Ray Collis

How Well Are You Selling Change?

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5 Ways Change Can Stall The Sale

When it comes to the complex sale the salesperson is often cast in the role of catalyst and change agent.  But, selling change is not easy.

For the customer change can stumble at any of the following 5 steps:

1. Build awareness of the need for change

2. Get agreement or commitment on the need for change

3. Ensure a consensus / clarity on what the actual changes should be

4. Translate the commitment into action on the ground

5. Sustain the change – making it stick particularly in the longer term

For some customers the most immediate barrier to change may be a lack of awareness (1) of the need for change, for others it may be taking action (2) to make it happen.

Which of the 5 obstacles to change represent the greatest challenge to winning the sale?

To progress the sale the seller should focus on helping the buyer to transition from one step to the next.  This can be quite different to the traditional ‘always be closing’ sales approach.


Are The Changes Hard Or Soft?

To understand the changes for your customer it is helpful to distinguish between what we call ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ changes.

‘Hard’ change includes changes to:  – Process       – System        – Strategy      – Structure

Take for example:

– The purchase of a back office administration system.  Successful implementation is likely to require process changes as well as changes in strategy and perhaps a restructuring of administrative function.  The appetite for these changes is likely to have a major bearing on the buying decision.

– The implementation of a new compliance regime is likely to require new forms of reporting, as well as changes to systems in order to present the required compliance data.  The total cost of ownership will include the cost of all of these related changes.

‘Hard’ changes can be costly and time-consuming.   However they may be more manageable than what are ironically called ‘soft changes’.

‘Soft’ change, include changing people’s:   –  Behaviours    –  Attitudes      –  Beliefs


The Hardest Type Of Change

Changing the code in a software system or the steps in a process is easier than changing the way people think and behave.

The problem however is that ‘hard changes’ often necessitate ‘soft changes’ to take place in tandem.   This is where organizations often face their greatest challenges.

It is often in the areas of changing behavior that systems, process and strategy initiatives fall down.  This is manifest in:

– Poor levels of user adoption of systems

– High levels of non-compliance with process

– Gap between the strategy and its implementation.

Getting people to change is almost universally recognized as a challenge.  But, what can the seller do about it?  Let’s examine that next…

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