We have heard sales teams described as many things. Diva’s pops up regularly. Drama-Queens just as much. Adjectives such as spoilt, entitled, braggy and the like are bandied about like cup-cakes at a Weighless meeting. Quietly and under the breath lest the sales person hear the utterance, and bring their - and their sales manager’s - wrath down upon the culprit. Often these mutterings come from those who slog endlessly behind the scenes to make sure that whatever is sold by sales person actually works, or does what it is supposed to do. To many in this sphere, sales people are seen to be those who swan in and out of the office at their leisure, taking clients to lunches, earning the big bucks and not doing very much work. Now there are sales people who are well deserving of all of the above names. We have witnessed some spectacular melt-downs from sales people who feel let down by their back-office. Like the one who threatened to key someone’s brand new car if they didn’t stay late to finish an install, or the gent who was seen fleeing the office in tears because his sales support hadn’t immediately dropped all their other work to get his quote out. But, and we can’t emphasize this enough, these are the exceptions.
The sales team are your front-line. They are the ones talking to clients and engaging on behalf of the organisation so they do tend to feel entitled to all the information relating to the organisation as soon as possible. Nothing can give the impression of a dissociated organisation faster than a sales person without the information being heard ‘on the street’. It is imperative that if there is any change coming, it is being handled correctly by the management team.
Sales people are by their very nature, flexible. Some are downright commitment-phobic. It is very rare to hear a good sales person say ‘no’, or even ‘it can’t be done’. Good sales people are by definition those willing to take a chance or make a change. A qualified sales person is used to having to negotiate and give up his or her personal position in order to get the sale closed. This is great news for your organisation because change and the embracing thereof is a vital slice in the cake of success (to carry a metaphor. Possibly too far).
That said, no team will always agree with change, and the business strategists, the ones we pay to look out of the window and manage the strategy and long term plans for the company, aren’t the ones who have to get their teams to change their plans or goals. Often these demands for change come before the sales numbers have taken a dip, creating even less incentive for the change to be made. The reasoning and communication of those changes will often fall to the sales manager, who may not actually even buy into the process of change themselves.
Jules from Avocado Vision recommends the 4 C’s when you are encouraging buy-in from your sales for an imminent change.
- Clarity. There is nothing worse than a vague message. If the change is something material to the way in which the teams work you need to be sure of what you are asking them to do. Sales teams, more than most other teams in the organisation, feel that they have a need to know. They are the ones in the firing line with customers and need to be able to communicate clearly and with confidence. Distil the message and make sure they not only understand it, but can communicate it effectively.
- Consistency of message. Is the entire management team singing off the same hymn sheet? Change is a time of uncertainty and possible insecurity. If the very people leading the change (yes that’s you, the management team), are uncertain and ill-informed, then you can’t possibly expect the teams to buy into the vision.
- Communicate. Now at any time in an organisation’s existence it is imperative that you communicate, but during times of change you need to up the ante. Communication is your friend and you just can’t do enough of it. Ensure your sales team understand the change in it’s entirety. Communicate the reasons behind the change and the hoped for effects as well as other possible outcomes of the change process. Show that the business has looked at both pros and cons and illustrate an understanding of their concerns. Do it often. Repetitively. People don’t s hear the full message the first three times you say it.
- Commit to a timeline. The only thing worse than vague promises of change, is not knowing when things are going to change. Have deadlines ready when you chat to the team. If you don’t have all the information at your disposal yet, then commit to a deadline for feedback. Allowing the team to work to a deadline gives them a sense of security and comfort.
Without buy-in no change will be effective. It can result in alienation and even a loss of resources, but managed right, change can breathe new life into an organisation that may have been lolling in the doldrums.
For more information on how to manage change in your organisation chat to Avocado Vision about their new short format corporate training series the Avo Bytes: Managing Change. (Resilience and Riding the Change Wave).