I get pretty tired of the word “change”. Everywhere I look, there it is. Change has become the new mantra of my industry (sales consulting). My email inbox has become a Vegas strip of bright lights and promises of big winnings. Day after day, it screams out sound bites, catch phrases, and taglines encouraging change.

  • “In today’s economy, can you afford mediocre sales?”
  • “Rise above the economic turmoil and make your future bigger with big-ticket sales.”
  • “Learn from the pros and sell your way out of this recession.”

Talking About Change May Win You the White House, But Can It Win You the Sale?

I’m not suggesting that change isn’t important. Reality is, to move our businesses (our sales) forward we must continually evolve. But in my experience, there are three critical steps the sales professional or sales leader must take before change becomes more than just a trendy tagline used to garner attention:

  1. Know what change really means
  2. Understand what drives change
  3. Implement a process for change

What Does Change Really Mean?

Change is the process of taking new actions to achieve different results. Sounds easy, right? It’s anything but easy. It requires a lot of work and includes unfamiliar activities, some of which are risky.

What Drives Change?

Let’s start by looking at what doesn’t drive change. The first misconception about change is that it’s fact-driven. Unfortunately, facts alone won’t drive new results because we can easily manipulate and rationalize them. The second misconception is that change can be initiated through fear. While fear may drive short-term change or new actions, it will eventually subside. We all know how easy it is to slip back into old habits and routines.

Let’s relate this to sales. If you’re like many sales reps or coaches, when your results don’t meet your expectations, you re-evaluate your sales performance potential for the next quarter. As you begin to develop your plan, you encounter an unpleasant fact: your second quarter funnel can’t support the sales goals you would like to—or need to—achieve. This is where we begin to lose our grasp on change because the facts are just too daunting:

  • We’ve borrowed semi-qualified business from the first quarter and pushed it to the second quarter.
  • We haven’t cultivated enough new business for the second quarter.
  • We have very little on the horizon for the third quarter.

The disappointment of not doing well in the first quarter is frustrating enough, but the pressure of making up the difference in the second quarter can be overwhelming.

As a sales rep or leader, this feels scary. We start divorcing ourselves from the facts. We rationalize out of sight, out of mind. We distract ourselves with other non-change-affecting activities—like adjusting that PowerPoint presentation, fooling around with spreadsheets, etc.. Sometimes, we even rewrite the facts in our mind, which can lead to “opportunity” over-optimism and denial.

Reality is, we can actually get comfortable with the facts no matter how unappealing they may seem. We might even find security in them, which will positively affect our ability to take consistent new action.

Fear only drives short-term change. Once we become comfortable with the facts and our fear decreases, we lose our momentum.

Only by implementing a consistent process that forces us to take a good hard look at ourselves in the mirror, into all the uncomfortable spaces, with built-in public accountability – can we truly affect long-term change.

Follow a Consistent 5-Step Change Process:

  1. Do a Gut Check
  2. Remove Your Hiding Places
  3. Narrow Your Focus
  4. Get Some Short-term Wins
  5. Celebrate & Repeat
  1. Do a Gut Check
    Examine your sales funnel and take a good, hard look in the mirror. How much are you transferring from the first quarter to the second? Make sure you’re not falling victim to the false sense of optimism on the size, depth and quality of what’s there. You might not like the reality, but the more you put off an honest gut check, the less likely you’ll have a speedy recovery.
  2. Remove Your Hiding Places
    Make progress public. Generate team support. The purpose of making public a new goal or action is to drive 100% commitment and accountability. Public pressure can help you overcome the temptations that revert you back to old habits, styles, and expectations. Once the hiding places are gone, your sense of pride and competitiveness will kick in. Allow it. You’ll like the results.
  3. Narrow Your Focus
    Select a specific skill area you want to improve and communicate it to your coach and teammates. Use role play with your coach, and practice it at the beginning and end of every week. You can even do it daily. It’s called measured practice. The more often you take new action, the better you will become at it. But remember, with any new action there is usually a pain point. Fear of not doing something well can derail you. This is where you’ll need your coach’s and teammates’ support.
  4. Get Some Short-term Wins
    Establish immediate weekly goals. Share them with your coach and teammates and encourage them to hold you accountable if you slip. A simple starting goal might be to pre-schedule your prospecting time in advance and hold yourself to it. Allow your coach and teammates to be hard on you if you procrastinate or lose focus.
  5. Celebrate & Repeat
    Celebrate the measured progress you make every week. Don’t get caught up in the hype of short-term success. New action and thought processes take time. Carve out one month and repeat the process every day or week, and these new actions and thought processes will start to solidify into new, more productive routines and habits.Coaching Point: Remember that taking new action (change) based solely on facts (sales numbers, pipeline, etc.) or out of fear or pain (fear of not making the goals, fear of losing your job) is only good for a short-term adjustment.

In the end, the only change you can control is the change within yourself. Top performers always look inward to assess and regulate their thoughts and actions. Follow the 5-step process of change and you’ll see new results soon.