Archives for posts with tag: change

One of the most difficult challenges with sales training or sales effectiveness – and in fact any kind of change – is overcoming engrained behaviours. It’s only through repeated application of the new way, with all the pain and discomfort that comes with it, that the new way eventually becomes the accepted way and a second nature thing.

I was reminded of this recently in my table tennis endeavours. I’ve been playing competitively for decades, and I’ve always concentrated on putting the ball in different corners to move my opponent around. It is deeply and completely subconscious, after a million-plus repetitions.

I’ve been studying a lot of table tennis matches on youtube over the last few months, as I look for new ways to compensate for my gradual decline in fitness and sharpness due to Father Time’s relentless advances. I’ve noticed that a lot of the top players hit a lot of shots into the crossover, which is the awkward spot on the right hip – of the right-handed player – between the forehand and the backhand, effectively jamming them up.

This is not new. One of the first things we were taught as kids was hit to the corners against a short opponent, and into the middle for a tall player. Maybe twenty years ago our local club had a coaching session with a guest coach who again stressed the crossover tactic and quoted the statistic that the then star player in England, Desmond Douglas, would hit up to 40% of shots down the crossover.

I’ve been trying this with renewed effort over the last few weeks and – it’s really, really difficult! The sport is very quick and you don’t have much time to plan and execute. I find myself instinctively following my subconscious, time and time again.

The answer? As with sales, I need to practice more, and compete less, to untrain and retrain myself.

When you’re going for a walk or driving or taking a train, a plane or a boat, you’re looking for different scenery, a different view of the world. Variety keeps the interest and adds to our bank of experiences. Too much of the same view and we get bored. It’s no use changing our location if the scenery is still the same.

It’s the same thing with work and play. You’re looking for a different scenario, a new angle, another way of looking at and experiencing things. While we love our routine, within that routine we also strive for variety. There’s no point making the effort to change if we get the same view, the same scenario. In this case the pain of change is greater than the pain of the staying the same.

We want the pain of change to be less than the pain of staying the same. This is why, if were going to improve our lot, or seize an opportunity, or fix a problem, we need to look at a different scenario.

The same scenario doesn’t work for us. We tried it already. It’s done. Time to move on. Time for a different scenario.

I was watching a marketing training video the other day, produced by an American company highly respected in the area of what’s called ‘inbound marketing’ and the speaker used the word ‘ongoingly’.

Ongoingly, meaning – one would assume – in an ongoing fashion – is another great example of human languages adapting and changing all the time.

I was talking to my good lady about this recently, and about how language change spreads, and she wasn’t convinced.

‘So,’ she said, as we were walking through an agricultural show to buy an ice cream, ‘I’m going to call that bunch of stones on the path down here a ‘bubblybeg’. You can’t tell me I’ve created a new word..’ Of course it is, I replied, you just coined a new word. Now I’m going to use it, and we’ll both know what it signifies when we use it again. If we don’t use it anymore, it dies with us.

But, I continued, if you continue using it, and others adopt it, your new word is taking hold one person at a time. Throw in a couple of influencers or broadcasters with access to many more people, and then thousands of people are making that individual decision whether or not to adopt and use it too. All of a sudden the word gains critical mass and eventually becomes accepted. It starts as a verbal thing, then over time becomes enshrined in the written word, and away you go.

The same thing will have happened with ongoingly, like it did with three-peat. Language change is a constant, living thing, and that for me is the constant fascination.

There’s nothing like the physical world to give us a powerful corollary of how it works in the cyber world.

I’m always reminded of this in late December when families and friends get together at the end of a few months of solid graft and a winter vomiting bug or two runs riot, moving through areas like wildfire.

That’s really viral, genuinely viral. You can see why the term virus was coined in the cyber world. A physical virus is an amazing thing, replicating itself, producing different strains and moving quickly through people in different cycles and timeframes.

Millions can be affected within the space of a couple of weeks, brought on by the combination of people being at a low ebb and slightly more vulnerable to infection after a sustained period of work, proximity to others, and mobility within family groups and circles of friends.

I’m always fascinated by how terms like desktop, folder, cloud, virus and so on are borrowed from the physical world for their digital equivalent. They always seem so apt.

I was on holiday quite recently. We took the family skiing. Not something we do every year; it’s too expensive and I’m a big fan of the heat.

We went to Italy. I don’t do the data roaming thing, because I’m not a big user of data when I travel; voice and text is enough for me. This means I rely on wireless networks, you know the deal.

The apartment we rented was tiny, but the use of space was so amazing IKEA should have been taking notes. It had no wireless, though. This meant if I wanted to get online it was the mountain restaurants and bars.

This was fine in principle, except the connections were so flaky that you couldn’t really do much, so I didn’t.

I was basically off the grid for a week, except for 5 minutes to check in for the return flights online and download the boarding passes with my fancy airline app. And, do you know what, while I was ‘away’, the sky didn’t fall in.

It was actually great. I didn’t miss it at all, and felt no compulsion to go onto social media and tell people how many corn flakes I’d eaten. No withdrawal symptoms, no first world problems, nothing. It was like the good old days when you went on your family holidays and came back wondering what news you’d missed and what song was number 1 in the charts while you were away.

Coming back was not too bad either. The inbox was manageable.

