Transforming complex sales organizations

Outperforming the competition in a downturn

The global economic downturn took a dramatic turn for the worse in 2008. While most businesses were bracing themselves, we turned to face the storm and began a game-changing sales transformation – with spectacular results.

Our operations in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa were at a crossroads in 2008. Although it was still a hugely successful international business, performance was weaker than its rivals and – with a slower annual growth rate – the gap was widening. We brought together our national practices in these territories into an operationally highly integrated area: EMEIA.

Sales transformation is part of an ongoing journey; like any large, complex sales business, transformation is a journey that never really ends.

Just three years later, the new EMEIA area have not only reduced the growth gap on its peers – it was growing more quickly, had expanded its market share of the biggest clients and increased revenues from its largest accounts. The area brings together 60,000 people in 87 countries and has combined revenues of nearly US$12b.

Understanding the reasons for change

Integration was a response to five key issues in the market:

  • Clients are increasingly global – they no longer think in terms of individual countries.
  • Clients expect the same high-quality and consistent service wherever firms operate.
  • The influence of the rapid-growth markets on the global economy continues to be profound.
  • Our people and potential recruits want to work for a truly global organization, with access to diverse opportunities, without boundaries.
  • Regulators want convergence, consistency and higher quality, worldwide.

By developing and successfully implementing a sales approach fully aligned with the new organizational structure – and the market in which it operated – we aimed to create a truly global sales culture and ethos that would enable it to make a tangible difference, not only to revenues, but also for its clients and its people.

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. 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?

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

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.

* 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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