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You can sell anything, sure, but it only works when someone is buying.
Some of the most difficult sales are to ourselves. Take new year’s resolutions. There’s a laundry list of things we think we should be doing to improve our lives but don’t.
The top three new year’s resolutions are eat healthier, get more exercise, and save more money. 80% of resolutions fail. I believe that we all mean it when we say we want to make these changes, but still they fail.
What’s going on?
We’re trying to sell change to ourselves, but we’re not buying. The “resistance” part of the formula for change can help point us in the right direction.
I don’t know about you, but usually when I fail to do things it’s because I’m resistant to make the change. And the formula for change tells us the same thing about organizations: resistance is the culprit of a failed change initiative.
Any service you sell has some sort of required change. And the greater the change you require, the greater the resistance. Whether your services are expertise-driven and highly-differentiated, or more commoditized and price-competitive, you’re asking someone to change their behavior, reallocate resources, and take on new risk. Multiply that behavioral change across a few additional people and you have yourself a sale that’s exponentially more difficult.
That’s the reality of sales.
But what exactly is resistance, and how can we know how much a particular client is resistant to change?
According to Dannemiller, resistance can be defined as:
People, power, and processes that maintain the status quo
I’d take it a step further with “people” to look at both the emotional and rational resistance to change. There’s the bit about how “change is hard” because it inherently represents some degree of risk, and we all prefer to avoid unnecessary risk. We may also be set in our ways.
But there are good reasons for the status quo. Or at least there were good reasons at some point.
Our job is to find out what they are, how likely we are to overcome them, then make a decision about whether we want to try (i.e. if it’s a sales opportunity worth pursuing).
This process should be baked into the qualification stage of your sales process. The more specific you are about who your client is and what they must believe, the more likely you are to quickly identify those who are too resistant to change and therefore not yet a good prospective client for you.
Let’s look for a second at each of the resistance factors:
- People: are there individuals who are less open to change than others? And how much?
- Power: do the supporters of your project have the authority to make a buying decision, or the power to influence it? If not, do they have the full support of the people who will make the buying decision?
- Process: are there existing ways of doing this that would obviously jeopardize the success of your project, and can they be overcome?
All of these questions can be answered pretty easily if you know your business and your clients well. Identifying these resistance factors can be a key input into your sales process and predict the success of any individual deal you’re working. They’ll also prevent you from chasing deals that are destined for failure.
Resistance is a predictor of a change, and therefore a predictor of every sale.
So my question for you today:
What’s one thing you do to identify how resistant a client is to change?