Implementing Change Requires Effective Change Agents

Companion Sales

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Why do the results of even good plans and strategies sometimes fall short of our expectations in the execution? The implementation can be far more difficult than the planning. The reason?


People have different reactions and points of view, different interests and needs. People decide whether to help, hinder or ignore any change initiative. People – your customers and prospects – hold the key to your success as a distribution rep.

Successful change agents understand the importance of gaining support for any change initiative, and they can obtain people’s willing buy-in to change. They recognize their customer/prospect’s emotional as well as logical reactions, and can reason with any point of view. Only then are they able to link their customer/prospect’s best efforts to the execution of sound recommendations.

Buy-in is a powerful thing. It takes the customer out of analysis or skepticism and causes commitment – the emotional resolve to act and see a task through to completion. With it, you get people on board and working in sync on an ongoing, daily basis.

“But people resist change.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this excuse as an explanation for the lack of success. And it is just that – an excuse. Consider yourself. I’ll bet you are wearing something different today than you wore yesterday. I’ll bet you will eat something different today than you ate yesterday. And so it goes with every day being slightly different than the previous day.

So, if we don’t resist change, why is it so hard getting our customer’s buy-in to a change in adding awellness program?

There are basic barriers that effective reps can manage before they attempt to gain buy-in to any change:

  1. Apathy
  2. Too much work to implement your recommendation
  3. Too much risk that your recommendation may not work
  4. Opposition to your recommendation
  5. Skepticism about your recommendation

Each of these barriers has an emotional component and a logical component. Effective change agents know you MUST acknowledge the emotional component first before you can begin to reason with the logical. So, let’s look at how that might play out for each barrier if we were advocating our customer consider a wellness plan.

“Why bother, it won’t make any difference?” (Said with low energy, little or no eye contact and a sense of other priorities)

Acknowledge the emotion first, or in this case, the lack of emotion:

Sounds like a wellness initiative is not a priority at this moment in time…

You have proven you have heard them, and you are taking their point of view seriously. There is actually very little you can do if it is real apathy. If it isn’t apathy, then acknowledge it as if it was will elicit a different response – one that is more easily managed.

Now you can transition to the logical side.

…so, it makes sense to deal with those issues that are a priority. What might those be?

Too much work
“It’s hard enough to explain medical conditions to our clients. Explaining the financial aspects of a wellness plan will further complicate our lives.” (Said with a complaining or even a whining tone)

Acknowledge the emotion first:

Effective communication is a universal problem, and we don’t want to add to the workload…

You have just proved that your customer has your full attention and you are taking their complaint seriously. And you have opened the door to a logical solution such as:

…so, let’s look at supporting material to educate your customers as well as the in-house training program they have customized for you and your staff.

Too much risk
“What if their card is rejected because of the credit limit or the account closes? I have a risk by giving them product without collecting my full price.” 

Acknowledge the emotion first:

It is reasonable to measure the risks involved in effectively extending credit to your customer…

You might not see a risk, but you have acknowledged your customer’s right to that emotion at this moment in the conversation. That respect opens your customer to options to mitigate or eliminate the perceived risks, i.e.:

…so, let’s look at the ways these risks have been mitigated by taking multiple cards and multiple processing attempts.

“Absolutely not.”

When you get a hard stop, do not assume you know the reason behind it. Just because yesterday’s NO was due to price, quality or prior experience, it doesn’t mean today’s NO is for the same reason. Remember to acknowedge the emotion first:

Got it. Let’s stop here…” 

Time for some probing that could be as simple as:

…sounds like there is a problem. Can you help me understand it?

Or it may require some in-depth probing using NIQCL (Need/Problem, Importance, Quantify, Consequence, Look/listen).

Quite frankly, you can’t deal with the logical component until you know and fully understand the problem(s) causing the opposition.

“You are going to have to justify your recommendation before I consider implementing a wellness plan.”

Skepticism can be a challenge if you have not done your homework. You need to know the competitive advantage your recommendation provides as well as be able to translate that into a benefit your customer will have as a result of acting on your recommendation. But acknowledge the emotion first:

Skepticism at this point is perfectly understandable…

And then transition to the logical component:

…so, let me show you the reasons I believe the switch is justified and the benefits you will gain as a result of that decision.

Adapt these basic barriers to the specific points of resistance you encounter in your territory and then sharpen your skills at acknowledging the emotion before transitioning to a logical discussion that justifies your recommendation. That process will help you be an effective change agent and a very successful distributor rep.