Steven's Blog

change first

Change First, Buy-In Later

Buy-in is nice to have in theory but in practice no prerequisite to act. The most successful leaders I know do not delay execution only to seek buy-in. Rather, they act first and use successful results in to get buy-in. After all, nothing is more powerfully persuasive in achieving buy-in than experiencing real success.

The CEO of a client company of mine decided to drop a profitable business line that represented more than half the company’s revenues in Japan. He rightly believed it was distracting from the company’s strategic, high-value products based on the company’s proprietary technology. Sales staff from director on down were horrified and insisted the cut would be the downfall of the Japan business. Emotions ran high. There was no reasoning with staff.

The CEO was nonetheless unmoved. Rather than delay and take time to get staff to buy in, he imposed the change. Sales revenues declined by over fifty percent but that did not matter. Profitability more than doubled. None of the fears of the sales team members ever came to pass, and buy-in for the change followed as a natural result.

Mindset is nothing more than what people believe to be true. Change mindset, get people to buy in, and people will change how they behave and experience success as natural result. Change in mindset leads to change behavior. Right?

But this is not the whole story. The converse also true. Get people to change how they behave and experience success, mindset will change, and people will buy in as a result. Change in behavior also leads change in mindset.

behavior mindset dynamic

Have a look at the diagram above. Success increases with changed behavior. Success from changed behavior is greater in reality what people might initially believe. Get people to change behavior, and success grows with experience. Buy-in occurs when mindset and behavior meet. The success resulting from behavior is what one would expect.

Prior to buy-in, it is behavior that leads over mindset. People become increasingly convinced through experiencing success. Beyond buy-in however the dynamic is reversed. Mindset leads over behavior as people begin to expect even greater success with further improvements they make in behavior.

An underperforming team of sales people until had practiced only transactional sales — presenting catalogs, pitching products, and negotiating with intermediaries. When I showed them how they could improve results with a consultative sales approach — negotiating only with economic buyers, asking questions about the business rather than pitching product, and listening for opportunities to create value before proposing anything — most were skeptical. Some were even fearful of rejection and failure in a different approach.There was little buy-in.

I convinced them to try the methods I advised nonetheless, just as an experiment, and see what happens. To their credit they did. The methods worked, and results improved. They experienced success.

Buy-in was no longer an issue before long, and from that point, the team took ownership of the new approach. They believed they could achieve even better results with further improvement and refinement. They developed new tools and techniques on their own based on experience, and results continued to improve.

No amount of reasoning will overcome the emotional skepticism or even fear of bold change, no matter how irrational—nor will slick roadshows evangelizing change, motivational speakers, or off-sites in swanky venues. People change behavior based on emotion, not logic. Real success is emotionally powerful, and the most persuasive way to change mindset.

Are you working on a dramatic change in your business for which you are seeking buy-in as a prerequisite? If so, stop. Click To Tweet

Seek changed behavior first, even if you need to ask people to do so only as an experiment. That much most people can handle. Cajole people if you have to. Demand or impose change if you absolutely must. No one need buy in. Don’t even ask for buy-in, only cooperation. Success will bring them around.

Do you buy into what I am saying? If not, it doesn’t matter. Just do what I advise. The success that follows is all that counts, and that success will be yours.

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