Find Value in Going Rogue to Change Your Sales Department

BY C. Lee Smith
Featured image for “Find Value in Going Rogue to Change Your Sales Department”

In your new roles as sales manager, you may be tempted to steamroll changes through the department. You'll have better outcomes by going rogue. Paul Rosenberg, author of “Rogue Leadership: Harnessing Headwinds to Drive Performance,” recently shared how a leader can get the team to buy into big changes during his recent guest appearance on our Manage Smarter podcast.

Assessing Organizational Culture and Climate

In any organization, the higher-​ups and some of the worker bees are willing to grant new employee credits to team members who are just starting out. You don’t want to burn through those credits quickly by taking a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. That’s why Rosenberg suggests that you take time to understand the culture and mindset of the current employees on your team. 

All too often, leaders come into an organization thinking they know best. They’ve had a great success elsewhere, and they figure they can produce the same results at the new company. That attitude reflects a certain amount of arrogance.

In addition, new leaders may feel they are under pressure to show results as quickly as possible. Their anxiety over quickly achieving goals may lead them to take action without sufficient understanding. If you’re feeling that kind of pressure, take a step back and hit the pause button. Now’s the time to create distance between the situation and any decision you’re going to make. And this process is what Rosenberg describes as going rogue.

Making hasty decisions just to show you’re in charge leads to a poor sequence of actions. But it’s what many business leaders and sales managers do. Instead of ready, aim, fire, Rosenberg says you run the risk of doing “ready, fire, aim.” 

Implementing Change by Going Rogue

If you’ve been told to shift the sales culture from one based on relationships to one based on the challenger model, for example, start by understanding the skills and motivations of your reps. You can obtain this information by reviewing any digital sales assessments given to your team.

Some reps will be more comfortable with the change than others. Give people plenty of time to adjust to the new expectations. Introduce and roll out training logically, allowing reps the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t just talk about ‘the how.’ Be sure to explain the reasoning behind the change. For example, if your organization has just released a complex high-​tech service, the old method of selling may no longer be effective. To help clients stay ahead in a competitive environment, the challenger method of selling may be the only way for your organization to succeed.

Logical explanations may help some team members understand the required changes on one level. But to break up entrenched practices and mindsets, you’ll need to introduce a game or activity that moves reps out of their comfort zone. They’ve been accustomed to doing things the same way for a long time. 

Whether it’s improv theater or popping bubble wrap, getting reps to engage in unfamiliar behavior and encouraging them to laugh at themselves is a step in the right direction. They must learn to stop themselves when they are about to return to old practices. And they have to remind themselves to adopt the new practices.

Too Much, Too Soon

While you’re nudging your sales department in a new direction, don’t get carried away. Some leaders are visionaries. Every day, new ideas may come to them. And they may constantly be introducing these new ideas to their reps. One day, they may want to try social selling. The next day, they’ll be pressing the reps to try new conferencing tools to boost productivity. 

Goldberg will tell you to stop. If you don’t, you run the risk of paralyzing your entire organization. Your reps won’t be able to keep up with the changes. They’ll be so busy trying to figure out how what you want today is different from what you asked for yesterday that they won’t be selling at all.

Before you introduce change into the department, talk over the idea with a few trusted individuals. These individuals don’t always have to be leaders. They can also be employees you’ve worked with for a long time or who have proved they will tell you the truth.

Above all, remember that organizational change is necessary, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient, track progress and adjust your strategy in response to what employees and clients are telling you, verbally and through their actions. This process amounts to going rogue when compared to the usual methods of implementing organizational change.