Businesses change and evolve, the pace and frequency of which vary depending upon the scale and scope of the change. As the leader of the sales organisation, it’s your job to ensure that your sales teams and sales reps follow suit and comply with the new way of doing things. Otherwise, it’ll be your job.
Most changes that impact the sales organisation involve modifications to processes (e.g., the sales process), documents (e.g., order entry forms), and roles and responsibilities (who does what during the post-sale implementation). As sales leader, it’s your responsibility to identify the best practices to be implemented. Change management programmes help you get your people to engage and sustain effort in actually making those best practices part of their regular routine.
Sales people are paid to go out and sell, which should be their primary focus. You need to minimise distractions and make sure that they have the necessary tools, resources, incentives and support to succeed. However, sales reps also need to realise that they work for a company, not for themselves, and that the company has specific goals, objectives, processes and preferred ways of doing things. It might not always make sense to everyone, but that’s immaterial.
Unless your company is relatively new, you likely have a mix of long- and short-tenured sales reps. Those with many years (even decades) of experience may bristle at the notion of doing things differently. Many see themselves as being above the change and immune to conformity. You can choose to ignore this group and hope that they don’t cause trouble. However, they could be quietly (or noisily) subversive and encourage their younger, more impressionable peers not to bother complying with the desired changes.
In their defence, they’ve likely been around long enough to experience numerous change management programmes, many of which fizzled. It’s understandable that they’d be frustrated with yet another change initiative. But it’s not up to them. To be a successful employee, you need to follow the rules and abide by the expected behaviours and guidelines set out for you by the company.
You can’t just announce a change programme and then sit back and watch it unfold. As mentioned earlier, you need to provide the necessary tools, resources and support for your people, which will help them transition to the new way of doing things. This could also include new or additional sales training programmes for everyone or for those who need extra help. But if some remain stubbornly attached to the old ways, you’ll need to be prepared to take disciplinary action, which could ultimately include letting them go.
What Do People Need in Order to Change Their Behaviour?
We’re big believers in following the ADKAR approach to change. It provides the necessary structure and sequence to help sales managers and employees alike when adapting to new ways:
- Awareness of the need to change
- Desire to participate in the change
- Knowledge of how to do things differently
- Ability to apply tools, processes and knowledge
- Reinforcement to sustain personal efforts to change despite setbacks
It is important that management go through the same sequence of steps as employees. However, managers should be a step ahead in the process. For example, if we are building awareness among the salespeople and account directors, the sales managers should already be in the Desire step. This “step ahead” approach ensures that sales managers are prepared to reinforce and support the next phase of behaviour change before their people get to that step.
Communication Builds Awareness
Announcing a programme is just the beginning. Having a formal communication strategy to keep employees informed and motivated is a critical aspect of any change initiative. Too often leaders assume that because they themselves know what’s going on that everyone else shares the same knowledge or feelings. They see a communications plan as “fluff” and unnecessary, but that view is short-sighted. Tailor or supplement company-wide communications with messages that are specific to your sales organisation in order to help share the vision and provide clarity among your sales teams and sales reps so that they can easily get the message and focus on selling.
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