Sales Rep = Change Agent (Right?)

Hold up a mirror before you answer that question…

The knee-jerk response of any self-respecting sales rep or manager is an indignant, “Of course I’m a change agent!”  But, as anyone with a complex sell cycle knows, the biggest competitor is “do nothing,” and the underlying reason is the no-guts, change-resistant customer.  If a sales rep is a change agent and therefore an agent of change, how can this be so?

To make things even more uncomfortable, let’s be honest about how changeable we sales types are ourselves.  Consider these three examples:

Situation 1:  The top 2/3 of our funnel is empty.

This sales team had just implemented a CRM system.  There was a 90 day start-up window, then the monthly funnel review process started.  In the very first review, it was immediately clear to the entire team that the top 2/3 of the corporate funnel was literally empty.  Zero opportunities.  Even though several logical explanation as to why were tendered, all agreed this was an intolerable situation.  An action plan was put in place to fill up the early funnel stages.

In the 2nd monthly review, the top 2/3 of the corporate funnel was literally empty.  Zero opportunities.   The logical explanations were repeated.  All re-agreed this was an intolerable situation.  Everyone re-committed to the action plan to fill up the early funnel stages.

In the 3rd monthly review…  Yeah, you guessed it.  Imagine that, a sales process, executed by a bunch of change agents themselves resistant to change.

Situation 2:  The reps are too busy too thoroughly understand the big opportunities.

This Sales VP and her five Sales Managers concluded that detailed reviews of the top three opportunities in each manager’s unit would become part of their monthly status meeting.  After 4 months of shallow discussions on this topic, the VP had had it, and asked why so little detail about customers, their situations, their problems, etc. was forthcoming.

The reason?  All of the managers were covering for their reps who were unable to provide that detail.  No wonder their close rate was so low.  The reps were investing time in writing proposals at the expense of understanding what would be of value to the customer.  Talk about putting the cart before the horse!  Each manager knew this after month one, but did nothing to change the sales process for four months!

Situation 3:  I know the deadline was 1/31/10. I’ll start it this month .

In December, 2009,  I successfully enlisted seven sales managers and execs to become part of my E-Rep crusade.  (An E-Rep is a sales rep’s electronic alter-ego who’s on duty selling 24 X 7 X 365.  The blog, LinkedIn profile, etc.)  All seven enthusiastically agreed to start a blog in January, 2010.  I did not need to shove the value of a blog down any of their throats.  They all robustly agreed to getting it done because, to each of them, the value to the sales effort was blatantly obvious.  OK, it’s six months later and they’ve collectively done six posts.  All seven remain “as committed as ever.”  We’ll see…

So here’s the point…  Before you tell me what a great change agent you are, hold up that mirror!  Do a little self-assessment about your own adaptability and willingness/ability to change.  It might just provide some insights you can pass along to customers to help them change faster.

Think About It…

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Dave Broc says:

    Nice article Todd. It’s always amazing how willing we are to change others, but how much we resist change ourselves. Regards, Dave

    • Dave – Don’t I know it… And just to be honest, I resisted voice-mail, e-mail, not wearing a suit & tie every day, web conferencing, blogs, twitter and who knows how many other “obviously good” things. – Todd

  • Dan Collins says:

    Todd,

    Good stuff – the biggest lies we all tell are those we tell to ourselves. Recognizing this led me to embrace the below Gandhi quote as an ongoing personal challenge and lesson to live by:

    “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

    As your other readers state so eloquently most people are all for beneficial change in process, reward or productivity as long as it doesn’t require them to change – I say “Be The Change”

    Dan

  • Todd,
    Been there and still there in all situations. It is a slow process, but when the light finally goes off, you see an amazing transformation in engagement and passion for it, which makes it all worthwhile. Great post! You hit it bang on!

  • And for the record, my Deltek Opportunity Manager is now an essential component of our sales cycle and reporting is used for decision making and forecasting. Of course it was useless as you pointed out for the first 6 months.

    Also, as part of my own crusade, checkout robotshift.com, e-rep is slowly being nicely built there, and I know it will pay off for Ken one day!

    • Jeremy – Great to hear that your Opportunity Management discipline is starting to pay off. Also, stay tuned for Ken’s interview on the Control System Solutions Forum. (See center column here.) – Todd

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