The Simplest Way to Get Your Team to Change Its Behavior

Written by: Jeb Brooks
Change Behavior

Changing salespeople’s behavior is hard. Especially when your desire for change competes with the desire your team may have not to change.

It’s impossible to force another person to do anything. Ultimately, if someone on your team does something you want them to do, it’s their choice to do so.

So, the question becomes: How can we create conditions that align their choice with your desired outcomes?

The answer? It’s about creating an environment that makes your choice, their choice.

Here at The Brooks Group, we’re firm believers in Albert Einstein’s admonition to “make things as simple as possible without making them too simple.”

And the concept of Change Management can be pretty overwhelming.

How can I get my sales team to do something totally new?! How can I make it simple?!

Consider this incredibly simple way to change your team’s behavior…

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg introduces readers to memory expert Dr. Larry Squire’s simple framework for understanding how habits work. Squire’s Habit Loop works like this:

There’s a cue, a routine, and a reward.

For example, I have a habit of drinking coffee every morning when I walk into the office. For me, the cue is walking through the door. I then grab a cup, put it in the machine, and brew some coffee. The reward is the subtle buzz I get from a strong cup of joe. If I want to change that habit (I don’t!), the simplest way to do it is to change the cue.

This simple model can be expanded into the world of change management.

Let’s say you’re the Sales Leader for your organization. One day, you’re minding your own business when the CEO walks into your office and says, “I don’t understand why your team isn’t selling the new Widget 124c. We’ve invested in it and you’re not moving the product. Fix it!”

Of course, you could call a quick conference call and demand the team begin selling it. But, you know that won’t likely work.

On the other hand, you can apply Squire’s Habit Loop to effect a change management plan. First things first, the greatest fear shared by most salespeople is the idea of being embarrassed in front of a customer. In the minds of salespeople, a new product launch is rife with risk.

  • Will it work?
  • Will it create more work for me?
  • Will it cause me to lose the customer?
  • And, in the presence of ambiguity, most assume the negative.

So, as a sales leader, it becomes your job to ensure each element of Squire’s Habit Loop is clear: First, it’s important to illustrate — as precisely as practical — what the cue will look like.

  • For example, “The cue to consider recommending the Widget 124c is when the customer’s situation looks like X.”
  • Or, “if the customer says ‘XYZ,’ it might make sense to consider the Widget 124c.”

Second, since this is a new habit we’re forming, the routine needs to be provided for the salespeople. That’s about building [or working with marketing to build] appropriate collateral, proposals, and other materials that help salespeople look professional presenting the new Widget 124c.

Finally, the reward is important. And it’s twofold. First, the Widget 124c needs to perform. In other words, it needs to do what you, your salespeople, and your organization promise it will. Second, salespeople who successfully implement the new habit need to see a reward. Based on our research, salespeople respond to Extrinsic Rewards. In general, they fall into two categories: cash and/or recognition. So, install an effective bonus or recognition program for successful sellers.

Sure, it would be great if salespeople did what you wanted whenever you asked them to, but that’s not going to happen. People make their own choices. So, instead of wishing for the impossible, consider carefully how Squire’s Habit Loop can be used to effect change management in your organization.



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Written By

Jeb Brooks

As the Chief Culture Officer of The Brooks Group, Jeb Brooks is responsible for the initiatives that create and maintain a strong company culture. Jeb believes fervently that companies don’t grow, people do. The purpose of The Brooks Group is to help team members grow as people and professionals so that they can help clients do the same. Jeb’s work is centered around identifying opportunities for everyone to push their comfort zones and extend beyond their limits.

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