Three Phases of Behavior Change: Planning, Development & Sustainment
Based on Richardson’s more than forty years of experience and research, we believe that effective behavior change occurs in three phases:
Planning should occur at both the organizational and individual levels. Organizationally, leaders need to effectively communicate the change and align stakeholders at multiple levels to sponsor the change. At the individual level, awareness of the need to change and the desire to change should be instilled in a systematic manner. Many change initiatives fail or become the “flavor of the month” because the heavy lifting at the organizational level and the desire to change at the personal level are insufficiently addressed before training occurs.
Development is the traditional focus of training, including positioning the relevance of new sales skills and knowledge to sales professionals, exposure to new processes, utilization of best-practices models, plenty of practice applying best-practices models, and getting real-time, constructive feedback during instructor-led, virtual, or web-based training.
Sustainment is what occurs after sales professionals leave the training session and return to the field. Sustainment planning should include:
- Expectation setting
- Knowledge retention
- Skill application
- Supportive systems
- Relapse prevention
While skill development occurs during set events using a variety of modalities skill sustainment and behavior change takes place back on-the-job in a much more chaotic environment, which means it needs to be incremental and consistent over a period of months.
Why Does Sustainment Fail
Progressive sales organizations at industry-leading companies know that they cannot develop their sales professionals through sales training programs and then expect them to simply demonstrate those behaviors back-on-the-job. Many barriers get in the way of retention of learning after training in the work environment:
- Too many change goals competing with the ability to run the business and make the numbers
- Conflicting expectations and direction on what is most important both organizationally and individually
- Lack of visible change sponsorship by sales executives and sales leaders lack of a systematic approach to change at the organizational level (e.g., processes, metrics, systems, tools, and management)
- Lack of accountability at all levels for the success of the change
Five Steps Knowledge Retention Strategies
Successful sustainment of new behaviors requires attention to ﬁve steps that all individuals pass through after training. These ﬁve steps build upon one another in a sequential manner. By focusing organizational attention, time, effort, and resources on each step, new behaviors become more embedded in your sales team’s daily operations. Additionally, this systematic and systemic approach to sustainment enables counter-productive practices and cultural elements to both surface and be addressed.
- Set Expectations
- Retain Knowledge
- Apply Skills
- Align Systems
- Prevent Relapse
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