Selling change in a world that’s constantly changing

“First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.” — Dale Carnegie

With all that has happened since early last year, the need to pivot, to sell new ways of doing business, and to survive and thrive has never been greater. As Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza once said, “Either you grow or you die.” Unfortunately, some businesses by their very nature have a very difficult time turning on a dime in our new COVID world. Airlines would be a prime example. On the other hand, many restaurants have figured out how to survive — not necessarily thrive — with much more sophisticated websites and ordering food to go. I know of one business that had just completed a multimillion dollar office expansion, featuring collaborative work spaces and all the bells and whistles. This same business now has their entire team working from home. Who even knew what WFH meant a year ago?

In our Dale Carnegie training business, we are working with live online, some face to face, and also blended learning environments. Because of different local restrictions, I have colleagues who have been 100% live online since March. They have no choice.

Regardless, in business after business, there has never been more of a critical need to change business models. To expedite that change, there has never been a more critical need to sell change!

In the category called “how not to do it,” getting a team on board with a whole new way of working effectively cannot be dictated. You cannot say, “What I want you to do now is …” Rather, I would strongly encourage you to follow the advice of Dale Carnegie above and see things from the other person’s point of view and put yourself in their shoes. It is only then that you can truly get their commitment to the changes that need to take place.

There is a story in Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, about Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son. They were trying to get a calf into a barn. They pushed and pulled, pushed and pulled, to no avail. The calf wanted to stay in the pasture and there was no way it was going into the barn. At this point, the Irish housemaid saw what was happening. Even though she did not have the education of Emerson, she did have a better way of selling change. She put her finger in the calf’s mouth and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led it into the barn.

This point was really driven home with me several years ago when interviewing the CEO of a very large regional organization. At the time, his company was going through dramatic negative changes (not nearly what we are going through today). I asked him a question that I have asked hundreds of times to leaders over the years and he had the most insightful answer I ever heard.

I asked if there was one behavior change that could immediately and positively impact the effectiveness of his leadership team. After a short pause, he said it would be great if they could all be professional salespeople! He himself came from a sales background and he went on to explain that sales pros, the real ones, never, ever sell, sell, sell. Rather, they try as hard as they can to deeply understand the customer’s needs and wants. Only with that depth of understanding will they begin to be effective.

Finally, the need to change and pivot is obvious to everyone. Almost every business has been touched by this crazy virus. When trying to get people on board to the new reality, their new role, and how to act on it, be sure to follow Dale Carnegie’s advice and communicate often!

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