The buying and selling landscape is remarkably different now than it was four or five months ago. Between workforces’ shifting to remote work and organizations’ undergoing substantial digital transformations, sales reps must adapt quickly. However, many leaders and managers know that behavior change doesn’t occur overnight; in fact, it can often take months or years for real change to normalize and embed itself into the fabric of the organization. Keeping your sellers’ and their virtual experience at the forefront of the change initiative is an essential component of success. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

Why Is It Important to Manage the Behavior Change of Your Sales Reps?

As the rate of change across the organization continues to increase, it’s critical that sellers aren’t left to guide themselves through new virtual sales processes. Not only can it breed bad habits, but it can also lead to a negative sales culture and stall the development of skills that are necessary for success and professional growth in this unique environment.

At the organizational level, managing the behavior change of sellers is vital for the bottom line. Because salespeople’s behaviors are directly tied to results, it’s necessary to refine approaches and skill sets to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern buyer and virtual marketplace.

How to Implement Behavior Change Among Your Remote Sales Force

During these uncertain times, taking people even further out of their comfort zone is no easy task. To add to the complexity, change is necessary now more than ever. When enabling a change initiative for your remote sales team, it’s important to maintain an empathetic outlook and adopt strategies that take into account the challenges of virtual communication. Here’s how:

Hire People Who Are Willing to Change

This tip might not be applicable for organizations looking to effect change with their current sales force, but it’s worth a reminder as they realize that “the new normal” is likely to be a permanent fixture moving forward. As such, hiring managers should reevaluate the criteria they prioritize in the recruitment process, paying closer attention to traits like adaptability, self-awareness and a demonstrated openness to learning.

Take the time to identify the characteristics that create an aptitude for behavior change, and add them to the list of traits that have been effective for reaching your organization’s goals in the past.

Communication Is Still Key, but Storytelling Is Better

A critical first step in enacting a change program is transparently communicating why it’s important for the organization. As virtual communication channels present unique challenges, such as added distraction and videoconferencing fatigue, consider telling a story to captivate your sellers and gain their support.

Start by crafting a clear goal and vision of the type of change you want to achieve and how it will not only elevate the company and its business but also address the effectiveness and long-term goals of the sellers themselves. Be honest — address potential roadblocks and the initial messiness that change precipitates — but always return to that underlying vision and its value proposition.

Provide Genuine, Consistent and Structured Sales Coaching

Research shows that 42% of organizations coach their sales teams on an ad hoc basis or not at all, creating significant problems for seller effectiveness and the business’ bottom line. Creating a coaching culture is key in successfully implementing change management initiatives, and it starts with ensuring that sellers trust and believe in the process.

Conduct regular “at-desk” coaching sessions, where sellers can ask questions and work through their biggest obstacles. In a virtual environment, these types of open-forum engagements can easily fall to the wayside; avoid that tendency by requiring sessions at a structured, regular cadence (with recurring calendar appointments to match). Most importantly, focus on the outcome of those coaching sessions; require a follow-up session for a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the behavior on which you provided coaching.

Identify the Real Incentives That Underlie Motivation

The use of monetary incentives to increase sales is nothing new, but too often, managers, leaders and coaches don’t spend enough time with sellers to understand what really motivates them. While “making more money” is obvious, it is often only a façade for an incentive that’s more personal and passion-inducing.

Is your seller trying to buy a house for his or her family? Trying to send the kids to college? Putting money away for retirement? By helping sellers to tap into what drives them the most — and then clearly addressing it as the primary incentive — you can help them face the hard, necessary changes that deliver clear-cut results.

How to Measure and Assess the Results of a Change Initiative

Measuring the behavior change of a virtual sales training or initiative can be difficult. One of the mistakes that change agents make is to measure the frequency of a particular behavior or activity that they’re trying to push, which can create an even greater problem than it’s trying to solve. The number of calls or emails a seller delivers doesn’t adequately portray a change in behavior. Instead, determine the quality of the sellers’ output, be it a phone conversation, email or piece of content, by assessing the quality of reaction from the prospect or buyer:

    • Did the output result in a response?
    • Did the output result in a response with a question about the product or service?
    • Did the output result in moving on to the next stage of the buying journey?
    • Did the output result in a conversion or upsell?

As we’re all too familiar with now, change is hard — but it’s possible to make it less painful by centering your program around the seller experience. Through a determined understanding of what drives sellers to be the most successful, change practitioners can implement effective, meaningful and impactful programs that drive the entire business forward.