Will Bachman: How do you get a person to change his or her behavior? Four things have to be true.
Hey, welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is produced by Umbrex and I’m your host Will Bachman. One framework that I learned at McKinsey and I found very useful, lays out for things that have to be true to get someone to change his or her behavior. I’m not sure who came up with this framework, if at McKinsey invented it or if they took it from somewhere else. If you know, let me know and I’ll edit the show notes and add it, but I wanna go through it. So let’s use an example to walk us through these four things would have to be true. Let’s talk about Annette who’s a sales manager, who wants each of her sales reps to make at least 10 outbound calls a week to new prospects, in addition to all their work on existing clients and their deals in progress.
What has to be true to get those sales reps to change their behavior? Number one, understanding and commitment. The sales reps have to believe that these outbound calls are actually important to meeting their sales quota, that the calls are a good investment of their time. They need to be committed to the target and now you can imagine various ways to get that understanding. Perhaps Annette could show data that historically, even great clients have a lifecycle and at the business from them eventually tapers off, so that a sales rep who tries to survive just by farming that existing client base will eventually have a declining book of business. Or you could show success stories of sales reps who made outbound calls and landed Annette new clients that generated big commissions. So somehow you need to get the sales reps to understand why it’s important and you also need a commitment mechanism. Maybe the goals are written down, maybe the sales rep signs acknowledging the goals or makes just an oral commitment, either one on one or in a group setting. But you gotta understand what the target is and be committed to it. So that’s number one, understanding and commitment.
Number two, need the skills to make the calls. So Annette, our sales manager, she listens into one of these outbound calls the first week and the call’s a disaster. The sales rep has no idea how to handle the call. They get someone on the phone and they don’t know how to establish rapport. The sales rep’s used to clients who are inbound calls and just sort of taking orders or maybe upselling or cross selling, but not sure how to initiate the discussion. So Annette takes them aside, she takes a Saturday morning, brings everybody in, does some intense role plays, give some scripts, gets everybody to practice until they have the skills. So now they have number one understanding commitment, number two the skills.
Number three, role modeling. So let’s say that Annette’s reps understand the target, committed to it, they got the skills, but they never see Annette making a call herself. That commitment is gonna wear off because her actions speak louder than words. How can she expect her sales reps to make calls when she doesn’t pick up the phone herself? But if they see Annette making 10, 15, 20 calls a week, in addition to helping them, coaching them on larger deals, scheduling, interviewing, recruiting new hires, budgeting, interacting with marketing and operations and managing the team. If they see her making the calls, that’s a powerful message that they ought to be making them as well.
So finally number four, formal mechanisms. So sales reps could understand the importance, be committed, got the skills, sees Annette role modeling it, and everybody has energy at first. The first week people are making the calls, the second week people are making the calls. It’s fun, it’s novel and maybe they even get a success story here and there but life gets busy. They’ve got live deals and they’ve got clients who actually … they wanna speak to them and buy their services. So some short week, Memorial Day, a short week, they have some big deals going on. They miss a few calls, they get eight calls done. The next week they get five calls done, the next week they get no calls done and no one says anything. No one’s tracking it. They know it’s kind of wrong, but no one makes a fuss and then eventually get to the point where they’re looking back and they’re remembering that big push several months ago when we all made outbound calls and that was a good exercise, maybe we got a few clients but we’re so busy and eventually it sort of just deteriorates.
So you need a way to keep track, you need a formal mechanism, that’s usually reports and meetings. The report could be simple as a chart on the wall that says how many calls each sales rep made each week, maybe it’s self reported. Sometimes even better if it’s handwritten than if it’s printed out. People might pay more attention to it, maybe they have to write in the number of themselves. Post it publicly and have a discussion each week consistently reviewing the numbers and saying, “Hey …” When Annette says, “Hey, last week you made eight calls. What happened? How are you gonna make sure you do 12 calls this week to catch up?” People then see that someone actually cares enough to track it.
So to recap, four things. Number one, understanding commitment. Number two, skills to actually do the desired behavior. Number three, role modeling and number four, formal mechanisms to track it. I’d love to hear how you have driven changes in behavior. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you found this episode thought provoking or helpful, I hope you’ll share it with a friend or on social media. If you visit our website, umbrex.com/unleashed, you can sign up for our weekly email and get transcripts of every episode, plus bonus features available only to subscribers. Thanks for listening.