Katharina Cavano

Learn how Nokia began with the HR function to drive rapid adoption of Challenger by changing internal behaviors, the company ultimately shifted its customers’ perception and achieved greater performance.

What does a large company with brand recognition for one distinct product do when it needs to change its messaging and speak directly to different customers and their evolving needs?

Nokia buys and sells companies and products in the technology and telecommunications space and in their words, ‘create the technology to connect the world.’ Quickly and quietly, the company has transitioned from connecting the world through their phones to building a deep portfolio of technology that does the connecting in a multitude of different ways.

Nokia pride itself on a motto of ‘always transforming’ which has been consistent throughout its 150+ years in business. Yet, at the same time, its new customers were often hung up on the brand recognition associated with outdated product offerings. To succeed with these customers, the company had to change this perspective, and it could see no better messenger than its sales force.

Making the shift to Challenger

Peter Holmark, HR Director Europe at Nokia, recently spoke at the EMEA Challenger Sales and Marketing Summit this year in London on how he implemented Challenger to help the sales force deliver this message.  To be successful, the massive internal shift required buy-in and support from throughout the organization.

To secure this buy-in, Holmark was clear on the underlying issue Challenger intended to solve. Nokia’s legacy perception of salesmanship didn’t resonate with new customers and needed to change.

The company’s mindset had to shift from viewing a salesperson as someone with technical expertise, selling to a CTO, to someone who acts as a trusted advisor in building a sustainable business.

Holmark used four influencer levers internally to translate their mindset shifts directly to powerful actions within the organization.

  1. Foster understanding and convictions
  2. Developing talent and skills
  3. Role modeling in the leadership
  4. Reinforce behaviors with formal mechanisms

“If you really want to drive behavior change, in anything you do, you need to touch on at least two of these levers” Holmark noted before diving into how he broke each of them down throughout the Nokia organization.

The Steps (and Process) to Success

Nokia’s internal Challenger success came from Holmark’s recognition that the process needed to be a slow and steady journey that began with vision and continues by staying agile throughout the process. These process steps include:

  1. Align on a vision on the issue and on Challenger in order to get executive buy-in with a small group of executives invested in the outcome.
  2. Build the HR capability and build Challenger into the very beginning of a sales employee’s lifecycle, starting with Challenger assessments for new hires and behavior assessments throughout all teams to determine how serious individuals are about implementing the change.
  3. Build up the capabilities in sales operations and use research and commercial insight in better equipping the sales team to perform.

From bringing everyone together on the Challenger journey, to lowering the barrier throughout the company to understand Challenger, and finally finding ways to sustain a Challenger culture, Nokia Challenger transformation led directly to greater success and top and bottom line impact on the business.

Katharina Cavano