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Getting Staff to Buy in on New Ideas

Change is hard, but so is failing.

No matter your industry, getting staff to buy in on new ideas is critical. Even the best concept in the world fails when the boots on the ground won’t or can’t implement it. So, how do you get your employees to go out of their way to make a new idea work?

The Rollout:
Your staff will follow your lead, so if this new initiative is a big deal—make a big deal out of introducing it to them. Use a little bit of showmanship. Talk it up and make sure they understand exactly what you’re looking for and why it’s important.

Pigheaded Discipline:
“Be willing to inspect what you expect.” You can’t see who’s buying in if you don’t look. Keep track of the success of your initiative, and the employees who are driving it. Then continue to check in. It might be a pain in the ass (we know you’re busy), but if you stop looking, they’ll stop caring. The time you take in the beginning to ensure buy-in will pay off in dividends. Your new initiative will become second nature to your team, buy-in will become part of your company culture, and the time you spend monitoring will be less and less.

The Carrot:
The “What’s in it for me?” attitude is common (especially among sales staff), so give them a reason to get on board. We like to roll out any new initiative with incentives. Find a success metric, and let your team know that the person who does the best in the first week/month/quarter will get something awesome.

Bonus tip: Surprise incentives are a great way to keep your staff on their toes, especially if someone has sprinted so far ahead that the rest of them have lost the chance to win the big prize. Announcing a “Most Improved” bonus for the day or week can reinvigorate their efforts.

The Stick:
In a perfect world, your whole staff kills it at implementing your new initiative, and all you have to do is reward the people who are Extra Great™. But it’s not a perfect world. To keep bad apples from ruining an otherwise good barrel, you may have to hold some tough conversations.

Once your grace period is up (and you should always have a grace period, to give your employees the chance to course-correct or learn new procedures), it’s time to draw your line in the sand. Assuming you’ve given them good reasons and every opportunity to buy in, there should be consequences for those who don’t. Write-ups, demotions, even termination. If those seem too extreme…

Eat Your Vegetables (They’re Good for You):
Every step we’ve listed ultimately boils down to your own buy-in. If you don’t believe your initiative is valuable, that it’s worth your effort, why should your staff? In order for a new initiative to stick, it has to matter to you—and you have to show it matters with your actions. That means being flawlessly committed to the new plan, and prepared to make hard decisions about anyone who isn’t.

In the end, it’s not just about whether an employee is collecting emails or upselling a warranty. It’s about whether or not they respect your direction. You might think it’s just one person you’re letting slip because they’re your best sales guy or they’ve been with you forever, but the rest of your staff is watching. They’re taking their cues from what you do.

Need a more in-depth playbook for tackling staff buy-in? We love The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes and Good to Great by Jim Collins.

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