The Change Curve was originally created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 and is a useful model that describes the personal and organizational process of change. It will help you understand how you will react to changes, so you can better plan what to do next going through that change process.
Changes are happening right now in sales. And it is not about the newest sales process. It’s about changes that are happening around you in the business world. And it does require you to change the way you sell. What is going on? And where are you on the Change Curve?
Internet. There are a couple of things that have changed the way businesses do business. First of course is the internet. This largest information bank has empowered companies to access data, ideas, solutions what they previously couldn’t. They have access to so much information that indeed many buyers may think “why do we need sales people at all?” Whereas in the past sales people were the source of information about products, services and solutions, now buyers just “look it up”. This has an impact on the way you approach potential customers. Reasons like “checking in” or “stopping by” will not get you that appointment anymore. You got to change.
Globalization. The world is getting smaller. There are more potential customers available to companies and they have changed the way they do business by investing and exploring that opportunity. However, they face also more competition, whereas in the past you could count your nearest competitors on one hand and were in the vicinity of 500km, now new competitors are popping up when you don’t expect and can be anywhere in the world. This has increased competitiveness dramatically; businesses try to differentiate beyond products and services. If you are not talking that kind of language and your competitor sales rep is, guess who is drawing the short end of the stick? You got to change the way you engage with your potential customer.
Commoditization. Research shows that buyers are already half through their buying process by the time they contact salespeople. That means they have identified themselves what needs to change to achieve what they need to achieve and they have defined the criteria that needs to be met if they would change supplier. In other words, they think they have found the solution to their problems and challenges and go through a supplier selection process of those who meet their criteria. Following this process you are treated as a commodity and all the buyer is after is a best price. The buyer does not see the difference between you and your competitors, in their view you are all more or less the same. You cannot let this happen, you need to fight back and reverse their thinking process all the way to identifying what they exactly are trying to achieve and how you can possibly help in a different way than the buyer has been thinking of so far. This requires changes in the way you sell.
Consensus. The way final decision makers are making decisions has changed. They’re including more stakeholders, and when they decide to abandon the status quo, they’re doing it with the consensus of more of their team members. Whereas in the past you could get one person to sign on the dotted line after going through the closing phase of your sales process, this is no longer possible the more complex the sale is. You need to be in touch, share insights and sell your solution to each of every stakeholder; what is in it for them and for the company overall when they choose you as the new supplier. This requires a lot of work and business acumen skills. You got to have these. You got to change.
When you read the above message that you got to change the way you sell, some sales people’s initial reaction may be shock or denial. In your opinion you are doing well, you have good relationships with your customers, you are hitting your targets…so why should you change? This is stage 1 of the Change Curve.
Once the reality starts to hit, people tend to react negatively and move to stage 2 of the Change Curve. They may feel angry they did not see the change coming or resist and protest against the changes. Some will wrongly fear the negative consequences for them to react. Others will correctly identify real threats to their position. This is a stressful and unpleasant stage.
For everyone, it is much healthier to move to stage 3 of the Change Curve, where pessimism and resistance give way to some optimism and acceptance. At stage 3 of the Change Curve, people stop focusing on what they have lost. They start to let go, and accept the changes happening around them and possible impacts on them. They begin testing and exploring what the changes mean, and so learn the reality of what’s good and not so good, and how they must adapt.
By stage 4, they not only accept the changes but also start to embrace them: they rebuild their ways of working. Only when people get to this stage they can really start to reap the benefits of change.
So, where are you on the Change Curve? Have you accepted that changes like Globalization, Internet, Commoditization and Consensus are happening and impacting companies to work different than before? Are you already discovering what that means to you, how you need to engage differently with your potential customers? How should you adapt the way you are selling?
Sales people help companies change how they do things. We change people’s minds. We change their minds about who they should select as a partner, changing their preference to us from our competitor. It is crucial you got to have changed the way you sell first, before others let you change them.
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