Customers Hate and Love
Change at the Same Time
It is very common for customers to experience cognitive dissonance when they are considering change. Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding contradictory ideas simultaneously. Customers face a quandary when it comes to change. "They hate change and love it at the same time; What they really want is for things to remain the same but get better," says Sydney Harris. They want their cake and eat it too.
The change-agent helps facilitate the internal discussion customers have with themselves and the outside discussion they will inevitably have with the other stakeholders and decision influencers in their company. They help customers vocalize the negatives and the positives of change. When you help customers come to terms with their hesitations, doubts and fears you tend to get to the truth quicker, build trust and disqualify customers who have the twin evil forces of change; they have the will, but not the means, they have the means, but not the will.
A change-centric sales person realizes that their biggest competition and challenge is first and foremost share of mind and the status quo. To help your customer assess the options of change, you must first help them disprove their current method and process. The customer needs to be the lead on this exercise. Unfortunately, sales people love to lead customers to their own self-serving, foregone conclusions. They want to build a solution without first tearing apart and dismantling the existing structure. You need to deconstruct before you can construct. "If you respond to challenge according to the old conditioning, your response will not enable you to understand the new challenge," says Aldous Huxley.
"A consultative sales representative is an integral part of every sale. Unlike product vendors, who are identified as part of their own company and therefore don't go along with the sale of their product or service. Consultative sellers are embedded in their offering and are packaged along with it," says Mack Hanan.
You are the sale. If the customer will not allow you to consult, then you offer little value other than your deliverables. If your advice is not needed then you enter the realm of a commodity player. In the information economy, a commodity, sales person's job is in large part being replaced by a more cost effective seller...the Internet.
To be an effective change-agent you need to enter early in the customer's process. The problem must be challenging or time consuming enough to warrant outside influence and insight. If the customer has the confidence to independently do their own digging, identifying, problem analysis, change analysis and is supremely confident in their own council, you have very little to bring to the table other than product placement. Customers must be open to an integrated offering of professional expertise and product delivery and must be willing to pay for it in time and in cost. This hybrid approach still represents a very viable sales strategy even in the information economy with customers who aren't procurement oriented.
Change can't be conducted by a bowl in a china shop mentality. Change is like a fragile game of stick. It must be built slowly, one stick at a time and in an orderly manner. Look at selling as pull marketing, instead of push selling. When you fully pull out all the whys (motive for change), the what (solution) becomes a lot easier to reconcile and explain.
Mainstream sellers focus their efforts on the least important part of the sale – proof of concept. They’re working on the wrong end of the equation. Their primary focus should be on threat identification, problem appraisal, cost of implementation, timing, cost of dismantling existing solutions, the emotional and psychological cost of the inconvenience and disruption of change and integrating the new with the old.
Change-agents are keen to point out to their customers that time, money and resources spent on one initiative can't be spent on another. They collaborate with customers to do damage control, scrutinize customer's motives for change and look at all associated risks. They aren’t afraid to play Chris Kringle on Miracle on 34th St. where they point out various options, choices and directions.
Your desire and ability to help your customer really understand their business will come from a position of acceptance rather than an application of will. Too many sales people apply coercion in their positive intent to help and they often achieve the exact opposite effect. To really help someone, and play the role of a change-agent, you must give up your cherished opinions, expectations, sense of pride and divorce and distance yourself from outcomes that are predominantly in your own self-interest. Most sales people's pride impedes their ability to be a neutral change-agent.