I was recently invited to sit in on a presentation by a world famous (in Toronto anyways) sales speaker. After the big intro by the host, building anticipation just to the right boil, the keynote started off with a profound statement. I know it was profound, because the speaker told us he was going to share some profound observations with us, in fact he started by saying “here is what you need to understand”, I’m ready; “things have changed”; oh goodie, some new insights coming at me now; “and what we have to live with moving forward is that change is constant”.
I sat there wondering, did Heraclitus, who died in 475 BC, get it backwards when he said ‘The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change –‘; or should he have stuck with his original premise ‘Nothing endures but change.’
I am always surprised by how people in and around sales react to change. Sales and change are synonymous, yet I continuously encounter people who seem bamboozled if not paralyzed by it, as though it was something new or unexpected. You can tell a lot about a seller by how they embrace or avoid change. For those who spend the majority of their time minding the base or taking order, change can seem risky and daunting, the last thing they want is for customers to change.
On the other hand, I find that outstanding sellers, those focused on growing their base, and expanding their presence in their existing accounts, embrace and evangelize change. The best sales people are harbingers of change, they not only continuously change the way they sell, but encourage change in their customers and prospects, because they understand that change is good for their customers, and as a result for themselves.
While he went on to tell the sales team that the velocity of change continues to increase, he offered little in the way of how to embrace and lead change. He reminded me of a helicopter, lots of noise, stirring up a lot of dust, but no sooner than it’s gone, things settle back to being the same as before.
The challenge is that many equate continuous change with continuous improvement. While it may be true that most improvement requires some degree of change, not all change leads directly to improvement. Change for the sake of change is not good either, some change their approach to sales as a means of hiding their inabilities, inability to improve, or their inability to commit to a plan, and then execute that plan.
Knowing that change is constant should actually be comforting to sales professionals. It provides an opportunity and a means to experiment and grow. I liken it to physical exercise, if you keep doing the same routines, you quickly plateau, and while you continue to work hard, the benefits continue to diminish. Introducing variety and new practices not only challenges your muscles, but your buyers as well, leading to improved results all around. As discussed here in the past, you can’t expect your buyers to change when you are not willing to.
Look for ways to add to your selling approach, building sales muscle, avoid the temptation to choose one approach over the other, instead look for ways you can blend and combine the best of many schools. Just when you think you have it down, start again by asking how you can view where you are as a starting point rather than a destination.
The profound thing is not that change is constant, we’ve know that for 2000 years if not more. If you are looking to be profound, be the change. Buyers are used to the same old same old, their world is changing as fast as yours, if you can lead that process rather than follow or be run over by it, you’ll bring value to both you and the customers.