When I was at school I was rubbish at football, shocking at rugby, and cricket…. well it never really works well for kids with mild ADHD. Luckily at 13 I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to take up rowing. For anyone who has ever done this sport seriously, you will understand what I mean when I say it’s not a sport – it’s a religion. At my most dedicated it was taking up 3 hours a day, 6 days per week and demanded a constant fixation on developing perfect technique.
This is because the slightest % change in technique can give an extra inch of boat travel to every stroke – multiply this across a race of 500 strokes and its often the different between winning and losing.
Our coach knew this better than anyone having rowed & won the boat race 3 times based on technique and speed over size and strength.
What I found most interesting was that to effect major change in boat speed he would never try and get all 8 of us to make dramatic changes all at once. He would single out where he thought each individual could make the biggest improvement and have each of us focus on what seemed like infinitesimal changes to what we were doing, but over time the boat got progressively faster.
Is it the same for sales management? If you’re reading this and you manage a team of sales people think back to when you have tried to make sweeping changes to the behaviour of everyone in your team at once. Did you get the result you wanted? Or did you find that some reps got it, some struggled with it, and some just ignored it?
I will happily admit that most of the time I found the latter… and it’s frustrating, because instinct tells you that when you have a great idea, you want everyone to adopt your ‘fantastic’ change for the better.
The problem is:
In every team people’s ability differs
Not everyone will buy into your idea in the same way you have
It’s difficult as a sales leader to stay on top of everyone and make sure it’s embedded.
So what’s the alternative? Perhaps you might consider the following:
The next time you have a great idea for improving your sales team, instead of rolling it out across the entire team, pick one rep that you think would get and buy in to the idea, and suggest (don’t tell) them to try it over the next couple of weeks. Every few days over this period ask them: How’s it working for you? Have you adapted the idea to make it work better for you? Do you think the idea could be improved? Is the idea in the reality of your world in fact not proving to be useful?
If the idea is good and it works then the team may notice the change in performance, ask the rep how they have done it, and then adopt it themselves. After the 2 weeks (or longer if needed), you might also try then having the rep explain the idea to the team, as now instead of just having an idea, you have a real life case study.
The real strength of this simple adaptation of sports management is that you can have multiple reps trialling ideas at the same time which is important as, much as we as sales leaders all wish it weren’t true, not all of our idea’s are as good as we think they are!
So perhaps try it and see. After all, it would only be a small change to make…