Today's guest post is by Nick Rini, CEO of Selleration. Selleration combines 3D avatar role plays with predictive analytics to provide sales managers with actionable insight into the performance and productivity of their teams.
Sales leaders are constantly leading our sales organizations through various transitions to address customer needs, navigate market conditions, overcome pricing pressures, and outdo the competition. Almost every one of those transitions requires a change in behavior to break habits and establish new ones that support your mission.
Whether we’re trying to improve customer satisfaction scores or get our salespeople to sell higher in the customer org chart, behavior change is the key factor to success.
So, how do sales leaders typically go about changing behavior? We usually start with sales training. We offer a stick, a contest, or a financial incentive. Too often, though, we employ the worst tactic of all – the dreaded mandate – to encourage change. We ignore the need for reinforcement. Then, we get disappointing results. We find that the training didn’t stick beyond the time it takes to walk from the training room to a salesperson’s BMW.
Why does this happen? Because we’ve missed the point! We give our troops training, incentives, and warnings to change their behavior, but we don’t change their thinking about the mission. We don’t compel them to adopt the mission and own the results.
So how do you really achieve behavior change?
The answer is simple. Mindset Transformation (MT). Mindset Transformation is the process of changing the way people think about and view the mission. It’s the epiphany (or the “aha” moment) that causes us to make drastic behavior changes – like quitting smoking/drinking or committing to a weight-loss regimen. Because the urge to change comes from within rather than an external source (for example, incentives, rewards, punishments, etc.) we’re more empowered when we align our behaviors with the results we want.
How does sales training complement MT? Sales training is informational and great for addressing the questions that begin with “How do I..?” By contrast, MT is about answering questions that start with “Why should I…?”
There are many ways to facilitate MT. Elements of MT include visualization, learning by doing, and understanding: 1) how we fit in the big picture, 2) how important a role each of us plays in accomplishing the mission, and 3) what’s in it for us. Sometimes it’s a matter of helping people understand how easy something is to accomplish. I’ve accomplished MT with games and simulations by putting salespeople in real-world selling situations where they understand the power and importance they have. We put reinforcement components in place as well to keep them on track. An approach to performing MT is as follows.
1. Communicating mission – Call a team meeting to inform them about the mission. Invite them to ask questions and share their thoughts about how to accomplish the mission.
2. Understanding mindset baseline – Ask your team members to share their perceptions of the mission, company and management. This helps identify how those perceptions might manifest as challenges and obstacles that could affect the mission. Know that your team may communicate a wide variety of frustrations and fears – some may not be related to the mission. It’s important to hear them out on each and every point. As you guide them through this process, weed out elements that are irrelevant to the mission. (You can always commit to addressing frustrations that do not relate to the mission at a separate time.)
3. Engaging – Have your team develop the plan that will accomplish the mission. They have to be the ones to lay out the goals, the end results, and the steps required to achieve the desired results. This is where they begin to take ownership of the mission and results. They will likely tell you why it’s impossible or difficult. You need to understand why they believe this can’t be done. It will likely boil down to some things you have to address – like access to information or a resource to make prequalifying calls. At this point, you need to commit to, and possibly explain, how you will address their concerns that would otherwise hinder their ability to accomplish the mission. Your commitment to participate in the removal of obstacles – whether it’s red tape or some other issue – is either a deal breaker or a deal maker. If you’re not able to do this for them, they’re not likely to commit.
4. Obtaining “Buy-in” – Ask the team for their commitment. “Can we get this done?” “Are you confident we can meet the goals we have here?” You may need to reiterate your commitment to removing the obstacles they have identified. You should challenge them as well. Ask them, “What will keep this from happening as we’ve laid it out in this plan?” You’ll know immediately whether they’re committed and feel they own the mission. If not, you’ve missed something important. Go back to step 2 and repeat that process, follow with step 3, and then move on to step 4 until you have garnered the commitment of the team.
5. Reinforcing and tracking – Ask the team to develop a plan for how you will track progress and reinforce the behavior desired. This is essential to succeeding. Maybe create a spreadsheet that contains milestones and dates you can use as checkpoints.
Empowering your team to do their jobs by removing red tape; giving them the tools, authority, autonomy, incentives, and support they need to accomplish the mission; and clearing the way for success will foster MT.
By the way, your top performers naturally have a different mindset than the rest of the pack. That’s the primary reason they tend to succeed – usually independently. You might take some time to understand what makes them tick, but it will be enlightening and could help you identify skills and behaviors that help transform the mindset of other reps!