Sales Coaching – Mastering Representative Change for the Better

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Sales Coaching – Mastering Representative Change for the Better

Four Ways to Get Them Feeling Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

There’s one thing that’s guaranteed to happen every time you spend time coaching and managing your representatives…. overtly or subtly, they are going to be asked to change the way they think about or do something for the better.

Here’s the thing.

Change is uncomfortable IF it’s incorrectly framed or positioned.

Being uncomfortable with trying something new is brought on by over-estimating the value of what the rep has now compared to under-estimating what they may get in the future from the change.

Risky business indeed!

In fact I’m sure you’ve had coaching sessions where, rather than dealing with a change, the rep wants to argue or dispute or prove that there’s no need to do anything differently.

So, given that the success of your coaching session  may well depend on your ability to break through this feeling of uncomfortable-ness, here are 4 ideas adapted from Catherine Kaputa’s “Breakthrough Branding” – a study of successful entrepreneurs.

Successful entrepreneurs, who start new ventures, are surely the epitome of dealing with change. They are masters at feeling comfortable while working through this being of uncomfortable-ness.  

  1. Think “small” rather than “big” change/ idea.

Position the change as some kind of expected or natural “progress.” As Mark Twain said, “I’m in favour of progress; it’s change I don’t like.”

Steve Jobs, in introducing the iPod, said, “the coolest thing about the iPod is that your whole music library fits in your pocket.” In Oct 2001 there were plenty of portable music players, but none had the storage capacity or the small size of the iPod. A “natural progression.”

Catherine says, “if you can’t write your idea on the back of your business card or explain it to a 10-year old, you probably have a big, bad idea.”

  1. Try new things early on.

Rather than following conventional wisdom and being cautious at the beginning, now (ie today) is a great time to experiment and tweak the change.

Michael Jordan often said that the key to success meant learning how to fail; to try new things without an iron-clad guarantee that they would succeed.

Sit with your rep and plan a first-3-week campaign and what they’ll (and you’ll) do if it does work out and if it doesn’t work out. Set boundaries, but let them do it.

  1. Realise that a reaction like “you’re doing what?” means you’re onto something.

You can’t keeping doing the same things and expect different results. (Einstein’s definition of insanity) Or even worse, expect different results by working harder. (what does that even mean?)

And I’m not suggesting going outside of the boundaries of your industry’s Code-of-Conduct, or your company’s ethical business practices and values, and the like.

A change is often a fresh idea, or new take on an old problem, or maybe addressing something that is “known” by the customer but not talked about.

My point is that to get a reaction from, or attention of, the customer the rep needs to appeal to where the customer is heading with the way they do business.

It’s an “outside-in” perspective; understanding the customer’s context of what business they are “really in” (outside), and work inwards towards the specifics of what they do in their business.

What is the rep going to do that challenges the customer’s thinking; that creates the right amount of tension that makes some change advisable?

  1. Tap into their heart & feelings as much as their intellect.

The single most important question to answer when talking about change with your rep is WHY.

They’ll accept accountability when they see the “why” in what they do.

If they lack purpose or are resistant to change it’s because the change holds no meaning. So they stay in their comfort zone and limit their effort.

There’s no malevolence here. It’s just that there’s no connection between what you’re asking them to do and their inner values, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs in a way they understand.

You’ll know this disconnect is there when they say, “I’m not capable” or “I don’t know” or “it’s too complicated” or “it’s too messy” or “I’m confused” or “I don’t have the time.”

So, help your sales team to discover reasons why the new actions are meaningful to them.

Give them the responsibility for achieving the new outcomes in a way they want to achieve them, in an appropriate and agreed time span.

Then notice what does or doesn’t happen, keep talking and adjusting the action plan, rewarding initiative and results, and be supportive.

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