In today’s demanding market place the willingness to change direction and be innovative is critical to business success. Change and innovation provide competitive advantage and new pathways for growth especially during rapidly changing circumstances, which many businesses are constantly confronting. Although people are often prepared to embrace new ideas change is often resisted. The challenge is to create a culture which embraces and champions change and innovation but at the same time balances the need for stability, and protects key areas such as values, quality, customer focus, integrity, etc while challenging convention.
How to foster a culture which embraces innovation and change
1. Preparation and research
In times of stress there can be an impending sense of disaster but no sense of urgency to change anything. Increasingly today the new core competency is creativity. A leader’s role is to encourage the adoption of new approaches and ideas, but how? Trying to instigate change often means overcoming considerable resistance the ‘not invented here syndrome’. The ability to successfully turn new ideas into reality requires great perseverance. It involves creating a culture where creative ideas are welcomed and failures understood. Careful preparation and both external and internal research, through group and individual meetings, is essential. This determines where to focus energy, how to convey a sense of urgency, which factions need to be taken account of and what coalitions need to be forged.
2. Involve others
To enlist support, members of the team need to feel that they have a role to play, something positive to contribute, that their opinions matter. Regular meetings need to be scheduled to foster creativity and the generation of new ideas. The leader needs to be receptive, looking for solutions by listening, questioning, learning and following through with action. Highly skilled and forceful people need to be selected to execute these ideas. Once the process has begun the leader needs to galvanize the efforts of others and build on initial progress.
3. Acknowledge successes
It is vital to acknowledge early successes however small, to invoke a personal sense of urgency to ‘come on board’. Nothing is more likely to win the support of others than seeing visible results. The team then needs to be further galvanized to consolidate progress, missions need to be launched to reinforce the initiatives and at the same time any lapses need to be identified and corrected.
4. Stay involved
Once momentum has been gained it must be sustained. Frank discussion meetings need to continue to agree further priorities, deadlines and responsibilities. Personal involvement of the leader through these and other individual meetings urges the initiative on and demonstrates commitment. Follow-ups via scheduled reviews and spontaneous meetings show that the initiative is still a priority. Progress then needs to be sustained by closely following progress, continuing to grab attention by continuing to announce and celebrate successes. There will always be an element of risk and the possibility of failure and this needs to be acknowledged, the leader needs to stay involved and not compromise on values and principles.In conclusion my suggestions would be:
- Do your planning and research carefully.
- Quickly identify your supporters and the reasons why others might be hostile to change.
- Demonstrate your commitment and excitement, enthusiasm is contagious!
- Clearly articulate the direction and at the same time remain receptive to others ideas and approaches.
- Celebrate and acknowledge success however small and however early!
- Stay involved, observation and imagination can be greatest tools for innovation.
How successful have you been in helping others to accept new ideas and change? What has worked for you? What ideas do you have to encourage creativity and innovation in your organization?
Using initiative gets sales results
"I would like to be spoon-fed please!" Sales training, any training, will only get sales results if individuals take selling initiative, think for themselves and apply the sales skills and sales process taught. You can be given instruction to drive a car but once you are alone behind the wheel you need to think for yourself, use your own initiative to apply what you were taught! Sadly too many sales people are looking for the silver bullet, even if they really know it doesn’t exist. As a sales trainer it is often difficult to strike a balance between providing a complete, end-to-end easy-to-follow sales process and asking the sales people to think for themselves. “Give someone a fish and they’ll eat for a day; teach them to fish and they’ll eat forever.”
In a recent sales workshop we were asked for electronic copies of our sales training slides to create customer presentations. Although flattered that our sales training slides were considered that useful; what lay behind the request was that the sales person did not want to have to think for themselves. They wanted to be spoon-fed.
Successful sales people apply their sales training
Is this part of the modern world of ‘instant gratification’ and sound bites? Why aren’t we more willing to think for ourselves and put-in that little bit of extra effort? We are all rushing from one thing to the next, trying (or pretending) to multi-task. Sales training companies can provide examples. We can provide illustrations and we can create an opportunity for sales people to practice new sales skills. But when sales people get back to the real world they need to think for themselves and how they can apply these sales skills to their individual sales situations. Successful sales people don’t want to be spoon-fed – they know that to succeed in a consultative selling role they need to think for themselves, to think on their feet, to listen carefully to their customers, and then consider how to best position their products or services as the right solution for the customer.
Sales process provides a road map
Sales process provides structure to the role of selling. It provides a roadmap for success – but how people use the roadmap is still for them to decide. There are steps in the sales cycle but they are not intended to be something to follow rigidly without adapting the implementation of the sales process to suit the different customer types and different sales situations.
So, yes, sales people can have all the sales training slides they want, but what is really important is how they apply what they have been taught, how they work-out a way to adapt the sales process and the examples for their own sales situations. Go to it! It will pay more dividends in the long-term!