Sales as a change management process

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Buying a new service is not “plug and play”

When we are selling business to business, our default assumption is that the buying organisation will simply add our services to the portfolio of services they have, or they will oust their current provider and use us instead.
The reality is very different.

Buying a new service implies organisational change

Using a new professional services provider implies a degree of change in the buying organisation
This is probably true for product sales as well, but it’s definitely true if for professional services such as consultancy, content management, legal services, actuarial advice or recruitment services. If we are selling such services, it’s helpful to understand that the buyer of our services is going to have to deal with change in his or her organisation.
As sales people, we must help the buyer understand and manage that change. This is part of our job. We need to make it easy for them to manage that change, or they won’t be able to use our services.

As sales people, we need to help the buyer understand and manage that change

This means we need to understand how the buyer’s organisation works and how the transition will be made
We need to be able to show the buyer how their own systems work, and how our services would make them work better. We also need to show that the transition to this better way of working is possible. The buyer’s organisation fits together currently, using their current systems, suppliers and processes. From the buyer’s point of view, the transition to our services will look like an uncertain process of replacing one known and understood way of operating with another which is unknown. Even if the future way of working is better, it may be impossible to see how to make the transition.
When we sell, we must show ourselves ready to help the buyer make that transition. We must display knowledge of which parts of his or her organisation will need to change, and we must demonstrate that the change is possible. This takes research, listening, understanding, and thought.

We need to include transition costs and effort in our cost/benefit analysis

Even if our service is cheaper, the effort of making a change to our cheaper service may preclude the purchase. It is our job as salespeople to include the costs and effort of transition into our proposals, and to help the buyer use this information internally. The effort of making the transition must be shown to be worthwhile in terms of the long-term benefit of using our service. If we can make the case, then a future partnership possible.

To make the change work well, both organisations will need to change

We need to become advisors both to the buyer and internally within our own organisation, so as to make our organisation and the buyer’s organisation fit together. Both organisations are complex, and if the sale is to be successful, both organisations will need to adapt to each other. As sales people, we need to show the buyer how we are ready to advise and help them, both by helping them to adapt to us, and by enabling change in our own organisation.

Working in this way, we sell by being advisors and facilitators of change

We become advisors, helping the buying organisation to make the right decisions, in full awareness of the implications inside their organisations and ours. By making sure that our services, if bought, will be properly integrated into the buyers organisation we not only serve them better, we also develop a higher degree of partnership, so that the relationship will endure.

The picture at the top of this post shows a dry stone wall near Studland, Dorset. Buying new services might feel, to a buyer, a lot like pulling a stone out of this wall, in the hope of replacing it with another. The wall might fall down in a heap. Such fear of chaos will prevent someone buying. So, as salespeople, we need to show how the transition is possible, worthwhile and safe.



Categories: Growth and sales, The process of business change

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