the situation on the ground, similar to what is visible to your frontline team. Any change that you will drive – structural, process or people changes should be based on market realities.

• Ensure that the team is behind you to support the transformation. Ultimately, the frontline needs to see that the changes will eventually benefit them and their livelihood. At the core of an individual’s motivation is the desire to provide value addition to the organization and that this contribution eventually leads to a stable livelihood for the salesman and his family.

• Challenge existing thinking and celebrate short term wins so there is a business case for success. In an environment where the thinking is challenged and there is robust discussion, the team learns together. When these learnings are applied and result to more wins, these should be celebrated and built as a momentum to create more wins.

• Take risk and act with speed. Never underestimate the value of small wins. Once you spot a market opportunity, be decisive and take risk to capture that opportunity. The team is energized when the leader takes (calculated) risks and is quick to seize market opportunities. I have learned that it is better to take risk and accelerate from zero to 60% capability, than stay at zero for a long time while over-thinking  how to get everything at 100%.  

Q4: Are you in favor of incentivizing sales force based on total volume generated or with product line breakdown? Why?

I am in favor of giving incentives based on the purpose of a given selling team model. Incentives should drive the desired behavior of the sales team. For example, truck teams should be designed primarily to open new stores and expand coverage in smaller stores. If the main incentive of this team is volume, one can already expect this team will focus on big customers only and customer expansion will not be a priority. In this case, the weights of the incentives should be optimized between volume and opening new customers. The other team type are the Booking teams tasked to cover big stores. This team type is designed not just to drive volume but increase SKUs carried in the store. if the incentives are based on volume alone, then expect the team to focus only on the best-selling SKUs to hit the target. Having a clear metric and incentives on lines sold and new product placement will drive the right behavior.  

The key thing to remember: the salesforce will naturally behave based on how their incentives are designed. Don’t give incentives on one thing (volume) and expect a different outcome (coverage expansion or increase in lines carried in-store)

Q5: Which part of your sales operations would be considered strategy critical? How do you manage these strategy critical processes or activities? 

From the lens of transformation, the two strategy critical areas in sales operations are:

• Sales Capability and Training – this is the group that will drive the standards and new capabilities of the sales organization. The standards are critical as they are used to measure what success looks like. Training ensures the individuals are equipped with the right skill set to be able to reach the standard and win with the customer. Finally, Sales capabilities – such as the use of technology and efficient processes in selling, are critical as these are needed to cover the market effectively.

• Trade Marketing – this is the group that drives business planning and demand generation. The winning proposition that the sales team brings to the customer starts with the Trade Marketing team. The trade marketing team should have capabilities on 4 key areas: Insight, Analytics, Strategy and Execution/Evaluation.

As a sales leader, one needs to ensure that these two teams are structured correctly, the people in place are qualified to lead the organization and the processes are aligned with all stakeholders so that they are able to function effectively not just within Sales but across Cross Functional teams.  

Q6: What should an ideal sales culture be and how do you build such?

In my view, a sales organization undergoing transformation should have these core value elements in their culture:

• Integrity – the leaders have to be seen with high integrity and maturity. Integrity breeds high trust. One cannot transform a sales organization that does not trust that the leadership team is doing the right thing for the business and for the team

• Transparency – as a leader tasked to lead change, it is absolutely critical that you need to know the situation on the ground – all the concerns and problems that needs to be addressed. This means that everyone in the frontline needs to feel they have a safe environment to escalate issues. As a sales leader you cannot transform the organization if nobody tells you the truth on the ground.

• Communication and collaboration – to win in the market, the Sales team should champion the customer agenda into the company. To drive the customer agenda, the sales team should realize that they cannot live in a silo. They will need cross functional support from Supply Chain, Marketing, Finance and HR. The Sales leader has to drive a strong culture of collaboration among the Sales team and with stakeholders in the Company.

Q7: Can you have sales transformation without sales force transformation?

Absolutely not. Before any transformative strategies can take effect, the team must be willing to transform their mindset, values and vision for the organization. At its deepest level, sales transformation is about people. Frameworks and strategies are useless if there is no mindset transformation. As a Sales leader leading the transformation, one needs to be prepared to over communicate, invest time with the team to connect and drive mindset change.  The sales leader should also be prepared to let go of team members whose values and behaviors are not aligned with the vision.

Q8: In your experience, what is the difference between heading an extensive sales organization in a major multi-national firm versus a key local company?

Speed. What takes me months or years of back and forth PowerPoint presentations all the way up to the region in a multinational firm to get a final decision, can take me less than a day of rigorous engagement with leaders in a local Company.


Register now to the 1st Mansmith Sales Leadership Summit happening on JULY 4, 2019. Oscar is one of the 6 sales leaders speaking on the event. Register your team now, 5 + 1 FREE
Click here: http://bit.ly/MSalesLeadershipSummit2019

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