alt text image of a sign saying stay on the trail

Stay On Message

A few years ago, I spoke to a big sales organization. Their leadership team was brilliant. They were all on message, and the message was powerful. But it fell flat with the sales force. I wasn’t sure why it didn’t inspire them. For some reason it just didn’t resonate.

It’s always nice to be invited back to speak, and I was fortunate to have an opportunity to speak to this same sales organization a year later. Their leadership team was once again brilliant in their delivery. They were all on message. But this time, the message was different. The salespeople seemed to enjoy their sales conference, but they weren’t inspired to act, and the message again didn’t seem to resonate.

I was invited back a third time. As they were preparing me to incorporate my message into this year’s theme, I recognized that the message had changed a third time. That’s three changes in three years. It was then that I realized why nothing seemed to inspire or resonate with the sales force: the message changes every year.

Two Kinds of Sales Organizations

As I have spoken to sales organizations, I have found there are two kinds of sales organizations.

One type changes their theme and their message each year. This group believes that their organizational priorities need to change from year to year. They believe their theme needs to change, the message needs to change, and the content needs to change. Other than the people, it’s difficult to know it’s the same sales organization.

The other type of sales organization doesn’t ever really change their message. Unlike the first group, these companies know exactly who they are, exactly what they do, and exactly why they do. They never really change the message because it doesn’t need to change. This group seeks better execution and more true believers. They know that their conference is about reiterating the message and winning hearts and minds.

It’s hard to be inspired when every year the message changes. How can you believe that this year’s shiny object is going to solve all of your problems and bring success when “who you are” and “what you do” has changed three times in three years? The sales force simply waits you out. And they’re right to. If you really need to make change, you need to draw a line in the sand and stay on message until you get the change you need.

The reason people are energized by the same message (even though it might be delivered using different words and ideas), is because it provides meaning. The repetition deepens the belief. It means the path you are on is the right path and that it leads to success.

The trick is to stay on message.


Do you stay on message? Does your company stay on message? Or does the message continually change?

How long does it take to execute real change? How much can you accomplish in a year?

How do you stay on message while still providing inspiration and something to motivate your team?

Why is “new” always so tempting?

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  • Renée Fishman

    This is a great post Anthony. I think one of the reasons organizations change their message, and that shiny object syndrome is so rampant, is that our culture has conditioned us to expect major results in a short time frame. Look at the way the stock market runs – companies are forced to show results quarterly or their stock price takes a hit. Their stock can take a hit even if they show positive results but the results fall short of “expectations.” But in the real world, the path to results may be longer than it looked on the map.

    Another factor at play – which goes to your point – is that often we need to hear or learn things multiple times before we can truly “get it.” The intellectual understanding is only stage 1. To take a concept from idea to action we need to also have an emotional and physical understanding of it – processing it on several levels until it becomes a part of us. The time required for this to take place is not always in line with the the needs of the people who keep their eye on the financial bottom line. I don’t think that will change until the cost of changing message and approach becomes more tangible to the people running the companies.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Renée. Your spot on, too; we do expect and demand results in too short a time. But I hope we can change the idea that the next shiny object is the one that’s going to cure all of our ills. It isn’t. Deep down, I think we know that.

  • Kaptain Waleed Mirza

    Great one there..!! New is always enticing but change never is. Change demands for it from the internal structure, while the new thing observed or seen is influencing the external element and the external world.

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  • Delia Tam–Al Tobacco Grinders

    very nice experience.

  • Astro Gremlin

    Change for its own sake is called “grasping at straws.” Shiny objects lure those in a dark place.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Truer words were never spoken.