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Rallying Your Sales Team Around Change

With the whole world being tipped upside-down lately, are you finding it harder to get your team to accept change? Change is never easy and organizational change is no exception to that rule, but it is necessary. Many companies are changing things like the sales process, who to chase, pricing, terms, the information they gather, etc. So how can you get your sales team to rally behind change?

Explain the Why

According to the Harvard Business Review, "Sixty to seventy percent of all change initiatives undertaken in organizations fail." Most sales leaders can explain what their team is doing and how they go about it, but most skip or struggle with the "why" portion of the change. When explaining why the change it is necessary, you should include these areas:

  • Vision for the change – what is changing and the result you are hoping to achieve.
  • The rationale for the change – why it's essential to make that change. What problem are you solving? If people don't understand why things are changing, they tend to resist change. If they comprehend it, they are more likely to embrace it.
  • Alternatives considered – people like to understand that the change was not an impulse decision, that you considered different options.
  • Specifics – identify and communicate the specific actions, behaviors, and data you need from them. 
  • Define how, when, where, etc. if you want the change done to your expectations.

The more you explain why change needs to happen, the more likely your salespeople will understand and be supportive.

Involve Your Team

When possible, leaders should involve their people in defining and implementing change. Change efforts require a lot of communication and patience. Explain the "why" or problem you are trying to solve (Example: "not getting good information" or "not closing at a rate that will achieve our goal" or "the comp plan is driving the wrong behaviors") and the guardrails or constraints in which you have to work.   

Salespeople who feel that they "have to" do something usually push back and are reluctant to do what is asked of them. But if you involve your salespeople and seek their input, they are more likely to agree with the rationale for the change – why it's essential to the organization and the team. Your salespeople may know something you don't know, and you may learn something you didn't see or think of previously. Use a combination of your thoughts and their ideas to come up with potential solutions. If they have input into the solution and changes to be made, they are much more likely to adopt the change.  

*Note – involving people is not always possible depending on the nature of change, but it is more effective when you can do it.

Setting Clear Expectations

Setting expectations can eliminate or reduce confusion and increase your salespeople's chances of successfully achieving the goals set for them. According to Gallup, "employees are less engaged at work when they do not have a clear understanding of what's required of them."

When it comes to change, you'll want to be crystal clear with your goals and expectations. A few things you can do to help set expectations:

  • Define the expectation – set specific goals like the number of opportunities, number of meetings, number of calls, etc. Or set expectations about how a process should be followed, or behaviors which you are seeking.
  • Know the reasoning behind the expectation – let people know how you arrived at your expectation and why.
  • Document expectations – people quickly forget.  Putting expectations in writing makes it easy to reinforce and remind them.
  • Break down goals – big goals are hard for people to understand. Divide them into smaller, achievable things they can grasp (Example: contact five new prospects per week in the new vertical we are pursuing).

Working with your salespeople to set expectations and goals will allow your team to feel more unified and supportive of the initiative.

Get Feedback

When you talk about change, don't lecture. Have a conversation with your team where they can provide feedback on expectations, or on the mutually agreed-upon goals. Their feedback can provide insight on how realistic your expectations are and whether adjustments need to be made. For example, if you ask them to do something different with clients and prospects, ask them if they have another perspective. Gather lots of data and be willing to adjust based on what you hear from your team and your customers. If you want more insight on feedback, check out our blog on, "Are You Giving Too Much Negative Feedback?"

Find all the Wins

Sales leaders often overlook the importance of celebrating small wins, which can result in behavioral changes. Especially during times of change, it is important to recognize individual and team accomplishments – no matter how small. By doing so, you acknowledge their efforts and progress toward larger goals. Some small wins could be, setting up a new meeting, getting in the door, setting up a certain number of calls, getting all the right information, following a new process, etc. Simple ways to celebrate the wins could be:

  • During daily or weekly huddles, recognize and talk about the small achievements. Or have the salesperson talk about it.
  • Write a short, personal congratulatory note or email. This is great for remote salespeople.
  • Tell the CEO to have them reach out to the salesperson.
  • Send the salesperson a gift card with a note.
  • Once your team hits a particular mark, consider some sort of team celebration for them.

The more you recognize good behavior, the quicker you will see change happen. This also allows you to make easy adjustments when you see a lot of push back.

Follow Up and Reinforce

Check-in with your team to see how they are handling the changes. Ask for input again and make adjustments. It's essential to follow up with your team to understand how the change is working or not working. The feedback you gather will help develop corrective actions and reinforce good behavior.

When it comes to reinforcing the behavior, make sure to:

  • Apply the new learnings or input from your team.
  • Hold your team accountable – don't let people slide back into old habits
  • Keep adjusting and setting goals.
  • Catch them doing the right things and acknowledge it.

More than ever before, change is happening within your team, organization, and the world. To help alleviate some of the stress for your team, make sure you explain the "why" of the change, get your team's input, set clear expectations, get feedback, celebrate the wins, and follow up.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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