It’s All About Change

Every great salesperson is also an expert in change. Let me explain.

Solve significant problems.

In sales, we solve problems. And to be successful in sales, you need the client to believe the problems we’re solving are significant. They need to have an impact on an organization’s operations, its financials, or its ability to reach its goals. Tackling those problems requires change, and change can be scary. Change often demands extra time and attention, and more work. It can impact office politics and create uncomfortable situations—perhaps a few top leaders support a change while others don’t. The easier route is to avoid change.

In behavioral economics, a key theory called loss aversion shows us that people feel the pain of a loss more than the pleasure of a gain. For most people, it’s better not to lose $5 than to find $5. Some studies show losses can even be two times as powerful as gains. Our minds like stability. As salespeople, this is a major challenge we have to overcome.

Act as an agent of change.

Change can also be transformational though, and it’s a salesperson’s job to show the client how that can happen. Motivational speaker and author Tim Robbins says it best: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Every good salesperson acts an agent of change, painting a picture for the client of what their business would look like if they fail to make a change.

It starts during your initial contact with a potential customer. During a sales conversation, it’s crucial to help a customer visualize and feel the consequences of staying the same. Ask questions about the customer’s problem, but also about any ripple effects their problem is causing. You can then anticipate future complications these problems might cause, and point them out to the client during your sales pitch.

Say an organization’s HR system isn’t connecting well with its payroll system. The consequences are that people’s paychecks are getting delayed and employees are getting frustrated. Frustration impacts morale and can lead to turnover, which is costly and can ultimately make a company less competitive. It’s your job as a salesperson to show the customer how this tiny payrolls problem can balloon into an issue with the business’ overall competitiveness in the marketplace. Then, you offer your solution: a new, high-tech payrolls system that’s efficient, easy-to-use and offers new bells and whistles.

Make your customer comfortable with the idea of change.

But again, change is painful. Clients need to feel confident a vendor can help them navigate or overcome the pain of change. When proposing a solution to a client’s problem, it’s key to help the client understand and minimize the risk of making a change. You need to anticipate any hurdles to change they might have and be prepared with a ready solution. Make them feel confident. This is critical for any sales effort.

In his book “SPIN Selling,” sales and marketing guru Neil Rackham stresses the importance of what he calls “implication questions,” or highly effective sales questions that spur a prospect to consider the implications of the problems your product or service could solve. The book is the result of the author studying 35,000 sales conversations from experienced professionals.

Consider these examples of implication questions used when talking to a client thinking about purchasing a product to help with communicating during emergencies: What are the risks associated with taking too long to communicate with employees during emergencies? Other clients have told us they experienced X in emergency scenarios before using our product. Has something similar happened to you?

By walking the client through questions like these and potential scenarios, you’re making the problems—and their likely consequences—come to life. When you increase the perceived pain of staying the same, you’ve created an emotional drive for change, and you’re well on your way to making that sale.