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Selling Is About Change And Change Management

by David Brock on October 9th, 2009

I wonder why we never talk much about change and change management–except when it is happening to us.  When it happens to us, we usually are very uncomfortable and resist it. 

But at its core, isn’t sales really about change for our customers?  As sales professionals we are facilitating our customers in changing what they do or how they operate.  We are asking them to abandon what they are currently doing, convincing them to do something differently–hopefully to make them better or to allow them to address new opportunities.

As part of our sales process, how often do we talk to customers about change?  Just as we are uncomfortable with change and tend to resist it, our customers face the same fears and uncertainty.  It’s natural for people to react this way.  Yet, instead of talking to customers about change, helping them understand and embrace it, we focus on our products, features, functions, and benefits.  We leave it to our customers to deal with the C-word.  Typically, we leave them alone to struggle with all the issues that change brings.

What would happen if we started focusing much of what we do when we sell on directly addressing concerns about change and change management?  What if we started to understand why people resist change and worked to remove the fears and barriers?  What if we helped them understand the value of changing?  What if we put them at the center of identifying changes that should be made and in developing the plan for implementing change?  What if instead of becoming victims of change, they become agents of change?

When people understand the reasons for change, when they understand the path to success in implementing change, when they are a part of making the critical decisions about change, their fear and resistance tend to disappear, replaced with enthusiasm and a clear vision of something that is making them and their organizations better and grow.

Sales professionals are agents of change.  But we don’t talk about it.  We aren’t trained in it.  We’re pretty bad about helping our customers manage it.  Maybe all this should change.

From → Leadership

  1. Thanks for the post, Dave. I think that change should be a two-way street: one end must come from the marketers and the other from the customers. It may be tricky at first but it will be much easier in due time.

    • Thanks for your continued comments. I thnk there are lots of areas that need to change to improve overallorganizational effectiveness. A qucik, reaction to your comment, though.

      It is natural for people to resist change. There is no reason for customers to change, unless sales presents a compelling reason for change that creates meaningful value. I think sales overlooks the change management aspect of what we do, by doing so, we don’t help the customer in becoming comfortable wih the changes. The onus is on us, not the customer in this case.

      Don’t get me starte on marketing!

      Thanks for your continued engagement. Regards, Dave

  2. Ranbir Malik permalink

    Human beings by nature tend to resist change big or small. We tend to get in the comfort zone in the known chartered territory by doing what we like to do repetitively without much thoughts and efforts. Change impels us to look at and do the things differently which is likey to be tougher initially. Therfore, we in the sales can be impeccable catalysts to induce in the customer the indulgence and urge to look at/mirror things differently and help them to understand and manager the change comfortably.

  3. Imad Khorma permalink

    First of all thank you David very much for bringing this issue up, and yes we don’t talk about it and even sometimes we don’t want to think about it because we know that change is something diffecult.
    Actually yes we are asking our partners to Change, without thinking of the change resistance, or the resistance that they will face from their own employees or/ and customers.

    • Imad, thanks for the comment. You are absolutely correct, yet we don’t train our sales people on change, how people react to change, how we can facilitate change. It seem to me that developing skills in this might have a great impact on our ability to sell.

      Thanks for the comment. I hope you continue to visit and comment! Regards, Dave

  4. James Meyer permalink

    Excellent article.

    I have always looked as my role in the sales process as being an agent of change and felt that it was my responsibility to educate everyone on the client side regarding the necessities and benefits of change.

    As a side note, it has also been a means by which I have evaluated the possibilities of success and timelines to close in complex sales environments where loosing to a “no decision” was a distinct possibility. Often, overcoming resistance to change hinges on demonstrating to decision makers and influencers that the pain of change is less than the pain of continuing current methods of operation. Educating the client is key to success.

    Thank you!

    • James, thanks for your comment. Your obeservations mirror my experience. I am continually amazed by the number of people and organizations that know there are better alternatives and solutions, but don’t choose those purely because of the discomfort with change.

      At the same time, I think we don’t equip sales people — in traditional training — to understand how difficult it is for people and organizations to change and how to overcome that resistance. We would increase our success tremendously if we provide that leadership to our customers.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! Keep visiting and commenting. These discussions are the most valuable part of the blog!

  5. H.S. KUKREJA permalink

    True to the core. Change is a must and there is no escape from it. But at the same time, willing acceptance of change is something unthinkable considering the colossal phobia for the unknown terrain post transition. Though the people may feel grossly mismatching their present, the idea of change is destined for cold reception. On their own, they will not say yes to change unless the pain of their present comfort zone gets bigger than the change phobia.

    They need strong motivation or very convincing education that, in this fast changing milieu, if they fail to keep pace with the change they will be lost. We have to make them understand that it is a sad misconception that standing still they will retain their place, that even if they don’t move an inch backward, sooner or later, they will find themselves behind everyone as all others would have run past them. Change is not longer a choice; it is a compulsion

  6. Interesting comments David,thanks.Are those changes both changes the client needs to make to stay competitive as well changes the client may need to make to change to a new suppiler? How do you equpie sales people to help clients through change?



    • Ian, thanks for the question. As sales people presenting the customer a solution, we are asking them to do something different–change. The reasons we ask them are varied and could include changing vendors, changing to stay competitive, changing to take advantage of new opportunities, changing to reduce costs, and so forth.

      Most sales people fail to recognize that we are asking them to change and fail to understand people’s natural resistance to change. They don’t know how to deal with these issues and help their customers recognize that they need to change and to embrace the process of change. Sales people would be much more effective if they learned how to do this.

  7. Betsy Palkowsky permalink

    Thanks to everyone that has commented so far I found the conversation quite interesting. The comments made me think about how my organization might bring this topic up to the sales group. I then realized that we have to train all the folks that are involved in the sales process not just sales (yes, marketing included). This would be a paradigm shift for a lot of organizations.

    As with all sales its about solving the customers business problem and part of that is helping them with the changes required to buy and deploy your offering.

    I wonder if there are any organizations that have embraced this idea and what their results are.

    • Betsy, what a thoughtful response! I particularly like the view that you need to engage everyone who touches the selling process. You are right on target.

      If you want to benchmark organizations that incorporate change management into their sales development and strategies, I would look at services focused organizations (ie systems integrators, etc.). Many of these organizations explicitly incorporate change management into their implementation process. Some of the processes and tools “slip” into the selling process.

      Also, organizations that embrace a strong Value Based approach to their selling process (real not lip service), actually have to incorporate change management into their business justification, though few think about it explicitly. Many organizations do it unconsciously, my argument is that we need to start explicitly incorporating this into their sales strategies and processes.

      Thanks for the very thoughtful comment. If you would like to discuss how you can start incorporating these approaches into your organization, I’d be delighted to chat. Keep visiting, your comments are great!

  8. John Peters permalink

    Great perspective and article David!


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