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By Dr. Rick Crandall, Ph.D

To implement effective change in an organization, somebody must sell it first. Most often, the last thing a top executive wants is to be a salesperson. Most of us think of the sales process as adversarial: overcoming objections, hardball closing techniques, etc.

The best salespeople sell based on trust and long-term relationships.That's the mindset you need to sell change.

3 Steps to Success

Here are three positive steps you can learn from sales techniques to facilitate change.

1. Communicate your vision. Smart selling excites the prospect. Have a clear, strong vision of the benefits of the change for the prospect and share it personally. Even if they don't buy the full vision initially, you'll gain credibility if they believe your sincerity and enthusiasm.

2. Build relationships. To sell change, you must build relationships. You've heard how people want to "buy" and not be "sold." I would add that people want to "buy" from people whom they care about and who care about them. Use your existing relationships or establish new ones. Use the issues involved in the change to make contact.

You can't establish relationships overnight. You have to demonstrate sincerity to gain trust. So be patient in implementing change. You're making a new "friend," someone who will support the
changes you are selling. Friendship takes time. It doesn't spring full blown out of nowhere. Good salespeople coax prospects gradually with small, safe steps. Establish rapport before "asking for the order."

3. Follow through. Keep in touch with your "customers" once you've made the sale. People are most afraid after they have made the commitment to try something new. Insincere salespeople disappear as soon as they have your money. To keep people's trust, you have to stick around and give them good "service." It's the right thing to do--and it's more effective! Changes can take years to fully implement. Following through and staying with it demonstrates your commitment.

Two Major Mistakes

Often, executives make two major mistakes in selling change.

Mistake #1:
Refusal to sell at all. An aversion to the selling process is seen when an executive refuses to become involved as a "sales" advocate. People will have a natural resistance to change that affects them when you outline the program and present it in a purely rational manner. Acknowledge resistance as legitimate and deal with it one step at a time.

Mistake #2:
Hard selling. Reluctant sales advocates often hard sell even though that's exactly what they and everybody else doesn't like about sales. You can't really force people to accept an idea, so why approach it that way? Remember your own resistance when you're pushed so you can empathize with how other people feel.

Good salespeople act as consultants rather than combatants. They know that effective sales must show people how they can fulfill their personal and professional needs. If you've shared your vision, clarified the benefits, and built relationships, you'll be aware of the needs of those affected by the change. Then you can follow through effectively to benefit your company, and all your people who are affected.

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