A Quandry

My throat seizes as I look at the beautiful row of vinyl lined up in my office. Neatly stacked 12 x 12 super-delicious (and, truly tangible) records from yesteryear. There’s Springsteen and The Beatles. Hendrix and The Doors… Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams… REM and the Replacements. And, then, of course, Mr. Bob Dylan. Lots of them. This beautiful row of color is so perfect, at times I’ve thought the subtraction or addition of even a single record would render it less complete.

It’s a collection years in the making — nearly every piece of vinyl I’ve ever wanted. And yet within a month it’ll all be gone… a distant memory.

Wait, what? Why?! Because I’m selling them all. Or, most of them at least. It’s time for change, and I’ve been resisting change for almost 20 years. You see, that long line of beautiful smooth polymer plastic is HEAVY. And when I move, I don’t want to move them again. Lugging the sort of things I hold on to (books, magazines, vinyl) is not fun. Plus, I have nearly all of them on cd as it is, so the music isn’t really going away — it’s just changing formats. Kinda’ like our lives in a way… everything moving along toward progress whether we like it or not. Changing format.

Publishing here on Medium is a good example this swapping of formats… for example, a good part of this article was originally written in 2009. Back in the day when I had to learn how to hand code in HTML, and tweak the heck out of WordPress to get anything to look presentable. Were you reading blogs in 2009? Did you even know what a blog was back then? How about in 1994? That was the year I began writing for the web — hand-coding everything for my site musicbusinesspage.com, long before most people even had an email address. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-done that site.

Frankly, keeping up with these changes can be exhausting. But, because I need to share that which weighs down my brain most mornings, I also need to figure out how to get that done with whatever technology is in the here-and-now. Still, I’m not a fan of all the back’n’forth, adjusting, and switching course. Sometimes I dig in my heels — for years. If you’re in sales of any kind, this sort of disdain for change should be very familiar to you.

Rest assured, there is a way to break through the muck and get your prospect to see things in ways they cannot yet imagine. A simpler way, perhaps. A more efficient way. But first, you’re going have to get them to start moving the wheel on their own. Here’s how you do it.

Sometimes, it takes a massive lift to make a massive change.

Breaking Resistance to Change in Sales

You have something to sell. You know who your buyers are and where they hang out. You throw everything at them, and they just don’t seem to care one iota. They’re happy where they’re at. Familiar, right? Of course. That’s the nature of our work in sales and marketing. We’re used to it.

How do we get people to change their vantage point so they may benefit from the changes that result?

For years, I thought change was simple. That NIKE ® had it right. I could never figure out why people resisted change when it was so obvious the end result was better than their current state. I was young. And, I also had few attachments, I think, that protected me from being as averse to change as many of us become later in life.

Now I know better. Change is hardly easy. Just look at sites like Lifehacker.com — their entire business model is based around the idea of shoving us out of our complacency with hacks that will make change easier to adopt.

If you’re in sales of any sort (and nearly every one of us is), you owe it to yourself to change the tune that may repeat in your head when you encounter what you believe to be complacency. If you find yourself saying things like “Why doesn’t that customer get it?”, it might be time to re-center.

The reason they don’t get it, is because you don’t get them. Remember, it’s all about the vinyl. Rationing off my vinyl is personal. I have a physical attachment to those records, and memories that go along with them. Plus, because of their scarcity in excellent condition, those records have a potential monetary value as well. Sure, they’re heavy, but is the change associated with getting rid of them really worth it? Is having a few less boxes to move really a huge deal?

Is having more floor space in my office really that critical? If you were a professional organizer, perhaps you would say getting rid of all that “junk” is good for my soul. Well, you’d have a hard time convincing me based on that suggestion alone.

What’s going on in my head, when I think about change in this way is what author and screenwriter, Steven Pressfield, calls “resistance.” And, it is a hellish menace. Pressfield’s book “The War of Art” unravels how to deal with resistance, and in my opinion, it’s the best book on overcoming resistance you will ever read. If you want to master resistance in your own life, or if you just need to learn how it affects the lives of others, I highly recommend it. (affiliate link)

Resistance is everywhere in sales, sometimes it’s overt, and sometimes its hiding underneath the covers. Remember, anyone you’re trying to sell to is considerably more invested in their current solution than you will ever know. They’re invested. You’re not. At least, not yet.

How to Encourage Change

Want me to change? Then, you’ll have to become me to sell me. You have to seek to understand where I am coming from. You’ll have to understand why this change is painful for me, and then figure out a way to get me to recognize a better solution. Without it, these records stick with me and your contract as my organizer is kaput! Twenty years I have lived with these records, and I have just met you. This is resistance on overdrive. You have zero influence in my life, and these records have pounds and pounds of it.

But, if you take the time to understand me, you’ll open doors that can help me see the merit in your pitch. For example, if you were to mention to me (a technology nut) there is a way to digitize those records with a USB turntable, my ears might perk up. Or, perhaps you could talk about how the value of the records themselves isn’t really there any more given the rise of auction houses like eBay. Maybe you could make a case for why the extra floor space I’d be freeing up would make me more productive, and show me how it could allow me to utilize my office for my other techno-gadgets.

Get inside my head with any one of these reasons, and you’d draw me closer to siding with you. Get me thinking about all of them, and you’d have me eating out of your hand. So do your research, know your buyer, and work on that empathy. Empathy is THE key to healthy prospecting, and THE key to good sales. Try it on for size. 

As for me, my arduous bi-weekly walk to the local record store with 30 pounds of records is becoming less difficult, and the row of vinyl that I have been so attached to is quickly yielding more of the hardwood in my office than I’ve seen since the day I signed the lease.

And, while the walk to the store still elicits some fears of doubt, I know that by the time I last exit the record store, my investment in change will yield greater results for me than my alphabetized rack of vinyl ever will. Yes, the times they are a changin’.

Plus, I don’t have to sell them all…, right? A few Beatles records are alwaysnecessary for good living, right? …and heck, I can’t get rid of my turntable, who would buy THAT thing? In 2009, no one.

More Goodies

Huthwaite Sales Training has long been pioneers in this area, and they have courses I can only assume are as good as their books.

If you’re looking for something with an academic slant, check out this rather comprehensive look at resistance to change courtesy of the folks at Focused Performance.

For a couple of quickies, there’s this brief write-up about how Six Sigmamethodologies can help stave off your prospect’s resistance to change, and lastly an article I enjoyed from Rick Maurer of “Change without Migraines.” All good stuff.

If you enjoyed this article, and are interested in business development, you may enjoy my once-a-month newsletter. As a thank you, send you my five favorite prospecting tools report when you sign up.