I recently saw a McKinsey blog on changing mindsets and behavior, one “nudge” at a time, and it got me thinking about the level of reluctance to trying new things and strategies in the field of professional sales.
Change and the Power of Habit
I have had the privilege of working with Gerhard Gschwandtner on Peak Performance Mindset™ and examining how the power of negativity and habit have created cultures of underperformance. Old habits die hard – especially when we reinforce those old habits ourselves.
The McKinsey article notes an example of having someone hold a warm mug to make the person you are interacting with friendlier. I think of the television show, The Big Bang Theory, and the quirky, emotionally-challenged, and insensitive Sheldon, who always offers someone a hot beverage when they are in distress. Little did I understand that I was getting a basic psychology lesson from a sitcom.
As we assimilate this to leadership in sales, it is clear that leaders are in a constant struggle to promote and facilitate among their teams an endless parade of process and mindset changes: CRM engagement, new products and services, shifting strategic objectives (market share vs. profitability), competitive environment, desired sales role (trusted advisor vs. challenger vs. consultative), optimizing team dynamics, improved sales strategies, pipeline management, prospecting, social selling, etc., etc.
What’s the Best Coaching Strategy to Tackle Change?
Is a constructive “nudging” coaching strategy to change behavior feasible when the challenge of adaptation is so formidable? First, the list of changes coming at our sales team is exhaustive and never ending. Second, from a sales team member’s perspective of, “doing as I have always done is easier,” maybe the proposed changes don’t seem all that compelling.
I believe the answer for leaders is to resist loading all these initiatives on our sales teams at once and, instead, decide which single thing is most important and might also relate to other initiatives and facilitate other positive changes.
For example, finding one aspect of the CRM that is valuable to a sales professional and encouraging its use may then lead to additional CRM adaptation – pipeline creation or improved management. Incremental nudging will facilitate change over time.
Each small item or benefit you identify can change the team mindset to one of positivity and openness. If changing one small behavior results in one benefit realized, the recognition of positive change begins to build upon itself to create an anticipation of positive changes. Most importantly, individual changes accumulate and lead to significant and sweeping change.
Conclusion: Take Change One Step at a Time
Sales leaders can’t expect to change their sales teams’ entire situation at once (and that is so often the expectation), but we can change one behavior – and build on that to create a culture that embraces change and development.