Transforming Starts With Unfreezing

08 April 2019

Really Transforming Sales Performance – Why It Starts With Unfreezing

I have written this article for anyone who really wants to start transforming sales performance, and do it sustainably. It is the start of a series, which will be shaped by the discussions that it prompts. If you’re anything like me, you get bombarded with articles that promise to “change your sales effectiveness in 6 easy steps”. When I read these articles, or watch the videos, there’s often not much wrong with what they suggest and yet… they don’t usually have much effect on me, or my sales performance. Sadly, the same can often be said of typical sales training. Yes, I am a sales trainer and educator!

A good question would be “what would be better then?” I suggest that this comes down to understanding how people react to change, whether big or small and how we work with that process, not fight against it.

With our Consalia clients and in my work as Director of Sales Professionalism at the ISP I have realised that what it’s firstly about facing up to what stops us changing, not what any new ways of working offer. A guru of change, Kurt Lewin, has a really simple model:


It starts with the need for us to firstly unfreeze, to open up to the possibility that there are better ways of doing something. It sounds so simple and yet we often try and skip this step, and fail with change as a result. We each need to have the reason for the change explained carefully to us, in a way that is compelling and urgent:

  • what’s in it for me ?
  • why should I change right now, rather than waiting?

In recent work with a group of sales leaders that went on to double sales in a year, what was in it for them was to be part of a winning team, the pride of having a career highlight, and also the financial and career progression rewards of hitting a big number. Their leader was clear with them: we have to change now, and do it together, or risk not being here next year. A tough, honest and focussed logic for change.

Their leader was experienced in change and knew that they would be in shock and denial initially. What unfreezing took place then? They started to unfreeze from a state of accepting that low performance was the norm, that they were somehow constantly hard done by in their organisation, that they could not change their situation, or indeed have much impact on their team’s performance. Their first, tentative steps were to question these grumbles and moans, the disempowering background talk, their instinctive distancing to anything new that came out of their organisation and management. This is the beginning of change, the unfreezing, the place where it really starts and from which you can begin to get genuine sales transformation.

Does this resonate with you? Do you disagree with this perspective?

In the next article, I will continue this journey of real change that sticks. If you would like to get into dialogue on this article or the wider topic of really transforming sales, please comment, or send me messages and emails. Together, we can learn for the sake of the wider sales community. None of us has all the insights. Thanks, Ian

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