What You Say, and How You Say It, Matters (Almost) as Much as When
In the first half of this discussion, The Change Management Conundrum: When To Tell Sales – we talked about structure and timing for change-management communications with that most vocal (and crafty) of all stakeholders. We laid out a simple “3 Touch” structure for building communications progressively: enrolling while delivering, and thereby creating momentum. In Part Two, we’ll complement the what and the when with some hows, as we turn our attention to style and content for these communications.
Keep Sales’ Best Interests Front and Center
The goal of Sales is to close more deals. There you have commandments one through ten in the good book of sales. And yes, it’s such a familiar idea that you can end up taking it for granted: but you have to remember that your sales colleagues never do. So the first step in crafting content for them is making sure that your project’s objectives have a clear and compelling link to closing more business. As we noted in Part One of this discussion, that link, leading as it does to income, bonuses, recognition, advancement – well, there’s none more personal in the entire universe of business.
So when you talk to Sales, make sure you find interesting new ways to remind them that your project links to and improves their fortunes, and thereby, the fortunes of the entire company. Whatever that linkage might be, you want to find it and be able to measure and articulate it with care. Maybe it’s because the sales team has been frustrated with an inefficient status quo; maybe because the project will help them do their jobs faster/smarter/better; maybe because their customer-care duties have become a burden and taken their time away from new business…any or all of the above — just make the link(s) and keep coming back to them, with numbers whenever possible.
Instill Confidence With Results
Before going live, share as much good, quantitative information as you have to give the sales team confidence that the new process will achieve the improvements you’ve already vouched for. The right mix of stats will also create the perception of strong momentum we’ve spoken about.
Detail matters: how long you’ve been testing, how many users were included, how many UAT sessions were performed, how many enhancements were added, and more. When you have the metrics, share the early wins: response times reduced by x%, exceptions reduced by y%, through-put increased by z%. A quote from a trusted member of the ops or support team can work wonders too – but it will always work better when the numbers are there to back up the words.
Review as You Go
As you may well remember: the classic model for a high-school essay runs like this:
- Let folks know what you’re going to tell them
- Tell ‘em
- Tell ‘em what you told ‘em
That’s also a solid formula for business communications – and it works both for short and longer-term communications. With a sales audience, one great way to do this is using the same “table of contents” repeatedly as the project progresses.
A simple deck with four parts offers us a great starting place:
- The Problem: Remind them (preferably in their words with quotes) why the project is necessary
- The Solution: Explain the solution, and build trust by showing, quantitatively, all the effort that’s gone into testing and proving out the new process.
- The Benefits: Show the benefits, as quantifiably as you can muster, throughout the testing process.
- Next steps: Be clear and concise — and focus on the impacts your sales audience will see, hear, or feel. Next steps offer a golden opportunity to assure everyone that you’re right on top of things.
Then just make sure that whatever the next steps were when you last left off, those are indeed the first items you update on – as soon as you’re done reviewing “the road so far.”
Good communication won’t solve everything when you run into problems, but it’s one of the most important remediating factors when you do. Issues and roadblocks happen – when you’ve communicated well, your stakeholders will give you the space to get through them. Of course it goes without saying that delays and difficulties need to be acknowledged and communicated as well. Bad news that travels slow can only get badder…and bigger.
We’ve zeroed in on one stakeholder group in this two-part entry: sales. And we’ve also trained our lens almost exclusively on the communication process. When you’re undertaking enterprise-wide impacts, make sure you put together a full change management plan. We’ve gathered a whole playbook of best practices you can access it at the link. It’s worth a look if you’re contemplating significant innovations that will impact your organization.
We also feel compelled to share the idea that adoption can sometimes come down to the ease of making the transition. And truth be told, today’s best solutions may be so easy to use that they’ll only produce blips on the radar – yes, even for sales folks. If you’re going to be using new technologies, look for providers who’ve committed the time and resources to make adoption as easy as possible. Here are just a few “good signs” to look for:
- An intuitive user interface, that users can quickly grasp, and see a clear path to mastery
- Plenty of self-admin and personalization capabilities
- Mobile parity, so people can work anywhere anytime
Finally, let your sales partners’ love of the bottom line inspire you to keep the ROI front and center. Create a clear business plan in advance, and use it as your fallback whenever you get pushback — from sales or anybody else!
…You won’t be surprised to hear we have a whitepaper on that too.