I Want The Word “Change” Back

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At its root, sales is a form of communication. The more effectively you can communicate with a buyer, or these days with a set of buyers involved in a purchase decision, the great your sales success. This is why some see sales as a science, and others as an art form. For me, as with most things in sales, those who achieve continuous and consistent success, not occasional and sporadic success, approach sales and their execution, as a science artfully executed. Central to communication are the words you use, there is no escaping the fact that – words count.

How you use words, the frequency of use, the relevance to the listener, their impact on the conversation and the desired outcomes, all matter in a serious way. Sales people have a tendency to pile on certain words that are either trendy or fashionable. Why not, we are part of a larger collective which includes our buyers. The concern I have at times, is when people involved in the revenue process, change the meaning of a word, or elevate it to a point where it may sound good, but has little actionable meaning. The more we use it, the less purpose it has, the less likely it is to move the sale forward. Next time you are speaking to an SDR count the number of times you hear the word Awesome, even when the experience was less than awesome.

But one word we really need to rescue and allow it to regain its previous stature and meaning, is the “Change”. Such a great word, filled with promise and hope, giving one the inspiration and power to act where others would not, while scaring others to the point of paralysis and allowing their business to suffer as a process. No doubt “Change” is a word deserves more than the way it is used by some in sales and marketing.


to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something)different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone:

  1. to change one’s name;to change one’s opinion;
  2. to transform or convert (usually followed by into):
  3. to substitute another or others for; exchange for something else, usually of the same kind:

We can spend pages about how the word “Change” has been miss used to describe products, new releases of products, and other elements that come up in encounters between seller and buyer. How sometimes buyers say they are looking for “Change”, when they really mean they are looking for a different vendor, not a change in the deliverable or what they are willing to pay for said “Change”. I continue to grow tired of products claiming to have changed, when all they did is mess with the UI, colours, button positions, etc., all of which lead to zero change in the underlying functionality, user experience (usually diminished, because once they figure out the “Changed” UI does not lead to a changed or improved outcomes), or most importantly, outcomes for the buyer. It often seems that the thought process is more like “Hey we’re paying these developers and designers,.. – the product has looked the same now for 6 months, sales are slow, we need to “Change” something!”

The problem is every time we as sellers claim a “Change”, and that “Change” is entirely self-serving, without positive impact on the buyers’ objectives, we lose a degree of credibility. Every time a company has to retrain their people on how to use what we sell, but the resulting “Change” does not exceed the effort involved, and the impact is the same, we reinforce the doubt in their mind. The reason that many “Status Quo” buyers refuse to engage and consider making the “Change” to your product is the repeated and over whelming disappointment they had when they bought the “Change” argument in the past.

Real “Change” in the buy/sales cycle comes when you can forget your product, and focus entirely on what the buyer is looking to achieve. And contrary to popular thinking, that is not always “Change”. The more we focus on anything but that, the more likely we are to be met by a buyer averse to “Change”. In an environment where a previously misled buyers are card carrying members of the “Pain of the same is better than the pain of the Change”, we as sellers need to take change seriously. It may be easy with that sliver of the market in pain and looking for any “Change” for the sake of “Change”, but for a large percentage of the market, the “Status Quo”, “Change” is a dirty word.

All this leads to the real required “Change”, the only “Change” you can control, directly benefit from, and one the buyers will actually get. Changing the way you sell. This goes beyond technology, there will always be new technologies, that is only a “Change” in tools, not execution. If you go to social selling but not change the narrative, and the things you speak to, and more, you haven’t really changed; probing for pains and needs with social, is still probing for the same old, with just a shinier and newer instrument. New is not “Change”. Start by focusing on impacts you have delivered in similar scenarios for similar buyers, in similar roles, with similar objectives. Change by not reading another feel good sales book, and read The Ten-Day MBA, so you can understand what your buyer is dealing with in the other 39 hours of their week that they are not speaking to you. Aim to change the 39 hours in addition to the one they spend with you. Anything short of that is not “Change”, just a freshly painted “Same”, and there is no shortage of “Same” pretending to be “Change” in sales.

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