2mm to Sales Mastery | 4 Essential Keys to Behavior Change in Sales

4 Essential Keys to Behavior Change in Sales

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the “10 Benefits of a Standardized Sales Methodology,” which can be found here. In that article, I mentioned that there are four essential keys for any sales methodology to be successful. They were:

  1. Executive Sponsorship
  2. Change Management
  3. Manager Involvement and Accountability
  4. Continuous Reinforcement

Today I am going to take that one step further and say that these 4 keys are essential for any program to be adopted and have any chance of success in sales. Unfortunately, many sales leaders see symptoms and have knee-jerk reactions to those symptoms and bark orders to their Sales Enablement teams on what needs to happen like “We don’t have enough pipeline, we need more prospecting training ASAP!” While that may be true, it’s hardly ever the root cause of the real problem, and spending time, money, and effort on addressing the symptom rather than the root cause is a dangerous game, but one that most companies play continuously bypassing these 4 keys.

I often find that there are two types of Sales Enablement practitioners, those that are tactical and those that are strategic, strategic practitioners understand the importance of these 4 keys and understand their importance but there is still a small subset of those that can successfully leverage these 4 keys to drive a successful program through an organization and maximize behavior change and adoption.

Let’s dive into each one.

Executive Sponsorship.

This is THE #1 key to the success of a program. Having a leader that will sponsor the program and be a champion for its success, cast a vision across the organization on the impact it will have been crucial. Without this, a program cannot be successful at all. However, let me add some context to this. The executive sponsor can't just be a cameo or a name to use by others, this person must be engaged from beginning to end and must be willing to step in at key points throughout the program to push or pull and to have difficult conversations when necessary. Many times, organizations say they have an executive sponsor, but they have someone who has okayed their name be used but doesn't want to be involved. That is a recipe for failure because front-line managers and sellers must see that this leader is going to see this through and that no matter the grumbling or heel-dragging, they will ensure this program is successful. 100% of sales managers have Self-Limiting Sales Management Beliefs. Beliefs include, “coaching won’t work” or “my salespeople won’t follow a sales process” or “If I hold my salespeople accountable they’ll quit”. If managers have any of those beliefs, what are the chances that they can apply what they’re learning to anyone else?

Change Management.

This one is the most underestimated and often overlooked piece of the puzzle. When implementing new programs too many organizations overlook the importance of a well thought out change management process and communications plan to drive the program through the organization in a way that it is accepted, and people feel good about the change. In the change management process, we cannot underestimate culture and whether the organization is like a speedboat or like a huge aircraft carrier to change directions and accept change. Some nimble, organizations require little change management because change is highly accepted and expected and others are change adverse and require much more robust change management plans to ensure that the program is accepted.

Manager Involvement and Accountability.

Sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching have salespeople who have a sales effectiveness score 28% higher than those managers who devote little-to-no time coaching. When thinking about how to implement a successful program to drive long-term behavior change, managers MUST be involved and be held accountable for ensuring their teams are leveraging the learning and utilizing the skills. Too often I hear, “our managers don’t have time, we can’t ask them to do anything else, they are overburdened.” Honestly, I get it but that tells me that managers are not doing what they were hired to do, lead, coach, and develop their sellers if they don’t have time to do those things, we need to take a hard look at what else we are asking them to do and why its taking priority over what should be their #1 priority. For Sales Enablement to be successful they must rely on front-line sales managers to be a strong partner in reinforcing skills and in having their own continuous learning cycle within their teams.

Continuous Reinforcement.

Sales managers with strong coaching skills are 230% more likely to have elite salespeople working for them. Without it, behavior WILL NOT change. Reinforcement is often the first thing to be removed from a budget sadly. Too often I hear, “we want a half-day of training on x, y, or z” with the expectation that it will do anything more than check a box. To drive actual change there needs to be pre-work, intra-program work, and post-work and reinforcement in partnership with the manager to reinforce skills until they are mastered by sellers with effective measurement strategies in place to assess how sellers are improving over time (for example an effective competency model that is well utilized and integrated to all learning, in alignment with a predictive sales analysis).

While there are several other ingredients and variables that drive the success or failure of programs these are the four, I have witnessed over the last fifteen years that are most essential.

Author: Isidro Iturralde