January is coming. As a leader, this may mean the implementation of strategically necessary change initiatives that affect the sales team in 2019, such as the restructuring of territories or the revision of the team comp plan.
Technically, of course, there’s no reason these big changes couldn’t be rolled out in Q4 rather than Q1 … but initiating change at the beginning of the new year may result in a more enthusiastic reception by salespeople (and everyone else in the organization). With that factor in mind, you may want to adopt a “new year, new policy” approach to increase the odds of a successful rollout as part of your team’s “fresh start” in 2019.
But beware: Simply scheduling the change for January 1 is not enough! Here are four simple and proven change management steps that you will want to follow.
- Start laying the groundwork now, in Q4, by sharing what you have in mind and getting people’s feedback. Don’t make the mistake of simply announcing the new “rules of the road” on December 31 without preparing your staff. Take the time to create and follow a well-thought-out change plan in October, November, and December – one that includes lots of communication with the team. Give yourself plenty of time to gather feedback and suggestions from all of those who will be affected by the change you have in mind. The members of your team must feel they’ve had input on what happens in January. Give them that input. The goal here is not to allow your team to make your decisions (see #2 below), but to eliminate the possibility of someone kicking up in January by saying, “Hey, this came out of nowhere.”
- Draw a clear line between the “what” and the “how.” As you hold your preliminary discussions with the team, make it clear that you’re not looking for feedback on whether the change will take place – it will – but on how it will unfold. Let your people know that while the “what” isn’t up for discussion, you are deeply interested in their thoughts on the very best ways for the team to get where it is headed. Be sure you listen actively to what they share with you.
- Identify the champions of change. As you talk to your team about the approaching change, you will notice that some people are more receptive to the idea of adapting to the changes than others. That’s only natural. Your job as a leader is to spot those team members who are the most eager to help you make the new system work … and then create opportunities for them to share with the team what they’re doing to prepare. These people will be your champions of change. For instance: If you’re changing the comp plan to better reward major account acquisition, you’ll want to identify the salespeople who are eager to change their prospecting and relationship-building activities to support that new goal. You’ll also want to give them a chance to share with the rest of the team, first-hand, what they plan to do to succeed using the new plan. After January 1, any relevant success stories your champions can share with the team will be important, too.
- Communicate regularly about the upcoming change, using multiple channels. People process information in different ways, so important messaging must be repeated if it’s going to have an impact. That means a single e-mail won’t do the trick when it comes to getting your team on board for major change. A single team meeting won’t do it, either. And if some of your salespeople work exclusively off-site – an arrangement becoming more and more common – a single video or a single webinar won’t be enough to win team buy-in. In preparation for the big transition you plan to implement on January 1, you will want to use all of these communication channels, and perhaps a few others that are appropriate to your working environment. By creating an effective “drip” campaign about what’s going to be different next year, you’ll keep this subject on your team’s collective radar screen. A week should not go by without the team getting some kind of positive messaging about the upcoming change. Your core message doesn’t have to be long – in fact, concise is probably best – but it does need to repeat over time, and you should take full advantage of multiple communication platforms as you send and reinforce that message.
It’s later than you think! So get started with this now, in Q4. Follow these four steps to gain buy-in from your sales team on the big, essential changes that you have planned for the coming year. Good selling!