Prepping your team for change in 2020

Hard to believe, but January will be here before you know it. As a leader, this might mean the implementation of strategically necessary change initiatives that affect the sales team in the New Year, such as the restructuring of territories or the revision of the team comp plan.

Technically, of course, there’s no reason these big changes couldn’t be rolled out in the previous quarter rather than the upcoming one, but initiating change before the beginning of the New Year might result in a more enthusiastic reception by salespeople (and everyone else in the organization).

Here are four simple and proven change management steps you might want to consider:

1. Start laying the groundwork now by sharing what you have in mind in the fourth quarter and getting feedback. Don’t make the mistake of simply announcing the new “rules of the road” on Dec. 31, without preparing your staff. Take the time to create and follow a well-thought-out change plan in November and December—one that includes lots of communication with the team. Give yourself plenty of time to gather feedback, and suggestions, from all of those who will be affected by the change you have in mind.

2. Draw a clear line between the “what” and the “how.” As you hold your preliminary discussions with the team make it clear that you’re not looking for feedback on whether or not the change will take place, but how it will unfold. Let your people know that while the “what” isn’t up for discussion, you are deeply interested in their thoughts on the very best ways for the team to get where it is headed. Be sure you listen actively to what they share.

3. Identify the champions of change. As you talk to your team about the approaching change, you will notice that some people are more receptive to the idea of adapting to the changes than others. That’s only natural. Your job as a leader is to spot those team members who are the most eager to help you make the new system work—and then create opportunities for them to share with the team what they’re doing to prepare. These people will be your champions of change. You’ll want to give them a chance to share with the rest of the team what they plan to do to succeed, using the new plan. After Jan. 1, any relevant success stories your champions can share with the team will be important, too.

4. Communicate regularly about the upcoming change, using multiple channels. People process information in different ways, so important messaging must be repeated if it’s going to have an impact. That means a single email won’t do the trick when it comes to getting your team on board for major change. A single team meeting won’t do it either. In preparation for the big transition you plan to implement on Jan. 1, you will want to use many communication channels. By creating an effective “drip” campaign about what’s going to be different next year, you’ll keep this subject on your team’s radar screen. A week should not go by without the team getting some kind of positive messaging about the upcoming change. Your core message needs to repeat over time and you should take full advantage of multiple communication platforms as you send and reinforce that message.

It’s later than you think; get started now. Follow these four steps to gain buy-in from your sales team on the big, essential changes that you have planned for the coming year.

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or

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