Investing in any kind of change or training program can be expensive – in time, commitment, will power and often at the cost of happy working relations, in addition to the financial cost. Many change programs are abandoned or at best unnecessarily dragged out due to a shift in focus, new personnel, low levels of buy-in, poor visibility of the real return on investment or similar such reasons.
Here are a few things to think about when considering a sales change program, either as a standalone or as part of a sales training initiative.
1. Be specific – thing about what you want to achieve and make it action orientated. Having 20 aims, objectives or goals minimises the chances of achieving anything. Multi-tasking does not come naturally. Make it easy to hit the targets by restricting the number of goals and see results soar. Make it simple and specific and it will stick. This allows you to layer new behaviours and practices in over time…it works with less upset and greater buy in to the ideal ‘business as usual’ model.
2. Watch the language – again be specific with the language. For example – keep up to date with all client correspondence is too vague, instead think about introducing measurable service level agreements for different communication channels – i.e. emails must be responded to within 4 working hours, telephone calls returned within 2 working hours etc…Easy to measure and monitor, easy to understand and very visible.
3. Carrots and Sticks – Link new behaviours and results to rewards (a whole subject on its own) and conversely to penalties. Not only is this good management practise, it will also prevent the creation of the maverick i.e. The sales person who dares to utter the line ‘my sales figures are in excess of target so I can do what I want?’
4. Beware of triggers and enablers – events or comments that spark negative behaviour and results. Be vigilant for them and remove or minimise the triggers. Remember – people are less likely to riot in the rain – no one likes getting wet, no matter what their cause.
5. Watch the search and selection of staff – recruitment of the sales team may well be based on experience or the quality of their address book, but don’t under estimate the value of their attitude. Most things in a sales role can be taught providing that the attitude is good – attitude can’t be taught…but can be the deciding factor in mobilising a sales team.
6. Mobilise the workforce – identify the early adopters to new initiatives, likewise the safe onboarders and the late comers. Knowing the audience will help you to maximise the uptake my spending time with the people that will move your initiative forward, knowing that the other parties will eventually follow, but may need different strategies to increase buy in. Using one strategy to get all three parties on board can be frustrating, counter productive and may cause the instigator of the change to query their own sanity!!!
7. Encourage – don’t tell. No-one likes to be told what to do. Offering solutions, ways of working, things to consider, show examples of what has worked (or not) in other organisations, whilst offering staff positive default positions can often have more productive outcomes.
8. Use the peer group – share success stories, best practise, be a true learning organisation and use the measure and monitor – see below- to drive behaviours and outputs that are desired.
9. Paint a picture – give absolute clarity on what success in terms of behaviours and results looks like – no ambiguity. In the same vein – do not celebrate success to early, wait until the new way of working is established and is business as usual before declaring the victory.
10. Coach – continually coach and mentor – the early adopters, safe on boarders and late comers. Spend time on a one to one basis, use the communication links and influencers within the group to spread your message about why, how and when throughout the team but never forget that this is your initiative and the more face and listening time you give to the parties involved the higher the take up and speed of change will be. Take care to make the sessions constructive, they are not an opportunity for the team to whine but a chance for you both to understand and pave a common positive path forwards.
Most change programs fail – they need not.
Carol Griffiths – Principal and Lead Consultant
Morton Kyle Limited
0779 002 1885