Article

Making Change Management Stick with Sales Enablement

| 8 min read


It’s often said that change is the only constant. In an evolving market landscape with a continuous stream of mergers, acquisitions, and technological innovation, it’s a sentiment that rings true for many sales enablement practitioners.

Keeping pace with change is essential for sellers to progress within ever-evolving business landscapes and adapt to shifting buyer needs. Sales enablement can be pivotal in driving change across the sales organization – which is why change management strategies need to be top of mind for all practitioners right now.

However, the truth is that designing, communicating, and managing change is an incredibly challenging process. In some ways, it’s like any other project that requires planning, goal-setting, meeting with stakeholders, creating an actionable process, and following through. The difference, however, is the complexity of aligning every part of an organization to a common message that challenges the status quo and pushes sellers to leave their comfort zone.

Often, people naturally assume the worst when change is proposed. It’s enablement’s role to minimize that uncertainty by helping salespeople understand the “why” behind the initiative while clearly communicating and coaching a consistent message.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to managing change, especially for companies with a vast number of stakeholders and complex organizational structures. Here are some key steps sales enablement professionals can follow to help navigate this process and alleviate common concerns.

Craft the Storyline

The decision to move forward with a change initiative requires in-depth research and definitive evidence of its impact as it relates to the business. This means talking to various stakeholders, listening to different perspectives, relying on data, and gathering all necessary information to decide whether or not the change is worth it in reaching an end-goal.

By placing the buyer at the core of this initial phase and continuously seeking out the “why” behind every decision, organizations can better design a definitive story that is backed by concrete evidence and closely aligned to company principles.

“What the message is, is important, but the real change is people understanding the fact that we actually need to have one common message,” said Matthew Norton, director of sales excellence at Canon Europe Ltd.

It’s easier to package a clear message and confidently communicate it across the company when there is a well-defined purpose to support it. This thorough preparation is critical in establishing buy-in among internal audiences and creating a solid foundation for change.

Keeping a consistent storyline is important for internal morale, but it is just as crucial to maintain externally during periods of transformation. With such digitally enabled buyers, there are various modes of obtaining information about a company and its products and services. Therefore, it is crucial that every customer-facing agent is aligned with a common foundation so that there is no room for confusion with external audiences.

Meet Salespeople on Their Level

After designing a strong message, communicating it to sales reps is yet another hurdle. To effectively communicate the value of the change initiative, it is important to first have a deep understanding of how the change will affect the reps. Being able to anticipate what their experience will be will help sales enablement practitioners better position the “why”.

“Really look at it from the lens of your customer, from your sales teams,” said Sara Kleiman, enablement trailblazer at Salesforce. “And really message it in a way that they’ll want to do it because this will make them money at some point down the line.”

Salespeople want to know what’s in it for them, so nailing that point down with transparent and upfront communication is key to getting sellers to buy into the change.

For example, instead of asking reps to memorize a perfect script, communicate the reasoning behind the change as it relates to their own personal gain. This way, sellers have the resources to develop their own version of the new story, allowing for a more authentic change in behavior.

Similarly, use compelling content to communicate change initiatives that sparks salespeople’s imagination and sets a positive tone for the entire process.

For instance, get creative with a change announcement by producing a Hollywood-style movie trailer and releasing it at a sales kickoff event. It can make all of the difference to develop quality content that excites reps about change as it relates to their own interests, even if it takes more time to put together.

Lastly, it’s important to learn about the types of people change is communicated to. The ways that people best retain new information varies, so practitioners must get to know the salespeople to understand how they learn and customize their approach based on the audience.

It’s enablement’s job to remove confusion and provide the training, tools, and assets reps need to competently deliver a message. The more tailored the communication is to the individual, the more salespeople will actually believe in the change and communicate it effectively to buyers.

Manage a Change Program with Transparency

Managing change requires a constant conversation between key functional players to address questions, discuss issues as they arise, and remedy them fast. This kind of transparency clears up any ambiguity as to what behavior needs to change and offers empathy to individuals that are more resistant.

With change comes both the strong supporters and the loyal oppositionists. Team up with trusted change agents who will help sell the message internally, but also pay close attention to those who strongly oppose and earn their trust.

“Find out who [the loyal oppositionists] are,” said Kiersten Kaye, worldwide sales enablement leader at Dassault Systèmes. “They’re the people who are already complaining loudly about the change. Invite them in. Listen to them. Give them space.”

Enablement leaders must seek out these individuals, let them be heard, and dutifully work through their doubts with them in an open and honest format. Converting the person with the most negative attitude into an advocate for change can be the greatest catalyst for support.

Understanding Change as a Constant

How change is managed internally plays a pivotal role in determining how companies progress in a constantly changing external environment. Now more than ever, companies need to be more flexible, agile, and responsive to the fast pace of modern business in order to stay competitive.

To successfully engage with never-ending change, practitioners need to continue to seek out the “why” behind every decision and act with the best interest of the sellers in mind. In doing so, sales enablement can effectively communicate that change and drive support.

The role of enablement in change management smooths the transition periods and helps change persevere. By crafting a common message, communicating that message out to sales teams with clarity, and providing the tools they need to adapt their behavior to the new idea, organizations can conquer change initiatives more confidently and effectively.