The most difficult challenge in personal and professional growth is change. People naturally resist change for many reasons, but perhaps the main reason is that we simply become comfortable doing things the same old way, regardless of the outcome. And even if we are not completely satisfied with the experienced outcome, we fear the unknown even more, so we continue to do what’s comfortable. In other words, people have an inherent need for familiarity and familiar routines help assuage our anxieties.
Developing positive change through the process of learning and applying new techniques and concepts can be uncomfortable and stressful (as well as requiring extra effort). While we are working toward learning and applying new strategies we must step out of our comfort zone and into the unknown and untested. The challenge with that is that it leaves us vulnerable to surprises and new obstacles which we may not have faced before. This, in turn, requires us to seek solutions in a manner that is different from which we are ordinarily accustomed. We must condition ourselves to think differently than we have thought in the past.
Change also challenges our confidence. We must accept the reality that we may be trying to operate at a level that exceeds our current knowledge and experience. That’s what growth and change are all about, becoming someone that you were not; someone more knowledgeable, more skilled and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way in both sales and in life.
So, if change is so difficult, how do we implement it? How do we move past the obvious obstacles and initiate the kind of lasting change that will impact our careers and our lives? Let’s take a look at a five-step process that will help you work your way through change.
Admit that change is necessary.
One of the most difficult problems for many salespeople is to admit that change is necessary. Many salespeople think that are better salespeople than they actually are. Despite a history of past sales success, we can always learn techniques and concepts that will make us stronger communicators and more effective closers.
Create a strong vision of the benefits of change.
Have a clear vision of what you hope to gain by changing, give the benefits of changing full and detailed thought. It is not enough to merely say, “I will close more sales.” What is the benefit of closing more sales? And not, “I will earn more money.” What are the benefits of earning more money? How will it affect your family? How will it affect your life? How will it affect your career? In other words, give serious thought to the benefits the change will bring to you. The clearer and more defined the vision, the greater the desire to achieve it.
Craft an implementation plan.
Lay out a systematic and well-defined plan as to how you will implement the desired change. Think of it as more of a step-by-step building process rather than a complete demolition. Change comes best in small steps. With regards to your sales skills and presentations, make a list of all the ways you wish to improve. Do you need better listening skills, better questioning skills, better interview skills, better prospecting skills, or something else? Once you’ve developed your list, decide which one you will begin working on first. (Don’t try to work on everything on your list at one time – this can befuddle and frustrate even the most-determined of us and may ultimately lead to discontinuing your attempt to effect positive change). Once you identify what you want to work on first, begin initiating the change. And once you have accomplished the desired improvement, move on to the next.
Find someone to assist you with your change and help with accountability.
Because change requires us to move out of our comfort zone, it is easy to abandon plans for change. We gradually slip back into our old ways of doing things and forget that we ever had a plan. Partner with a colleague who will help you role play so you can implement the desired changes faster and more effectively. Make sure he or she holds you accountable for implementing your desired changes (and be sure to let them hold you accountable – don’t get resentful if they try to motivate you, just get motivated!). Get together a couple times a week to discuss how things are going and to practice.
Reinforce positive change with reward.
Just as you have an implementation plan, also establish a reward plan. Positive change deserves positive rewards. Once you have reached the first change goal on your list have a predetermined reward assigned. You know what motivates you. Maybe it’s a nice dinner with your spouse or a weekend getaway. Maybe it’s a new golf club or tennis racket. It’s up to you; use whatever reward you want because it is that positive reward that will reinforce your desired change.
Sometimes it’s possible to have tremendous goals in place, but the change required to achieve them proves to be overwhelming. Change is possible; it just requires the desire and a good plan of approach. Goal Setting can help. The next step is yours. Decide what you want, establish a plan on how you can achieve it and begin moving toward it today!