Five Steps to Changing Salesperson Behaviours Using Psychology

By Michael Lang

If you’ve ever found yourself vowing to a New Year’s resolution or to get healthier, then you’ll know first-hand how challenging it can be to change a behaviour. Despite any good intentions, most will find themselves continuing to smoke, eat junk food and fail to exercise. Why’s that?

Lasting behavioural change is difficult, very difficult and yet it can be done!

So why then do we throw salespeople into sales training and simply expect them to implement new habits and behaviours? If after the training, we see them revert back to previous behaviours, we start asking, “What now? What’s the point of training, they are hopeless?”

Instead, we should focus on supporting lasting behavioural changes. Fortunately, psychologists and behavioural researchers have already done the work to show how to do it. Based in psychology, here are 5 steps for achieving lasting behavioural change on your sales team.

1.  Connect the Behaviour with the Goal
It has been proven time and time again goal setting, proper goal setting assists people in achieving their desired outcomes. Improving sales effectiveness is no different.

As you cannot expect salespeople to change for your own reasons or for no reason at all, start by connecting desired behaviours with their own goals. For example, expecting them to record information in a CRM is futile; if the only thing they get out of it is a meaningless-to-them report. If, on the other hand, you can link it to goals they may have relating to improving their client engagement or a new step in the sales process will improve their win rates, suddenly you have created a reason for them to want to change.

People find goal setting hard because they do not have a great role model, so you need to demonstrate by example.

2. Identify the Right Behaviours
Most issues relating to sales effectiveness are reviewed via their symptoms, hence the problems continue to arise time and time again.

Only by reviewing and understanding the causes to the issues can a sales leader truly start to impact the behaviour of the sales person.

A classic example is where a sales team is not qualifying properly. You may train on what questions to ask and yet they still do not ask the questions, WT! The cause may involve their desire to wanting to be liked so they feel uncomfortable asking the questions. Until you deal with this because nothing will change.

An easy way to find out their limiting mindsets will be evaluating them against known competencies. Having the data at your figure tips makes it easier to focus on the right areas with the individuals in the team – quicker results.

3.  Align New Behaviours with Process and Methodology
An expert in weight loss will encourage people to work their new behaviour into their existing daily routine, tweaking consistently to ultimately changing the habits to be new ones.

Having and following a sales process and sales methodology will assist with routines, and yet this is the most common pitfall, not having a process and methodology – people winging it!

By including the necessary changes inside their workflow, you make it easy to embrace the new behaviour.

4. Reinforce and Use Accountability
Sometimes we need others to hold us accountable. People who are serious about fitness goals hire personal trainers. Likewise, sales teams that are serious about performance improvement invest in leadership improvement. Unfortunately, this would be the biggest reason for improvement programs failing!

Accountability has never been so beneficial because sometimes we need that person checking up on us. Sales effectiveness goes to waste because companies do not invest in reinforcement and accountability.

So many leaders have NEVER been trained on effective sales leadership and yet they are there to get the best from the team. So many leaders are uncomfortable with accountability, they have their own demons to excise before they can leverage their team effectively.

Embarking upon any sales team effectiveness improvement program without including sales leaders is doomed to fail. Guaranteed!

5. Transformation is a Process, Not an End Game
One of the leading causes of behaviour change failure is frustration, anger and withdrawal.

By helping salespeople see behaviour change as a process rather than an end game, you can help them avoid the frustration, anxiety, confusion that comes with inevitable mistakes and backtracking.

You cannot expect your salespeople to adopt new behaviours just 'because'. If you provide them with the motivation, tools and support necessary to effect true behaviour change, you'll find higher performance will naturally follow.