Seven strategies to help you use changes to your advantage by being a better salesperson and a better sales-team leader
Do you hate change? It used to drive me crazy, too. My favorite saying about change was, "Change is good. You go first." I was unhappy when my company changed my product and service offerings, the pricing structure, my sales manager, or my quota. I fussed when my competitors changed their approaches and my customers changed what they bought. One day I listened to a speaker talk about the upside of change and learned there is a whole business based on helping folks deal with it. She helped me realize I was looking at the glass half empty—and I decided to see it half full.
Here are seven strategies I've since adopted that you can use to lead your sales team or improve your own selling skills.
Accept change as inevitable. When you think about it, aspects of your life change all the time. Fashions change. Your children grow older. Your hair will probably get grayer or thinner. Seen in this light, it would actually be odd if everything except your work changed. Expect changes and try not to be surprised by them.
Stay flexible. While it's good to have systems and procedures in place, build them with some elasticity so that when things change, your business doesn't come to a standstill. For example, if your manufacturers changed their product codes, could you change your ordering system quickly so your sales didn't stop? How about if your customers wanted to change how they were billed or received delivery? While you can't anticipate every change, having flexibility, both in systems and attitude, helps you respond more quickly.
Sell yourself on the change before you talk to your customers. Your attitude is infectious, so before you call on your first customer, convince yourself of the benefits of your new situation. This will make you calm, confident, and even enthusiastic about the changes. If you act like the change is terrible, the customer will think it is. However, if you act like it's terrific, he will trust you and see it as advantageous too.
Look for the opportunity. As the old saying goes, when a door is closed, a window is opened. Look for what you can now offer your customers that you couldn't sell them before. If you have a smaller product line to represent, that reduces your inventory costs, which can mean higher profits for you or lower costs for your customers. If you have new products to sell, you can go back to all the prospective customers who didn't buy from you before and call on them again. If you have new pricing programs (BusinessWeek, Winter, 2006), you can call on those customers who couldn't afford you before.
See the cachet of change. Think about it—change sells newspapers, gets folks to watch TV and surf the Internet. Your customers want the latest and greatest, and it's your job to bring it to them. No matter whether it's new packaging, new flavors, or new styles, everyone wants to be current. If you're not convinced, think of how few of your customers want buggy whips or any product that hasn't been changed for the last 82 years. Customers want the excitement of new products and services—so sell them.
Vent, get over it, and move on. Let's face it, big, bad changes can be hard to absorb. If you've just lost your best customer for reasons out of your control, it's O.K. to take a day or so and have a personal pity party. Just don't do it at work or in front of your customers. Then let it go and move on. Get busy replacing that lost business.
Sharpen your sales skills. If you've been selling the same product or service lines to roughly the same customers for a while, it's possible that you may have slid into more of a customer service role than a salesperson role. So when things change, you should brush up your selling talents. Buy a best-selling book on sales, read a few of my previous Savvy Selling columns or listen to some of my Savvy Selling podcasts. There are plenty of resources to help you learn new sales strategies. Don't try to sell up-to-date offerings with yesterday's skills.
Change is a part of life. Whether it's a long-term trend or short-term fad, everything is changing around you. Accept change, look for the opportunities to sell more, then sell the benefits of the changes to your customers. When you sell more after the change than you sold before, you'll find it's easier to accept the next change. Happy selling!