The "What" Won't Happen Without the "Why"

This is thirteenth of several blogs delving into the origin and meaning of my sales leadership “Words of Wisdom”. You can access the complete list here

I run across sales leaders who can’t get their teams to buy-in to change. When I dig in, I always find the same root cause - The team was explained  the “what” but not the “why”.

Even at a young age, we seek to understand the why. Few people respond well to being told what to do.

Sales people are typically independent thinkers who won’t adopt change unless they see what’s in it for them. For sales people, change has to be tied to closing more deals and making more money.

Here’s a simple method I use when implementing change for a sales team…

Before going into action mode, I do a gut check by answering the following questions:

  • What are we doing?
  • Why are we doing it?
  • How are we going to make this change happen?
  • Who is impacted by this change and what will they need to do differently?
  • What’s in it for them?

If I’m not impressed by the answers, especially to the last question, I re-evaluate what I’m doing. I’ve abandoned or redesigned change initiatives after realizing the team would never buy-in.

When it’s time to communicate to the team, I deliver (in an interactive session) a PowerPoint that answers the above questions. I ALWAYS use the phrases “this is important because”and “this is what is required from you”. And repeat two or three times for emphasis.

After answering any questions, I close with “I’m assuming now everyone understands what we are doing, why it’s important, and what is expected going forward. If not, speak up now.”

I closely monitor behavior to see if who didn’t get the message. Non-compliance needs to be addressed immediately. But listen to what your team is telling you - maybe the change or the way it was communicated  is flawed.

It’s also important for sales leaders to communicate the “why” in one on one situations. Never assume a sales person understands, agrees with, and will action your requests.

Same rules apply - get the individual to acknowledge what you are asking them to do, why it’s important and what’s expected from them.

It’s that simple - learn to explain the “why” and the “what” will happen.

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