Many sales professionals can get into the habit of selling better; but it isn’t as simple as pointing to the work ethic of top performers or publishing so-called best practices for everyone to emulate.
For sales performance to improve, behaviors must change. Habits that lead to sub-standard performance, or hinder exceptional performance, must be replaced by habits that support improvement. This calls for basic and substantial change.
Much has been written about change management, and many articles coach senior leaders on how to manage organizational change. The trick, I think, is to recognize why and when individuals change, and then to determine how best to help them with the change process.
In my experience, there are at least four important questions that must be answered by individuals who profess a desire to change:
Why is it important for me to change?
How badly do I want to change?
What is my motivation for changing?
Why is it urgent that I change now?
Once, a very long time ago, I smoked cigarettes. I knew then that inhaling smoke wasn’t a healthy activity, and that people were dying from diseases directly linked to the smoking habit.
One day, along with two close friends, I decided to quit smoking. It was important for me to change to improve my health. I wanted to change badly to eliminate the cost of an unnecessary habit. I was also motivated to stop the embarrassment I felt as people stared at me while I blew smoke rings in public places. My sense of urgency resulted from hearing my physician tell me that a two-pack-a-day smoking habit would ruin my health.
Sales professionals won’t change unless they discover why it is important for them to change, how badly they want to change, what is motivating them to change and why they want to change now. Each team member must own his or her reasons for wanting to change.
Once a sales leader or executive determines that a sales professional is receptive to change, the real work of supporting the change process begins. Managers will surely be disappointed, however, if they expect a perfect response going forward from the sales professional who wants to change.
When a sales professional voices the desire to change, managers should recognize that the nature of change is that most people will fall off the wagon. They are prone to lapse into old, familiar behaviors and habits.
Here is where managers must be trained to have great patience. If the desire to change is sincere, patience is needed to support the sales professional who falters. I recommend that managers ask the individual who has lapsed into old habits to “recommit” to the change they want.
Recommittment is a powerful tool. A request from the manager to the sales professional to recommit to change will help the salesperson regain the awareness of how important change is to her and how badly she wants to change.
Changing is a process, and while the commitment is itself immediate change, change that lasts requires time, commitment, recommitment and support.
The good news is that when managers understand the components of individual change, and learn to facilitate and support change at the individual level, old, inefficient and undesirable selling habits can be replaced by habits that embrace continual improvement.
Those sales professionals who change successfully once are much more receptive to change as future developments in your business will surely require.