Change: A Selling Mission

fear uncertainty doubt

We all know that “change” within our business organizations is not always well received, and instead is met by the “FUD” factor (fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

Consider that, in their daily quest for new customers, sales people constantly struggle to overcome buyers’ comfort with the status-quo. In organizations of all types, people tend to look with skepticism at new policies and procedures, and look with deep concern at new compensation plans or updated benefits packages; and people at all levels regularly cringe at the suggestion that there might be a different or better way to do their jobs!

Yet without change comes stagnation… and potentially worse things too. Well known examples include Polaroid, Kodak, Blockbuster, or Blackberry, each experiencing significant declines, or worse, as competitors introduced new and better alternatives.

The cassette tape replaced the eight-track, but was then outdone by the compact disc, which was undercut by MP3 players… and the list can go on.

A Selling Mission…
If we are to learn from these examples, then we must accept the fact that change is a critical component of growth and ongoing success.

Or, as Lew Platt, the late CEO of Hewlett Packard put it, “Whatever made you successful in the past won’t in the future.”

But if people tend to resist change as previously noted, how might business leaders and managers best go about getting their teams to accept it — to buy in? How can we help people more readily embrace process improvement programs, new protocols, or new pricing models? How can we help people to believe in the up-side of change?

Simply stated, we must sell it.

Just like the sales and marketing experts who create the “new and improved” ad copy, slogans and selling presentations, we must sell the concept of change to our team members before, during and after the roll-out new policies, procedures, campaigns, programs or plans.

And just like any sales mission, this will require forethought and planning.

We might start by identifying how the team will benefit from a proposed change. What’s in it for them? What are the consequences of not changing? What will it cost? What opportunities might we lose?

What’s the competition doing?

The next step is to determine how to properly position a proposed change. Since we know there is a tendency toward defensiveness, it’s important to make people understand that they are not the problem. In other words, a change in policy or approach need not mean that the team has been doing things the wrong way. Rather, it means the world is changing and we must change too, lest we fall behind.

Finally, once the presentation is made and the new whatever is launched, there must be follow-up reinforcement and assessment. Has everything worked as we’d hoped? Should we modify the new plan? Are there unforeseen consequences? While we don’t want to send a message indicating we’re not resolved to the new program or approach, it is also a good idea to let everyone know we’re fair and open-minded — that at the end of the day we’re all on the same side.

An Uphill Battle?
Change may be unsettling, but without it our futures are at risk. Fortunately there are ways to minimize the negative effects and increase acceptance by the workforce. But change management or leadership requires effort, planning and persistence, as behaviors and attitudes are not easily influenced, and without staying-the-course leaders risk failure.

While people often say that change management is an uphill battle, maybe Margaret Thatcher summed it up best when saying, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it!”