I recommend being off the grid it to all my friends, at least to try it for a few days. A sort of digital detoxing.

“There are no competitors”. I used to be fond of saying this, especially in previous industries I’d worked in which were fairly commoditised and definitely got the thin end of the Porter 5 forces wedge. These industries were also fiercely competitive.

My point was really this: There are no competitors, only potential partners or customers.” There is always a possibility of working with someone rather than against them. It’s more productive, and better for the collective, greater good. Of course, one of my reasons for saying this was to re-position my company, and de-position the opposition, by making such a statement, implying that we were different, unique even.

To an extent this is similar to the process of challenging the status quo. When you can look at things from a fresh perspective, and frame the place where you compete in a different way, then you reframe your market, you create fresh categories for yourself and you forge a unique set of dynamics where you are the lynchpin or fulcrum around which everything revolves.

When you can do this, your competitors melt away. There are no competitors; only you exist in this space, and your value enhances accordingly.



We’re constantly hearing about entrepreneurs or leading companies that challenge the status quo and look for new ways to do things. This can often give them an important edge in the market, which inevitably takes the competition time to identify and address.

Challenging the status quo is easier said than done, however. It takes a certain mindset which needs to operate in two dimensions. The first dimension is that you have to be able to think outside the box, to use a battered cliche, to be able to eschew the standard assumptions and accepted situations. The second is that you need to be able to do it a lot, and ideally all the time.

I was reminded of this some months ago when helping to prepare some messaging around a certain market, which included defining that market and how that market was structured. A couple of the senior individuals were in the team and I was struck by how differently and more expansively they were able to view the market they operated in, and hence how they could position their company in a more different and more beneficial way.

They simply brushed away the assumptions about how the industry was structured, assumptions I had wrongly taken as the pillars for how things worked in the industry.

It’s obvious that the role of senior executives is to be looking over the parapet far more often than other staff who are more siloed, specialist, operational, or tactical. But, that said, it was refreshing to see people who took a professional approach to questioning everything and thinking deeply about what they could and couldn’t move.

As you can imagine, visionaries are far more able to see everything as movable. For them there is no status quo.

I’ve recently been through an exercise to change the way I run. I’ve never benefitted from coaching and only really jogged or ran to keep the weight off and stay fit for more fun pursuits like soccer or racquet sports.

I’d also been picking up a few calf niggles over the last few years and thought it was something to do with my technique, rather than the more obvious reason which is the inexorable sway of time.

What I noticed was that people who run don’t actually plant the heel. The ball of their foot hits the ground first, rather than the heel. I was always heel first, as if I was walking, but a bit quicker. So I set about changing the way I ran.

Because it’s such a fundamental and constant activity, it takes a lot of conscious effort to change. It’s the same in business. If you’re comfortable doing things a certain way, you stay doing it that way. When you find it’s wrong, or it can be done better, you have to embark on a regular conscious process of upheaval or else you’ll give up and go back to the old way. You might not want to change, even if you privately admit it’s for the better. It’s too hard in the short term.

So it was with the running. Every single stride was a conscious effort, otherwise the mind would wander for a couple of minutes and I’d emerge from my reverie to find that the heel was back hitting first. Slowly, but surely, the new way becomes the new natural way, but it’s still so easy to slip the yolk early and step back – literally.

Most companies tend to study the traditional barometers of performance, such as revenues, revenues as a percentage of targets, and quota attainment as a percentage of salesperson sales quota.

These are your classic ‘lag’ indicators. They lag because they typically come a few days after a reporting period closes, with the lag occurring as companies wait for the final numbers and do their calculations.

Lag indicators are concrete, illustrative and unchanging. But they also indicate performance in a period in the past, one that you can’t change or influence.

Leading indicators do what you think they might, namely give an indication of future performance. The size of your sales pipeline, for example, gives you a sense of how close you are to achieving your sales targets, given what you know about your sales cycle and your conversion rates.

Other lead indicators might be behavioural, especially if you’re looking to measure the new behaviours you want to see if you are to change the way you do things.

This is the power of leading indicators. You don’t have to wait for the lag indicators to see if you’re making progress, because then it might be too late. You can monitor the leading indicators and either confirm you’re on track, or make the necessary alterations and correct your course before it’s too late.

Whenever you try to improve the way you or your company does things, you’re into the business of change. More importantly, the business of changing behaviours, those engrained activities that increase comfort and save time, without necessarily upping productivity or success.

An awful lot of initiatives to change the way we do things come unstuck, and if you believe the research, the success rate can be as low as 30 to 50%. Why is this? A bunch of possible causes contribute. People are set in their ways, or they actively resist change, or the company doesn’t get a host of other things right.

To look at this the other way, and from a more positive angle, there is some first class research from McKinsey about what conditions need to be in place for change to occur successfully. In short these are:

1) A purpose to believe in. Folk have to buy in to what you’re trying to do

2) Reinforcement systems. Front line managers have to coach to the new behaviours

3) The skills required for change. We learn by doing, and doing repeatedly, to acquire the new skills

4) Consistent role models. Seeing people you look up to doing things the new way pays dividends

So there you have it. Easy to blog about, harder to do. Get buy in, reinforce what you’re looking to see, practice makes perfect, and let the leaders lead the way. For more on this excellent research, have a look here.