Transformation: Why change champions are like waiters, and why you need them for your transformation program

– Feb 2, 2022
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This is the fifth piece in a series of six articles that will guide your own sales and marketing transformation. This article highlights the importance of change champions and the critical role they play in a transformation program. Don’t forget to read the first four articles in this series; It’s time for a sales and marketing transformation, setting your transformation up for success, the secret sauce to run a transformation program and phases matter.

Introducing change champions

In the previous article, The Secret Sauce for Running a Transformation Program, we focused on the role of transformation teams. Discussions about transformation teams often centre around change leaders. Leadership is critical to the success of any transformation, but it is not the only factor. There is another critical role in a transformation team that is often overlooked: the Change Champion.

How a Change Champion is like a waiter

A great waiter changes your dining experience. They know when you want your order taken and when they should not interrupt. They know the menu inside out, give you details on each dish and help you choose what you would like. Better yet, they get you excited to try something you would not usually consider. They make sure the kitchen knows what changes you would like to your dish and they ensure it is served with those changes included.

In many ways a Change Champion is like a great waiter. A Change Champion is the conduit in a transformation program who communicates with both frontline staff (patrons) and the transformation team (the kitchen). A great Change Champion is able to talk through the transformation program’s menu of goals and objectives in a way that staff can relate. They also understand the frontline teams’ needs and interests and help translate and incorporate them into the change program’s scope and design. This saves time by ensuring initiatives and outcomes are not sent back to the kitchen for changes.

What makes a great Change Champion?

A great Change Champion, like a great waiter, is distinguished by their exceptional interpersonal skills. Great Change Champions are able to communicate a change – like a new, unfamiliar dish – in a way that makes it digestible, acceptable or even exciting. Furthermore, they are able to explain why changes are in everyone’s best interests to adopt, and can successfully encourage team members to embed changes in their daily routines.

Change Champions are the key to influencing and managing successful adoption, and mitigating resistance from frontline teams. This is because, unlike the rest of the transformation team, they are on the ground with other employees and can demonstrate the changes, rather than just explaining them.

What to look for in a Change Champion

A change champion can sit at any level in the organisation. We have seen incredible change champions that range from high-performing frontline sales people, to respected team leaders and middle managers. Whoever the change champions are in your organisation, they should:

  • be well respected and liked by the frontline team(s)
  • have refined interpersonal skills – capable of communicating up, down and sideways
  • be engaged with and committed to project goals (e.g. a high-performing sales person engaged with a sales process transformation)
  • have courage to to stand up for what they believe in rather than defaulting to “yes”

When to bring in the big guns

Change Champions provide valuable input during key stages of a sales and marketing transformation.

The Champions should be engaged from the beginning during the project scope and design phase. They will provide critical input into objectives, priorities and impacts that reflect the needs and interests of the staff who will be most affected by the changes from the beginning.

During the implementation stage, Change Champions should be one of the first parties involved in testing and feedback. They may participate in User Acceptance Testing to validate that proposed solutions work for the intended users. They might also provide feedback on key materials such as training guides before they are rolled out to all sales and marketing team members.

Finally, Change Champions have a key role to play post-transformation implementation to ensure the changes are effectively adopted and embedded. These individuals will act as the go-to person for staff to gain support for the new systems and processes. They should also be role models that lead the charge in adopting with any new behaviours that are required to deliver desired outcomes. Most enjoyably, they should celebrate the wins, loudly and enthusiastically, to motivate others and overcome any change fatigue their team might be experiencing.

Contact us for more information on change champions and how they can help your transformation program.

Next up in this subscription sales series we focus on the right approach to leading through a sales and marketing transformation.

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