Last week a sales leader asked me to describe the types of companies for whom I do the best work. He was really asking me to tell him in what verticals I have the most experience, believing that industry knowledge is the shortcut to knowing how to help salespeople and sales managers. But my answer had nothing to do with industry type, and even though it’s helpful to understand an industry, it’s more important to understand the principles of effective sales and effective sales management.
Here is a summary of what I told this client. You can use to think about how you help your clients and how you explain what is really necessary to make real and lasting change.
A real change effort requires massive support from the leadership team. If leadership isn’t all in and willing to do whatever it takes to make the necessary changes, provide the support, and insist that the initiative succeeds, that initiative will fail.
New initiatives take hold when the leadership team is deeply engaged in the process. These leaders have to be involved from start to finish. They have to have a visible presence, and they have to share the stories, the early successes, and the need to continue.
Think about the deals you have made where your client didn’t get the results they were capable of. Was leadership engaged and leading the effort?
This is a variation on leadership support. Sometimes leaders believe they can leave the work of leading to their management team. That doesn’t work. But leaving the effort to the leadership team without the management team’s engagement also doesn’t work.
The management team has to execute on the changes an organization is making in order for those changes to stick. The day-to-day routines have to change, and management has to enforce those changes. The change has to be defended from its mortal enemy, the status quo. Without the support of management, people slip back into the comfort of the status quo, eliminating the possibility of producing new results.
Think about a change initiative that failed where people went back to “business as usual.” What would have needed to change to prevent this from happening?
For change to take root, people have to be trained, developed, and coached. They need a series of activities that help them understand why the change is necessary, how it benefits everyone involved (including them), and how to take the new activities.
It isn’t enough to tell people that change is necessary. It’s also not nearly enough to give them a single training event and expect them to know all they need to know.
Change takes time. The best results are produced when you have a series of training, development, and coaching events over a long period of time. A good way to think of this is a kickoff event to break from the past, a series of training events, a series of coaching events, a set of activities for people to test their new skills, and a consistent way to provide feedback.
Have you seen an initiative fail because there was a single event that was supposed to carry the entire initiative from concept to results? If you haven’t, I promise you will now that you have read this.
A Place to Find Answers
The final piece to this puzzle is a place to find answers. When you ask people to change, many of those people will act in good faith and try, only to fail. They bump up against difficult to achieve outcomes, and they get stuck. Without the answers they need, they go back to doing what they know, even if it isn’t the right thing to do.
Whether it’s scheduled meetings, webinars, or a learning management system of some kind, change sticks when people have the ability to find the answers they need when they need them. They go out into the world with new ideas and they take new action, and then they bump into trouble. Like the great American philosopher, Mike Tyson, says, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Have you sold an initiative that succeeded for your clients? What did you do when they had questions? How do you provide the answers they needed?
Think about what you sell? How do you ensure you have leadership and management support? How do you design activities that allow you to implement successfully? What do you do to provide the answers when things get stuck?
Make change stick this week, and I’ll see you back here next week.
P.S. Here is the link to the second webinar I am doing with Mark Hunter. It’s a bit of a preview for our event at Dreamforce on October 15th where we will be speaking on price and value. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/622715368247587842 Join us this Thursday at 3:00 PM ET!