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Change Leadership: Owning the Vision

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In two earlier posts, I introduced change leadership  and explored how to create a vision. The next step is to own and create shared ownership of the vision.

Here is a summary of four basic rules to follow in leading a successful change:

  • You can’t delegate or relinquish total ownership of the change. Don’t announce the change and then disappear to let your lieutenants run the show. If your employees sense a lack of interest or passion on your part, they’ll follow accordingly.
  • Stay in touch, communicate frequent progress updates, praise wins, and establish a feedback loop to know that the change initiative is working and not suffering from “whisper down the lane.”
  • You can’t do it alone. You need to enlist others in championing the change and the benefits to be gained from it. Trickle ownership down throughout each layer of leadership.
  • Hold leaders and sales managers accountable and responsible for carrying out the change.
The first two were covered in the earlier posts. But how can you hold your leaders, sales managers, and supervisors accountable for their part in driving the change?

Owning the Vision through Verifiable Outcomes

Owning the vision is essentially becoming part owner of the change. We place a lot of stock in something we call verifiable outcomes in the sales process. Verifiable outcomes are those few things that take place in the sales process that represent pivot points:

  • If you do them well, they generally drive and predict success.
  • If you don’t do them well, it could stall a deal or, even worse, lose a deal.
We identify the pivot points that are the verifiable outcomes of the sales process. There are typically no more than nine or ten. More than ten becomes too cumbersome to manage.

An important benefit of establishing verifiable outcomes is guiding sales managers to prioritize what they’re managing toward, to focus on these nine things that matter the most. For each verifiable outcome, you should prepare a list of questions to use with your sales reps and subordinates. Equip your sales managers to use them with their teams. These checklists serve as reminders (to those asking as well as those being asked) to work and behave according to the new metrics that support the strategies that will fulfill the new vision.

Imagine you’re a salesperson. You’re preparing to give a proposal to a client along with your sales manager. Your sales manager should meet with you at least two days ahead of time to ask some very specific questions about your knowledge of the client, their industry, and their situation. We all know that it’s so easy to say “Well, I think” or “I do know,” but have you really unearthed the relevant details or connected the dots? How prepared are you for the meeting and to make the sale?

Challenge your sales reps by using the checklist you’ve devised. Ask questions to elicit specific comments and reactions. What did the client say? What was their response? What kind of reaction did you get? Who else will attend the meeting? Who is our competition? In many cases, the salesperson may not be able to articulate these answers because they haven’t actually spoken to the client. Instead, they’ve made some assumptions, which is habit we’re trying to eliminate. Use the checklist as a tool to break free from assumptions to get to a fact-based understanding of what’s going on in that account.

This becomes the basis for the framework of holding people accountable to living the change. This is part of owning the change. As managers ask these questions on a consistent basis and expect their sales reps to be responsible, they themselves are also being accountable, which helps to reinforce and fulfill their own role in driving the change process.

Initiating the Change

Organization is critical to accurately assessing the adoption of the change as analytically as possible. Modifying your CRM system is a concrete way to measure if new behaviors are yielding positive results. (Don’t track and reward old habits.) Monitoring and measuring selling skills, for example, can be challenging because the business outcomes don’t manifest themselves until way down the road. However, by using the verifiable outcomes and coaching, we can anecdotally rapidly assess the adoption of the new sales process or sales activities that we’re asking people to do. We want to integrate these conversations into the business so they become habits.

By appreciating the difference between everyday leadership and change leadership, creating an articulate vision with a compelling story, owning the vision, and holding people accountable, you will give your change initiative the best chance for success.

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