Leading Change in Sales

As digital sales transformations become mainstream, leaders begin to switch their attention from Why to How to lead a successful Change initiative.  Given 9 out of every 10 Change initiatives fail, how do you ensure yours is successful?

Your Change Directive

Historically, the consensus was that the biggest organizational headwind to accomplish change was “resistance to change”. We see something different.

We see the greatest barrier to change as inertia: as opposed to actively resisting change, employees tend to simply remain unchanged. Without the right external forces and internal motivators, people will continue to do what’s comfortable.

Your Change directive is to motivate people to move in a new direction and to maintain momentum without reverting to old habits.

Three Keys to Change

Drawing on thousands of customer engagements, along with input from global change management experts, here are three things you should include in your Change initiative:

1) Offer a compelling vision of the future, call out what’s at stake, and what’s in it for them.
2) Clearly define what you’ll measure, how, and in what timeframe
3) Build a coalition of advocates

Compelling Vision

Change initiatives force teams into unfamiliar territory. To navigate it, you’ll need a North Star.

Make a bold and believable case for Change by first answering these four questions:

1. Why shouldn’t teams be satisfied with the status quo?

* People don’t often recognize the pain, dissatisfaction or friction in their current state until they compare it against what could be.

2. What is the visionary outcome of this change?

* For example: it will enable us to enter new markets; it will enable each of us a clear path to success against quota: it will transform our customers’ experience.

3. Why is this new approach — with all its attendant disruptions to process, measurement, and technology — necessary?

4. What will the team get at the end of it?

No amount of vision or hard work will compel your people to move beyond inertia if they don’t clearly understand why they are engaged in this change and can imagine what success looks like.

Articulate the distance between “what is” vs. “what could be” for each team, make it attainable for them, recognize success along the way, and tie these changes to the strategy and values of the company you work in.


Teams expect consistency. This is especially true when you take a wrecking ball to their ways of doing business.

What you measure, how they’ll respond, and the factors that influence success, must be defined, clearly and frequently articulated, and come to represent who we are, not just what we do.

Break it down into three categories:

1. Impact
2. Reaction
3. Benefit realization


• What will stay the same? What do they need to start doing? What do they need to stop doing?
• Set expectations for each of those behaviors and how you intend to measure them.
• Monitor the speed of adoption, the level of utilization and the level of proficiency.
• Course-correct frequently and in small increments.
• Create continuous training in small, frequent increments, so that everyone can easily refresh their knowledge.
• Ensure you build the right support systems or other infrastructure to enable them to succeed.
• Agree to a communications cadence and stick to it!!
• Ensure your compensation structures are aligned with the new environment – ideally, you can build incentives to achieve your aims; at the very least make sure your comp structure doesn’t incent behavior contrary to the new environment.


• Each stakeholder will be impacted differently and will respond differently.
• Understand your stakeholders’ different perspectives and respond to them.
• Evaluate potential emotional reactions from each stakeholder persona. And build a plan to address them.


• Reiterate your vision of success.
• Help your people to imagine what that looks like personally, for them.
• Communicate that this change is an opportunity for each of them to add a valuable skill to their resume, and to enhance their work experience.
• Celebrate success every step of the way.
• Empower them to act as change agents, don’t just have them wait for directions from above.
• Be clear about the consequences for not getting on board with this change.

Build a Coalition of Advocates

• You need broad support from people who can help you see this through.
• Find sponsors who will advocate for Change.
• This is a coalition of leaders and influencers who will buy into your bold vision, will help you promote it throughout the organization, and will hold teams accountable to the measures of success.
• It will include a mix of executives, front line managers, even power users.
• Include your customers!
• Adopting new technology and new processes will impact the way you engage with them.
• Where possible, interview them. Get validation from them.
• Imagine how big of an impact a handful of customer champions could have on your internal momentum.
• Then, define what each advocate group is expected to do and communicate regularly.
• You own the execution. That means you hold the people accountable who hold the rest of the organization accountable.

Momentum Beyond Change

Change initiatives, like your digital sales transformation, can be a defining moment for you and for your business.

If you’ve already started a Change initiative but have encountered obstacles, go back to the basics – the why, and the how and reorient your efforts to get back on track. You will course correct this multiple times as you drive your initiative forwards.

Successful change initiatives, whether they are those which you implement internally, or whether you are driving these as part of your sales process, rely on continuous iteration, and a fanatical attention to keeping the initiative fresh and relevant.

To make your change initiative a standout success, report on progress regularly, capture champion stories, continuously reinforce the vision and maintain momentum beyond change.

For additional insight into a New Formula for Change by Change Management expert Raul Cevallos, click here

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