Businesses are made up of people, and change management is a people process. As such, change management requires many of the skills and attributes already identified in this series, including optimism, initiative, resourcefulness, determination, caring, empathy and emotional intelligence, communication, influence, closing, business acumen, diagnose, storytelling, and negotiation.
What is Change Management?
Change Management is a process that moves people, teams, and organizations from their current state to a future, better state. It is the ability to help others improve.
Change Management in Sales
There are many obstacles between a salesperson and winning a deal. Plenty of these obstacles can be identified as an opposition or an obstacle to change. Salespeople often encounter entrenched interests who are opposed to change. They find stakeholders who are comfortable with the status quo. They find decision-makers who are oblivious to the threats to their organization and its future success. They find internal politics, silos, and turf wars. Sometimes they find groups of people who want to change, who need to change, but who have conflicting interests.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It is!
Great salespeople do more than sell their products or services. Great salespeople create and sell a case for change. Then they manage and lead that change.
Successful salespeople know that change in any company is difficult. They go into every deal with their eyes wide open, knowing that they will encounter the many varieties of resistance within their client’s company—and their own company.
They identify the status quo, and they build an awareness of the risks associated with maintaining it. They identify the threats to their client’s business, and they identify the opportunities for a better future outcome.
Successful salespeople sell the idea of killing the status quo to give rise to something better.
Great salespeople know that without the help and support of the stakeholders who oppose change, their solution will not succeed in building a better future outcome. Successful salespeople build the teams necessary to overcoming the entrenched interests. They identify the resources necessary to help make the case for change to the entrenched interests, and they work through the internal politics. Building these teams, and building the case for change with the interests that are opposed to change allow the salesperson’s solution to be implemented, to be executed upon, and to produce the promised results.
Successful salespeople identify the areas where their solution creates a benefit for some interests within their client’s company and where it creates something less for other parts of the organization. They identify the conflicting interests that exist in their client companies and they build solutions that eliminate or minimize these conflicts. They negotiate changes within the departments, the divisions, and the silos that exist in their client’s companies, and they negotiate changes that make their solution beneficial—or acceptable—to all stakeholders. They also negotiate the changes within their own company that are necessary to success.
Great salespeople sell change. Then they manage their effort, their company’s effort, and their client’s teams to create and deliver change.
When Change Management is Missing
When change management is missing, salespeople believe that what they sell is a product or service. They underestimate the importance and the difficulty of accomplishing change in any company.
When change management is missing, the salesperson doesn’t identify—or ignores—the obstacles to change within their prospect’s organization. They avoid the entrenched interests. They fail to make the case against the status quo, and they lack the business acumen to identify the threats to their prospect’s organization and it’s future.
They avoid the internal political squabbles. They avoid dealing with the impact of what they sell on those who protect their own silos. They avoid the turf wars. They don’t build the teams necessary to build the case for change, and they don’t understand the politics necessary to make real and lasting change.
When change management is missing, the salesperson fails to negotiate the conflicts of interests within their prospect’s company. They also fail identify and build the case for change within their own organization.
Without an understanding of change management and the ability to manage change, the salesperson will not succeed in sales. When they do successfully sell a deal, it will fall apart during the implementation or execution at worst, and it will take far longer to implement and at a much higher cost at best.
Salespeople sell change. They sell a future result, a better outcome. But creating the vision of a better future outcome is only where the sale begins. Successful salespeople know that that change needs their time, their attention, and their resourcefulness as a salesperson—and as a businessperson—to be achieved. They lead and manage the change that they sell.
Am I selling something less than change?
Do I identify all of the ways in which the status quo is unacceptable to my clients and build the case for change?
While I am selling, do I identify all of the potential obstacles to change that exist within my client’s company and within my own company?
Do I build the teams and the political capital within my client’s company and my own company to effectively deal with the entrenched interests, the silos, and the turf wars?
Do I negotiate the changes necessary when interests conflict?
Do I manage the process of change for my clients and for my own company?