Getting Buy-in for a Sales Culture Change
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Getting Buy-in for a Sales Culture Change

Do you need to change the way your sales team does things? Perhaps sales are declining, and a change in direction is called for. Maybe a whole new method or approach is needed, to keep pace with “megatrends” in B2B sales, such as the move toward a more collaborative approach to working with clients in a team setting.

Most of us in sales management are wise to the way reps resist changes in the way they sell — even when those methods are ineffective, reps are reluctant to try something new.

What’s more, cynical “old hands” who have been through a series of sales culture changes will often figure that if they wait long enough, the new changes will blow over, and things will go back to normal.

So what’s the answer? How do you get your sales team to buy in to your new initiative, so that it will be successful? Here are three “been-there” keys to getting it right.

Number One: Have a Clear Rollout Strategy
A lack of strategic planning not only undercuts the most well-intentioned changes, but typically introduces more problems than it solves.

The first thing to do is carefully map out each step in the development and implementation of your new change initiative. For best results, seek out input, feedback and ideas from your sales reps — the very people you will be asking to implement the changes. There’s a fine line here: You want your reps to share their thoughts on what will help them the most in sales situations; you don’t want them taking over.

For example, if you are developing improved sales procedures or methodologies, perhaps involving new sales scripts, have your one or two of your top reps test, refine and retest them until they are ready to become part of the “sales playbook” for everyone. Rolling out too quickly — without being able to point to some early “wins” — will have a chilling effect.

Along the same lines, it’s hazardous to expect immediate and total buy-in from everyone on the sales team. It’s more realistic to figure on gradual adoption and to bring along reps slowly, reinforcing each new success as it comes in. Figure on a 90- to 120-day rollout and be clear about your goals and benchmarks in that timeframe.

Number Two: Get Champions Involved Early
Change management studies show that in any workgroup about 20% of employees will “get aboard” early on, about 60% will come along later, and the remaining 20% will drag their heels, and never really buy in fully. A classic mistake is to focus on the bottom 20%, when the exact opposite has a much higher long-term payoff.

Enlist your top producers (those who participated in the pilot testing) and turn them into “champions.” Incorporate their experience and best practices in your new sales playbook, and have them share their early “wins” with the rest of your sales team. Having your champions help sell the rest of the group is a great way to get faster buy-in from the rest of your team. It will also ensure that your top reps don’t undermine implementation later on.

Another good reason to share early “wins” with the team as a whole is that they will more easily answer the “What’s in it for me?” questions. Getting input from them is helpful as well, especially when it comes to problems they run into. Your champions can provide guidance and effective rebuttals, all of which go into the sales playbook everyone shares.

Number Three: Reward Progress
It’s unrealistic to expect a full and complete changeover without some fits and starts. Owners and top management tend to be in a hurry to see results —after all, you have invested time and money in making changes and want to see a payoff. But patience is called for.

Best to begin with coaching, measuring and rewarding each part of the new sales process one step at a time. That way you build momentum and reinforce the positives. Focus on the “early adopters” who have jumped in fully, and highlight their successes in team meetings. Record their calls, for example, and play them back for others on the team. Reward them for closed sales and turn the deals into “case studies” the rest of the team can learn from. When people see the new techniques working more effectively, they’ll follow suit. The best way to get stubborn reps on board is to see you giving attention and rewards to younger or newer reps that are doing things your way and succeeding.

Source: A posting by Mike Brooks. For more, visit

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