“Change management” and “sales strategies” are phrases not often used in the same sentence. They belong to two different professional worlds and it is doubtful that many change management consultants see sales techniques as important to their work. Interestingly though, when looking deeper into the concepts behind successful sales strategies, there are several important lessons that directly relate to an effective change management strategy. The following are four sales concepts that should be added to any change management consultant’s tool kit to improve their effectiveness with their clients:
1. Building trust. A successful salesperson knows that making a sale is reliant on trust between them and their customer. Achieving this trust means the client must regard the salesperson as honest, reliable, and someone who has their best interest in mind. Being an effective change manager is no different. Just like in sales, change managers should consider building trust as a fundamental aspect of their work. Effective ways of building trust include communicating often, active listening, following through on agreements, and maybe most important, meeting the individual at their level, adjusting to what that individual needs instead of using a blanketed approach. If a change manager sees every job as an opportunity to build a relationship of trust with those they are working with, they will be more effective in helping their clients through a change initiative.
2. Active Listening. Related to trust is the power of listening. Humans want to feel heard. Most of us feel a closer connection with people who listen to us and talk with us, not at us. That is why a good salesperson knows to listen more and talk less. A consultant should aim to do the same. Active listening means letting the other person talk without interrupting them, taking notes on any main points or questions until they are finished, and then repeating back to them what was heard. For a change manager this is critical. So many times when people do not take the time to stop to listen to the other person, assumptions are made about what an issue or problem is and how to approach a solution, which waste time and makes people feel less productive. A change manager who is able to establish themselves as active listener will be able to achieve better results for their clients and may even influence those they work with to listen more causing a positive shift in an entire company culture.
3. Check in regularly. To ensure their clients are continually happy with their product or service, a successful salesperson regularly checks in to get feedback, hear any pain points, and offer solutions. A change manager should approach their relationship with their supervisor and team the same way. To set these up, change managers should create a calendar invite with their supervisor with a set date for a 30-minute check in appointment. The frequency for the check-in can vary but should occur at least every month or two. Even if there is nothing pressing to discuss, dedicating 30-minutes to an open dialogue about what is working, what is not, and any ideas for improvement will foster trust and more open communication between change manager and the client.
4. Define Expectations and Create Agreements. Too often in our professional and personal lives, we assume we know what we expect of others and what they expect of us. Unfortunately, these assumptions don’t always align with reality, causing negative impacts on our relationships and our job performance. Since sales people rely on establishing and maintaining positive relationships with their clients, they have developed an effective strategy for dealing with this problem that is directly applicable to change management.
The strategy is focused on defining expectations early on (first or second interaction with your client) and then creating an agreement that guides the ongoing relationship. For change managers, this means setting up a meeting with their client, where they actively listen to the client’s expectations for their work, repeat the expectations back to them for clarity, ask questions, and then present strategies for meeting these expectations. During the meeting the change manager takes notes and then creates a document give to both parties stating the agreed upon terms, expectations, and plan for execution. Although this agreement may shift over time, or new agreements may be created, it is important to establish this agreement process early on in the client relationship to make sure everyone is aligned on goals from the very beginning making it easier to achieve success together.
Chelsea Chorpenning is a change management consultant with Project Genetics. Chelsea is skilled at working with both individuals and teams to break through organizational barriers and implement innovative solutions. Chelsea also enjoys photography – mentoring students as part of a creative accelerator program.