It was February 2014, at the national sales meeting. The president of the company made me the keynote speaker and it was my turn. My development team had spent the past nine months building a new pricing program for our independent dealers across the country and now it was time to introduce what we had been working on to our team of sales reps.
This wasn’t just a new pricing program. This was going to completely change how our company was going to interact with our dealers, interact with our sales team, interact with our customer service team… all the way to accounting. This new pricing program was cloud-based and would make ordering a collaborative effort between sales reps and dealers, dealers and customer service, etc. Unlike our previous pricing program, this one was directly tied to our CRM. Catalog changes would be immediately reflective as well and customer service could override pricing while a dealer was putting in their order.
This should have been met with accolades.
But it wasn’t. You see, this very thing had been attempted two years prior. Our best dealers were selected as beta testers, flown in from around the country, wined and dined and given special gifts for coming. A lot of marketing dollars went into the impressive development dollars for the release of this new program. There were, regretfully, fundamental flaws in the programming that didn’t surface until after beta testing was over and it began to be used in the real world. We tried everything to save the program, but it would have cost twice as much to fix as it cost to build. The project was scrapped, and our company left with egg on their face.
To say our sales reps were hesitant to embrace another attempt was an understatement. They had put their reputation on the line for this before and were embarrassed. I had justifiable skeptics. What I needed were cheerleaders.
All through the development process, I had representatives from each of our internal user groups give input. During the first iteration, we brought in people from the different user groups on a more consulting basis. This time, we actively sought their input. We even risked increasing the scope to accommodate some of their ideas. We gained cheerleaders.
I started by confronting the elephant in the room; our previous attempt. I then showed them the new program and what it could do. I then dared to humorously compare the previous attempt to the new program with a Top Ten list. They loved it. However, during the Q&A, one of the reps asked if we would be willing to include a change. It was a small change and completely unnecessary for launch. But, we needed cheerleaders, so I said yes. During the follow-up virtual demonstrations two weeks later, we revealed his change. He noticed immediately. So, did the others.
We gained cheerleaders. The actual rollout of this new program was the smoothest I had ever been part of in my career.
The moral of the story: organizational change is scary to everyone. You can plan for nearly every eventuality. Don’t be afraid to give in to small requests. Your assurances that, “everything will be fine,” won’t be nearly as effective as having a cheering section doing that for you.