Tibor Shanto posed an interesting situation in a LinkedIn discussion:

Got an interesting question or scenario for people who work with sales managers, presented by an experienced sales manager and her new company. She was invited to join the company because of her track record in the industry. They wanted her to establish a similar team and process to the one she had implemented at her previous company and told her she had Carte Blanche. It turns out there was a silent asterisk: “Do whatever you want, just don’t change anything other than the results.” What’s her best move four months on the job?

I was surprised at the tone of the discussion. Most of the comments. Most of them were more on the side of, “F**k ’em, they gave her carte blanche, she should do what she wants to do…..” (This is my phrasing, most people aren’t as crude as I.) Others talked about the incompetence of top management, and other similar comments. The recommendations ended up being very strong and very confrontational—after all, they appeared to have reneged on their commitment and we need to confront them with that.

To me, the situation looks a lot like a typical sales situation. Often we encounter customers who seem to be clueless, who don’t recognize they may be doing things wrong, that there are better ways to achieve their goals, they are missing opportunities. They are often very resistant to change, for any number of good and bad reasons.

No one, even the leading “provocative sellers,” would recommend the following approach to these customers, “You stupid, clueless customers!!! Don’t you realize how backwards you are, don’t you realize your competitors are passing you by, don’t you realize if you don’t change you will become roadkill on the business highway?!!!???”

We know customers don’t like confrontational or obnoxious behavior. We realize, they may just not know, they may be too busy in managing the day to day, they may just be prisoners of their own experience.

They may have made poor decisions, executed poorly. Certainly, where they are and the problems they have are the result of these, and if there were blame, the blame is solely on them.

But we know calling them out on their ignorance, lack of foresight, poor execution, and mistakes is not likely to get them to listen to us and consider changing.

We invest time in teaching, educating, getting them to recognize a better way of doing things. We get them to realize there may be a better way, but they still resist, fearful of the change and risk. We know we have to get them to recognize the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of change.

We all know, that to be successful, we have to engage the customer in thinking differently, commit to change and see themselves at the center of that change.

So we come back to our own organizations. Are we any different? A sales person trying to sell us and our management something, wouldn’t call us fools or clueless. Instead they would do what they know to be successful in engaging customers and getting them to change.

But when it happens to us, in our own organizations, why do we react and execute differently. Why do we whine, complain, argue, threaten, fight, speak poorly of managers or peers.

What would happen if we looked at the changes we want to drive in our own organizations as another sales opportunity? We could qualify the need to change, we could incite the need to change through creating a new vision, we could educate, teach, do all the things we would do with a customer.

We would recognize that just as our customers struggle with change, our own leaders and people struggle. We have to acknowledge that, making the pain of doing nothing greater than the pain of change.

It seems we would be much more effective in driving change in our own organizations if we started looking at our leaders, managers, peers, and people as customers—leveraging much of what we do in great selling in our work with them.

Sure there will be some we lose, just like customers, but it seems the current ways we do things don’t have “high win rates,” so why not try?

SOURCEPartners in Excellence
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Dave Brock
Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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