Why change management is essential to your sales culture journey

Founded in 1888 by George Eastman, Kodak was the industry leader of photography throughout the 20th century. While its dominance lasted nearly 100 years, Kodak’s failure to adapt to a changing marketplace has become a cautionary tale for businesses in all industries.

Pinpointing their downfall can be lumped into two core categories: increased competition and the digital revolution.

In 1980 Kodak enjoyed a 90% market share. When Fuji rolled out a new film product that was less expensive and of a higher quality, Kodak was caught flat footed, surrendering a significant amount of its customer base.

What many people don’t know is, in 1975 Kodak developed the first digital camera. Instead of leading the way and getting ahead of market trends, the company decided not to invest in the product in hopes the digital revolution would never materialize.

These two factors collided and in 2012 the company filed for bankruptcy.

What was the common theme of both? Kodak did not effectively manage or embrace change and was unable to adapt to the monumental shifts in the industry.

Your sales culture must proactively evolve with today’s financial environment

The quote “change is the only constant in life” from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus epitomizes what we’ve experienced over the past two years with the pandemic.

While life has returned to normal for many, the shifting conditions in the financial industry will keep “change” front and center for credit unions. Rising interest rates and the uncertainty of a recession are forcing the industry to rethink their approach to growth.

Another fundamental change for credit unions will be their mindset around sales. Team members have been so busy with the influx of opportunities, many have developed an order taker mentality when it comes to servicing members.

As deals become fewer and the marketplace more competitive, credit unions must focus on proactively building a sales culture (Changing your sales culture to achieve long-term growth) to continue to grow and avoid a fate like Kodak.

Change can be overwhelming for those impacted. Couple that with the fact that many credit unions have long tenured employees, making a big culture shift around sales can have numerous repercussions if not done properly.

Challenges if change is not managed properly

When we started Accelergy Consulting in 2016 and were working with small businesses, we had a graph showing the higher the price of a product, the more trust that had to be built with the prospect.

The same principle holds true for change management: the bigger the change to the organization, the more trust that must be built with impacted team members. If trust is not established and constantly nurtured, it can lead to numerous negative results.

According to research from Gartner, 73% of employees affected by change experience medium to high levels of stress. Ultimately, this results in decreased productivity, lack of motivation, and negative morale.

Employee retention is already a major challenge facing the industry. Without a proper change management strategy, additional turnover could occur as team members fear the worst about the road ahead.

It all starts with an action plan to manage change

The natural tendency, often due to excitement and the need for new processes, is for leaders to jump into action. While their heart may be in the right place, it is critical to dedicate time and resources to develop an implementation strategy.

A clear roadmap complete with actions, timelines, and defined outcomes will ease leaders and employees’ anxiety regarding change.

Being flexible with the plan is also critical for long-term success. Team members will feel less stressed and have greater buy-in knowing certain elements of the project’s timeline are flexible.

Including team members across the organization in developing the strategy is another key to its ultimate success. Research from McKinsey reveals “75% of change destinations were reached when employees were included in the early planning.”

By involving team members not only will you get support for the change, but you will likely be able to implement it faster while creating long-term sustainment due to employee engagement.

Communication, communication, communication

“Location, location, location” is to success in the real estate industry as “communication, communication, communication” is to an effective change management strategy.

Ensuring your team is informed throughout the journey is paramount to achieving a smooth rollout and the desired results. This starts at the beginning with communication and clear direction from the most senior executive in charge of the project.

When we work with clients on rolling out a new sales infrastructure, we start by making sure the entire team understands the “why” behind the project and pertinent details. This includes the elements of their job that will be directly affected and timelines for when the changes will occur.

Some team members assume change is happening because they are doing something wrong. By properly communicating the reasoning behind the changes and providing expectations up front, it allows teams to feel more comfortable and understand why this will enhance the member experience.

It is also imperative to provide a forum for individuals to ask questions and voice concerns. Emotional intelligence and empathy are two leadership skills that are often attributed to great leaders. Listening to your team throughout the journey not only will help with implementation, but it will also result in more loyal employees.

One of the most powerful phrases in life is “I don’t know…but I will find out for you.” It doesn’t reveal vulnerability – rather it shows you are strong enough to recognize you don’t have all the answers but are committed to discovering them.

Telling your team upfront there are unknown variables and being honest when you don’t have an answer builds massive amounts of trust. You must also diligently follow up on these questions to remain credible with your team and keep employees engaged in the long run.

Critical elements to ensuring a successful rollout

While developing your plan you may identify areas of concern or unknowns from the onset. Being aware of these challenges ahead of time will make them easier to navigate as they approach.

As soon as a timeline changes or the program makes a fundamental shift, the quicker you can relay this message to your team the easier it will be for them to adjust. Not only does it make them feel a part of the process, it’s also another way to build trust.

In addition to getting buy-in, a key to success is empowering team members to lead the change. Giving them ownership in the initiative will bring new perspectives to the program while keeping team members engaged when challenges arise.

As things progress you may encounter certain employees who are not embracing the change, or even worse, actively trying to disrupt the process. It is imperative you meet with those individuals directly to understand their position.

Often you can address their concerns and turn them into an advocate moving forward. If they refuse to embrace things, you can determine the best course of action to make sure they don’t derail the initiative for the rest of the organization.

Finally, make sure to recognize the team when milestones have been achieved or success stories have occurred. Everyone is motivated differently, and a simple “thanks” or “great job” can go a long way to creating loyal employees willing to go the extra mile.

Your ultimate goal is sustainment

Unfortunately, most organizations have a pile of programs that were rolled out but never achieved long-term sustainment. In addition to a change management plan, another common theme of failed rollouts is a lack of a sustainment strategy.

Too many organizations see the program’s implementation as the only training needed to embed the new systems into the culture. However, according to research compiled by Google, 69% of successful change management initiatives had training both before and after the program rolled out.

Building a continuous development plan can help to ensure the program “sticks” and is engrained into the framework of the operation. These trainings can be used to rollout tweaks to the initiative, address crucial skill-gap challenges, or simply to reinforce the necessary behaviors.

Another impactful way to ensure sustainment is through weekly conversations directly related to implementation. This can be achieved by cascading messaging via leaders during team meetings and one-on-ones.

Finally, don’t forget to embed your initiative or change into new team member onboarding. This is one of the most critical things we do with our clients to ensure long-term sustainment and that all new employees are trained the proper way from the beginning.

Change can always be scary, especially for an organization with multiple layers of leadership and a diverse workforce. The more effort you put into developing the change management strategy, the smoother the transition will be for all and the more likely it will achieve long-term sustainment.

As Socrates once said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Your change management strategy will help your organization understand the vision and embrace the journey.

Adam Pickett

Adam Pickett

Adam Pickett is the Founder & President of Accelergy Consulting, a firm that works with Credit Unions to develop and implement a customized sales infrastructure. Accelergy works hands-on with everyone from ... Web: https://www.accelergy.co Details

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