Leading Change to Improve Sales Performance

Written by Rob Malec

For a business owner, launching a new sales process is as much an exercise in behavioural change management as it is in sales process optimization. To improve sales performance, having your team clear on what to do in terms of the sales process is only the first step. More important is having them understand how to do it, and then following through to actually do it!

If your sales team is made up of seasoned veterans, then it is certain they have well-developed ways of doing things and firmly entrenched work habits. Even if they are new hires freshly out of school, they’ll come to you with well-developed ways of doing things and work habits – some good and some bad.

How to Manage Behavioural Change to Improve Sales Performance

In my role as a Fractional VP Sales, I’ve worked with many companies to optimize their sales processes and then launch them. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way about managing behavioural change to improve sales performance…

Communicate to Your Team Why This Change, and Why Now

Even if a sales team has been underperforming and intellectually knows what they have been doing is not working, they still need you to tell them why you’re changing your approach to selling, and why now. Let your team know the business imperative at hand. Tell them what will happen if there is no change made to the sales approach. Your people need to hear from their boss that future growth is imperilled if a new approach to sales is not taken.

Identify Who Is Leading the Change to Improve Sales Performance

When implementing new processes, your team will need to know who is in charge.

  • If they have a CRM issue, who do they go to?
  • If they have an issue related to the sales process, who is the resource to tap?
  • If there are marketing applications, who is at the wheel of that?

As you roll out changes meant to improve sales performance, your team will invariably encounter sticking points. In the absence of identifying who is in charge, the team will likely simply stop the new thing they are doing and fall back on old behaviours. Identifying who the point people to go to are when getting stuck will allow getting unstuck to happen.

Clearly Define the New Approach to Improving Sales Performance at a Granular Level

Your salespeople will want to know exactly what is changing, down to the nitty-gritty details. As changes are being made to their day-to-day duties and tasks, this makes all the sense in the world. Share process flow inventories and flowcharts as required that not only depict the new way of doing things but also compare and contrast them to the old way of doing things. This will help your salespeople see why change is necessary and how it will benefit everyone.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Be prepared for the fact that no matter how much care you put into communicating the new approaches with granularity and clarity, your team will still be unclear in the early stages. There is simply too much coming at them for them to grasp everything in the first go. Set up initial launch meetings and a series of follow-up meetings to communicate and re-communicate what needs doing and how to do it.

Provide the Tools Your Team Needs to Successfully Change and Improve Sales Performance

Prior to launch, think through all tools your team will need to successfully implement the new sales process (think CRM, emailing software, sales scripts, process flows etc.). Have them ready on launch day. It stands to reason that if a team is asked either to do new things or to do old things in new ways if they are not given the tools to help with execution then the new approaches will fail.

Provide Coaching to Improve Sales Performance

If weekly coaching is not something you already do with your sales team, be sure to implement it when launching a new sales approach. For all the reasons listed above, it’s incumbent upon you to stay close to your people and ensure that the change you want to see is taking hold.

There are two types of meetings you should set up. The first is a regular team sales meeting to keep the whole group aligned and allow for project course correction. The other meetings to schedule are one-on-one sales coaching sessions to peel the onion on the challenges individual team members are facing. The temptation to slip back into the old ways is great. Regular coaching allows leadership to identify sticking points early and often so they can be addressed, and behaviour can successfully change.

Celebrate Wins

Celebrate wins generated from using the new sales approach in the same way you would celebrate the first wobbly steps taken by a toddler. Jump up and down, ring the bell, and get excited! Short-term wins, no matter how small, prove that the process has all parties headed in the right direction.  This celebration anchors the new approaches in the culture and sets the stage to celebrate further successes as you improve sales performance.

My thinking on managing behavioural change has been deeply influenced by Leading Change by JP Kotter. It’s a book I highly recommend for all leaders. If you would like to discuss how you might manage leading change in your own company, please feel free to reach out to me.


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