by Andrew Dornon, Analyst
Why You Need a Communications Strategy
When you’re changing what or how you sell – or really doing anything warranting a change initiative – if you don’t communicate purposefully your initiative won’t make a difference. Confusion, fear, and ultimately the same old results will win the day. When asking people to change how they work, it’s only natural that they are initially skeptical—especially your high performers who have been successful in the old world. Conversely, having a team that’s at least willing to take small, initial risks will drastically improve your odds of success.
What a Communications Plan Looks Like
A communications plan is defined by clear-cut messaging, where multiple levels of leadership deliver the same message in different formats at the right time.
How to Craft a Communications Plan
- A simple messaging framework helps managers and sellers understand and believe in the purpose of changes – especially how changes will benefit their clients. At BTS, we prefer to use a simple “Why, What, How” structure to explain change efforts.
- Leaders and managers deliver the same message. The message must cascade through the organization, gaining buy-in at each and every level before those same leaders deliver the message to their direct reports. They need to credibly be the face of the change.
- Audience engagement requires interest and interaction. At BTS, we do this in two different ways: frequently publishing multimedia pieces that are communicated internally as well as externally, and by creating feedback mechanisms, which give a voice to the people in the field.
- Before asking sales reps to act differently, it is essential to provide clarity on what the new world will look like. That way, it is possible to craft a vision.
- Communicating too early can be worse than too late. Sellers need more certainty, not less, and announcing uncertain or vague change initiatives causes fear and higher attrition.
- Once communication begins, it should be frequent. Sellers should hear each message at least once a month, which likely means 2+ touches.
Communications Elements to Use
- C-level Introduction to the Change: Teleconference presentations to leaders, then managers, then sellers. In a seller call, leaders should take pre-screened questions.
- Leadership Townhalls/Roadshows: Leaders visit key markets and teleconference others, reiterating the change and taking questions.
- Microsite: A page that contains an intro video, status of change, and any documents related to change.
- Intro video(s): A teaser that quickly goes over changes in broad strokes. No more than 90 seconds. Can do multiple videos and go into more detail in later ones.
- “What To Expect” Guides: Introduces the whole change process in detail – what reps will need to do, where to find new resources, etc. Optimally, these are delivered physically and then emailed out for easier reference.
- Anonymous Feedback: Create a form on the microsite that allows sellers to anonymously give input.
- Org Wide Emails: Monthly status updates on new processes, resources, and early results from the field.
- Customer Communications: Email templates and scripts for informing customers of any changes that affect them.
When undergoing a major change in what or how you sell, an intentional and consistent communication effort, alongside changes in tools and sales training, will help reps understand and begin to believe in their new world.