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4 Ways to Change Sales People

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 02-Mar-2015 09:00:00

4_ways_to_change_sales_peopleIf you manage a Sales Team you will inevitably want to make changes for the better. If your team is doing well you will want to do even better. If your team is not doing well you will have to make changes. Different members of your team will have different attitudes towards change and you need to understand those states of mind before you can hope to effect change. Each type has to be handled in a different way.

These are 4 attitudes you will come across;

  1. I’ll give it a try

  2. It really does work

  3. It won’t work

  4. I’m doing fine

I’ll give it a try

This is the easiest attitude to work with. It’s often associated with young people new to Sales who want to learn how to do a great job. They will accept advice, be open to training and adopt new ways of working.

But more experienced Sales People may also have this attitude - if they are Self-Reflective. Anyone who concedes that the reason they don’t always win is down to the way they are selling rather than “external factors” is likely to have this state of mind.

“I’ll give it a try” team members expect to be guided to function in the way that will deliver better results. You can help them by communicating the vision clearly and empowering them to find ways to achieve it themselves. Plan for some quick wins for them and give them feedback, especially positive feedback and motivation when they do change.

If you help them achieve this goal they will become part of the ‘It really does work’ group who are a great asset and a lever to help you change the attitude of more sceptical colleagues. You need to keep supporting them and ensuring they stay on track so they keep on believing change is better for them.

Remember they are self-reflective and they will examine how they sell. If the new way isn’t working they could easily become part of the ‘It won’t work’ group.

It really does work

These are people who were either keen to start with or who you have worked with until they do reflect on their own performance and accept the need to change. They not only improve their own performance, but also can be very influential on the more sceptical players on the team. They can say to them ‘I used to be like you. I thought I was doing fine and these sorts of changes don’t work but I gave it a go and look at the results’. Again, to keep these people motivated you need to work with them to make sure they don’t develop an “I’m doing fine” attitude. Celebrate their successes and make their best practices part of your company Way of Selling. Over time you can increase their targets to make sure they keep searching for ways to improve.

It won’t work

People who say this have a reason. I spoke to a participant on a training course recently who told me in no uncertain terms that the training was going to be a waste of time. When I asked him why, he told me he had been on a similar course when his previous employer had introduced a new Sales Process and that it had made his job a misery. When I quizzed him about the details of the Sales Process adopted by his last employer it soon became clear that it was designed mainly to control Sales People and ended up preventing them from Selling effectively. 

You need to engage people with this attitude as early as possible to communicate the vision and the ‘Why?’ You may even want to involve an outside viewpoint from a customer to really bring home the need for change. Some resistance to change is inevitable but if you address these people’s concerns you can get them on board.

I’m doing fine

Arguably the toughest attitude you will encounter when you want to implement change. These people really don’t see the need for any change. They don’t self reflect and if they are asked why a particular Sale did not succeed they will give you any number of reasons – price, competitor had a better solution, internal politics – in fact any thing but their own performance.

It’s easy to associate this attitude with older Sales guys who have maybe lost their drive and set themselves low goals that are easy to achieve. But more than once I have seen this attitude in much younger Sales people, especially ones who have only ever worked for market leading companies where they have relied heavily on the reputation of the brand to sell for them. Then they are hired by a challenger brand and they suddenly don’t perform – but they don’t blame themselves because they lack that self-refection.

So how do you get people with this attitude on board? You have to challenge their thinking to start with and be a role model. Then you have to create a vision for them along with a sense of urgency and try to pin point their individual motivators. Try to get them working with a group who are well motivated and benchmark their own behaviours against those in the group and do everything you can to break up any structures that are limiting change and anticipate any barriers they may come up against. When you get people with this attitude to effectively embrace change you know you are doing a good job as a leader.

Whatever their attitude to change when you start – and you should always expect a degree of resistance – you can get most people on board. But unless you do a good job as a leader and show them real improvements don’t expect the change to stick.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Why will the changes you propose make it easier for your Sales Team to achieve their goals?

  • Can you map your team and put them into one of the groups above?

  • Do you (as a leader) adapt your approach to each different state of mind?

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