Change is all around us and if we don’t embrace it, we will be left behind. The field of sales is changing on a daily, almost hourly basis and the salespeople who adapt to the changes the best are also the most successful.
As a sales manager, it is up to you to decide what needs to change and when it needs to change. It is also up to you to lead your team through those changes. While it can sound daunting, there are some criteria that will make it easier.
• Policy - Any change by its nature is going to require some sort of change in policy. Policies provide a road map for salespeople and a change to one of those policies changes the road map. Policies are non-negotiable and that needs to be clear to all involved.
Let’s say, as a manager, you decide to start capturing customers’ information via a profile system. Start by explaining that the reason for the change is to make following up and keeping in contact with customers easier and more effective, thus providing your salespeople an opportunity to create sales with existing customers. While explaining the reason for the change, it is also important that you continue to make it clear that this is the new policy and must always be followed. Secondly, explain how you are going to implement the change and what the role of each salesperson will be in the change. While getting buy in from your sales staff is helpful, it’s not required. If you change policy, expect it to be followed.
• Training - Anytime there is any kind of change in the way things are done, there must be some training to go along with that change. Sometimes the training will be easy and quick and other times it will be longer and more intense.
If your company makes a deal to carry a new line of engagement rings, then that’s a change and it’s going to take some additional product knowledge training. Salespeople are going to have to be trained on the rings, how they are made, their gemstones, their prices, etc.
It’s up to the sales manager to provide the training and ensure that every salesperson is fully versed on the new line of rings before they step onto the sales floor. A new product line is something that is probably going to require some intense training, but there are some other changes where the training may literally last five minutes.
A small change to how supplies are stored, for example, can probably be done in a few minutes. Just remember that a short training does not mean a shabby training. Make sure you are taking the time necessary to fully explain the change and make sure all your salespeople understand. You would rather take a few extra minutes in the beginning to make sure everyone is up to speed rather than having to spend hours later correcting invoices that were not entered correctly.
Whether the change is big or small, they have one thing in common. Both are going to require some sort of training to ensure that the change has the desired effect.
• Justification - The main reason most people fear change is because they don’t understand it or what it means for them. The most important thing a sales manager can do to ensure that their change will be successful lies in communication. Let your salespeople know why you are making the change and what results you are expecting because of that change.
Maybe you decide that acknowledging every customer as they enter the store will present a welcoming environment, leading to increased customer engagement, leading to increased sales. That reasoning makes complete sense as to why you are making a change. If you just say “acknowledge every customer” without any justification, then you are likely to get some push back. However, if you take the time to explain why you want every customer acknowledged and how it will benefit everyone, then you are likely to get buy in. Most people are willing to make changes if they see a benefit, both to the company and to themselves. So if a sales manager can justify the change, then everyone is going to be much happier.
• Incentives - Anytime there is a change to the way things have always been done, there is likely to be some hesitation or even resistance by those being affected by the change. Now in a perfect world, everyone would embrace change and trust that the changes are going to be for the better. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes we need a little extra motivation or incentives to fully embrace change.
That incentive, whenever possible, should be a natural incentive that is a direct result of the change. For example, if the sales manager decides to change how his/her salespeople engage with customers, then the natural incentive is the idea that the change will lead to better relationships with customers. If the relationships are better, then sales are likely to increase, and the salesperson has their natural incentive.
Not all incentives are positive, although it’s ideal if they are. Sometimes an incentive is simply if you embrace the change, you keep your job. If you choose to resist and not accept the change, then you lose your job.
• Consequences - If we look back to the example of acknowledging every customer, maybe the reward will be increased sales, profits and potentially financial rewards. For those that are not willing or simply refuse to adhere to the new policy, then the steps to termination have to be administered. When a sales manager notices that a salesperson is not adhering to the change and not acknowledging customers, then he/she may start with the consequence of more training or even something more severe like a reduction in hours. But over time the salesperson has to adhere to the policy. The full steps to termination are Verbal Warning, Verbal Warning, Written Warning, Written Warning, Final discussion, then termination. You have a right to insist on things being done a certain way. You are held accountable for the success of the store - just as salespeople have to be held accountable to adhering to the policies of the store.
Change is a necessary part of life and sales. What worked years ago in the field of sales is not likely to work today. Customers change, their needs and wants change, products change and so on. If salespeople can’t embrace change, then they are not going to be salespeople for very long.
Remember: Change is Inevitable - Growth is Optional!