“Cold calls!” exclaimed the executive with an almost exasperated expression – not something you want to see thirty seconds into a meeting. “Cold calls are what we’ve always used to generate leads. If they’re not working, we just need to do more of them!” If only changing a sales strategy was as easy as ordering it.

I could see it was going to be a tough meeting – but there was no backing down. The sales strategy had to change. It was my job to educate my client so they clearly understood the benefits of change – and the high stakes downside of not changing.

Change at a company is never easy, even when it’s necessary.

Changing a sales strategy takes more than good planning

It also takes good perseverance and not infrequently, a good sense for navigating internal office politics.

To be honest, it can be depressing when that sentiment is coming at you from folks who did ask for your opinion – and who seem to have forgotten they’re paying you for sales consulting services. But this is the job us sales management professionals signed up for…

Getting back to the somewhat stressful meeting with the cold-calling evangelist, I explained to them why the old strategy was no longer working. In this case, I was dealing with a real loyalist for the tactic who had seen success in the past – and that one successful experience had evolved into a kind of tactical tunnel vision.

Cold calling still has its place, of course – but most sales strategies today can’t get far with this one-trick pony. It’s extremely difficult to so much as get connected with a decision-maker over the phone with a cold call these days, much less keep them on long enough to have a meaningful engagement that will lead to a real discussion.

In this case, I recommended the company start putting resources into their long-neglected web presence. Through a process of sales training, I explained what a focus on inbound marketing to their website would look like. I helped them understand what good content with a call to action that was going to actually drive sales could be like. We looked at the kinds of results we’d seen with similar campaigns for different companies in the past – and the metrics we’d use to ensure that this campaign met with similar success.

Ultimately, the company’s board saw the value of the new sales strategy. It took some effort to overcome that visceral, emotional response from the tactical loyalist; the breakthrough came when he realized that we actually both had the same goal and that agreeing to the new strategy didn’t erase the success he’d had before. Changing a sales strategy is going to take a lot more effort. Still, it’s good to see that change is happening. We can only go up from here.