Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to Manage Sales Performance Change

In my business I deal with this almost daily. Either a sales person or an entire organization is not performing up to requirements and change has to take place. When I was a new sales manager, and I consider this to be the first five or so years, I tended to approach these problems with more or less brute force. There is a sales methodology in place and I needed to enforce it. I had several years of sales and sales management experience and that experience taught me to go back to the basics and build upward. In time I finally noticed that the irregular results I was achieving while managing change was stressful to me and unacceptable to the organization. Typically a new sales manager brings their bag of tricks and when they run out they move on to the next job. So, I started to look for a better way. I needed to understand how to implement sustainable change.

There are several high brow concepts that need to be understood to effectively manage sustainable change in any organization and this is especially true with sales. The first concept is Gleicher’s Formula for Change. All of these are found in psychology textbooks, but still have relevant practical use. Basically Gleicher states that the discomfort level that exists, times the vision of how things could be better, times a finite plan to make it happen, has to be greater that the resistance to change for change to effectively take place.

D * V * F > R

The second is the concept of Psychosclerosis and Homeostasis both developed by Abraham Maslow. Genetically we do not embrace change at the subconscious level. We dig in our heels and prefer to stay the way we are. Johannes Schultz developed the theory of Autogenic Conditioning around this concept. The last concept revolves around the Reticular Activating System (RAS). That is the part of the brain that is constantly filtering information for the subconscious.

This is a lot of book learning just to attack a simple problem of getting someone to perform at a higher level. But to sustain change over time these concepts have to be understood and applied. Now this is enough material for a book, so a blog will not give it justice. The one sentence answer is this:

The person or system that must be changed must be able to visualize the benefit of change at a subconscious level, and they must understand a clear plan to implement lasting change to embrace that change will happen. Then there must be a repeatable reinforcement methodology in place to overcome the natural desire to stay the way we are.

There are as many ways to accomplish this as there are personalities. Experience managers know how to connect the dots in a lasting and meaningful way. Less experienced managers will go through their bag of tricks until they are no longer effective and then they move on. Never really understanding why change is not permanent.

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. William James (1842 - 1910)

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