By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
Infographics are the rage these days, they leverage two powerful elements of communication; important “must know” and compelling information delivered via power of the pictures, where every picture is worth a 1,000 words. Sales people and organizations love to use these as a means of communicating big picture changes, where if buyers want to benefit or get ahead of the facts and trends represented, the choice is clear, “our product is designed to help you…..”
But here is a real challenge, while the marketing people who produced the infographic may have an appreciation for change, the sales people in those same organizations often resist change, especially in the way they sell, leaving the buyer with a mixed message. Mixed messages create doubt; doubt is a kissing cousin of risk, and no one likes risk (well at least 70% of the population don’t), especially buyers.
A big challenge for VP of Sales, and to a lesser degree the front line sales managers, is not so much convincing the market or buyers to commit to change, but to get their own sales teams to buy in. As for front line managers, many were promoted to the role due to their success in the field rather than their ability to manage; they then take this recognition as a cue to get their teams to do what they did; and they do, leading to little change in the way things are sold. This is why more than ever, the job of sales leaders is to lead change by “selling” their teams on the need to evolve their selling approach as fast as the market is changing, and certainly as fast as in the infographics they rely on.
We are all resistant to change, but sales people as a group of professional seem more reluctant than most. I get a front line view of this when working with our clients. During the pre-program interviews Renbor conducts with participants in the program, most sales people, veterans and newbies, inevitably say something that sounds like:
“The way I look at it, if I can take away even one thing, it will be worthwhile.”
One thing? Are you kidding me, one thing? That’s all you aspire to, to learn one thing? Why, any more than would shatter your universe, require an upgrade in memory, or is it that just may require some real effort?
Even the weakest, most middle of the road, vanilla flavoured, beige program, has more than one thing the average sales person faced with a market of change resistant buyers could make use of, so why go into it with such diminished expectations? Is that the level of expectation and aspiration sellers bring to their sales as a whole? How will that effort hold up vs. the few sellers willing to go the distance?
What I hear is the person saying that they don’t want to make the effort involved in, if not improving to the way they sell, at least adding to their repertoire or enhancing things they are already doing. This is sad not just because it says something about the profession, but it falls short of buyers’ expectations. After all you are asking them to change, abandon a way of doing something they are already doing and commit to your product and your way of doing things. Buyers react to many things, one is the way they are being sold, and if the way you execute your sales contradicts the message you are selling, buyers will respond. Generally the response is in the form of an unspoken reduction in trust, a reaction to “do as I say, not as I do” sales approach. Being incongruent is not a good thing for sales people to be; preaching is ineffective enough to begin with, your behaviour and approach to selling contradicting the stuff you preach is just asking the buyer not to act.
For many, the line that even if they learn one thing it will have been worthwhile is a way of pretending they are open to learning something new, and willing to support the cause. But in reality what it communicates is their means of avoiding the effort involved in upgrading their skills and results.
Trying one thing is easy, pick the least offensive to your current sales compass, and its done, with little or no impact on you or the buyer. But even when stretching, the pattern is familiar, they try the one thing, it does not produce textbook results the first time, and now they have a means of, an excuse, for avoiding everything in the program. By being able to point to one thing that did not work, they conclude and rationalize that use that by extension nothing in the program works, which is why they don’t want to risk it on their buyers, so it’s back to same old.
Imagine if a pilot on your next flight, who has been flying for ten years took the same attitude when they first fly a new plane; or if a doctor you have been seeing took the same outlook and practice to new diagnosis, instruments and drugs. How long would you stay on the plane or go to the doctor? How long should a buyer stay with a seller who is not up-to-date in their thinking, and is asking you to take steps they themselves are reluctant to?
This is why follow-through is key to not just sales training success, but more importantly sustained behavioural change that allows your sales team to evolve and grow their skills. Follow-through is important for both the individual sales people and their front line managers; while many can sell, many are not comfortable with being agents of change. They need to understand that their role is not only to help their people sell better, but to lead change. This is why often the best ball players do not make the best coaches, but the reverse is often true. These coaches understand that their role is to challenge the norm, not drive conformity. This is why often the coaches who we felt were in our face about the wrong thing, in hindsight have the greatest positive impact on our selling approach. Most new military recruits hate their first drill sergeant, but always remember the impact that first one had on their success; specifically breaking old habits and instilling new ones, including the habit of change and adoption.
This is also why we get program participants to commit to three things they will put into practice the next morning after the program is delivered. No chance to waffle, pick and choose, make your selection, and then the manager and us can help make them make it happen daily and in the follow-through, using metrics and standards to drive action.
Change is hard work, it requires time, effort, commitment, and often resources, and in the case of your buyer, it involves spending money. I don’t like to work hard either, but I like the rewards it brings. Without the extra work we are left to enjoy what we know. In light of the fact that numerous sources point to the fact that only about 50% B2B sales people made quota over the last few years, how inviting is what we know versus the possibilities something new brings? Its just a question of will and effort.
What’s in Your Pipeline?