Leading Change

Anyone who doubts that everything is changing must be in a stupor of some kind. From my vantage point, everything is changing. And the faster that things change the faster the value of what you currently know is evaporating. To a greater degree than ever before, sustained learning is now key to your success as a salesperson or sales manager. No longer can you reach a point where you’ve “learned all you need to know” and can stand back and call it “good.”

We live in a world of too many options and too little time. That’s certainly not a new observation. How are salespeople expected to be effective in that environment? They do it by thinking on behalf of their clients or customers, and by creating real and customized value for those clients or customers.

More than ever before, salespeople must be equipped to create value and not merely to communicate it. In more and more cases, products and services require customization, tailoring and refinement before they are implemented. And the salespeople who are able to make that happen are the ultimate rainmakers. How do you make that practical? How does a salesperson think for their customers, identifying opportunities to create value? That’s the real rub. It requires that the salesperson develop a deep understanding of the businesses of his or her customers.

I know a salesperson that has developed a deep understanding of the industry segment into which she sells. She reads widely and is constantly on the lookout for new information, new connections and new perspectives. It enables her to see opportunity in what others believe is irrelevant background noise. For example, she learned about a significant unsold inventory problem one of her clients was trying to solve. She sells communication services that would seem unrelated to the problem. However, she was able to bring the problem back to her company and trigger the creation of a program of services that became a turnkey solution to the customer’s inventory problem. It was out of the box, entirely unprecedented, incredibly effective for the client and highly profitable for her company. And it would never have been created and proposed by anyone else in her sales organization.

A deep understanding of the customer’s business is what enables a genuinely consultative salesperson to use the outsider’s perspective, to identify opportunities for gains (reduced or eliminated expense, increased revenue), and to propose change that will deliver those gains to his or her customer. But delivering those gains means that the salesperson needs to develop the ability to lead change.

Leading change effectively calls for a series of skills that some see as peripheral to the core skills expected of salespeople. Leading change requires diagnostic skills. And it requires the ability to build consensus, adapting to the needs of multiple constituents. Most fundamentally, it requires a bedrock of business literacy uncommon among salespeople. To keep both your business literacy and your expertise in the customer’s business current requires a commitment to continual learning.

Leading change for the benefit of the customer is one of the most powerful ways to create unique value, and uniquely valuable relationships. And one of my favorite ways to describe and define “selling” is this: “creating valuable relationships where none existed before.” When was the last time someone asked you to define “selling?” When was the last time you heard someone trying to define “selling?” If you were asked that question before having read my definition above, what would you have said? Would you have included “leading change” in your definition?

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Part of my practice is coaching and training sales managers and salespeople to use methods that really work. If you could benefit, call me and let’s talk.