An ex-MBA colleague of mine wrote his final dissertation on a subject close to something like "using the Kotter change leadership framework to acquire new clients". At the time I really thought it was a bit of a long shot to make this analogy, until I recently received an unexpected request from an entrepreneur struggling to generate sales leads: could I help him develop a new communication strategy that would help him make his prospects want to change, a change that he would bring and help his clients to implement.

This person had spoken about the wall of resistance he was hitting to an HR person that made him aware that change can be lead and managed, something he hadn't really thought about before. When I think about it now, it does sound trivial: acquiring an initially reluctant client can be a similar process to acquiring senior support and stakeholder engagement in a project. Accidently, just yesterday I came across a tweet mentioning this post from Jo Ann Sweeney's blog, rightfully reminding us that change cannot be forced or imposed. Success depends on the ability to create the conditions enabling end-users to embrace change, in a similar way that commercial success depends on the ability to create the conditions enabling potential customers to desire a product or service. Jo Ann mentions a useful tool to put this in practice, whether in a sales/marketing or change context: the AIDA modeldescribes the process that will make people buy(-in) a product/project. First grab Attention, then create an Interest, develop it into a Desire and give people the means to turn it into Action.

Another useful way for change leaders to draw upon commercial knowledge is to define the change's marketing mix (the good old 4P's):

  • Define the change as a Product: what does it look like? What is it designed to do? What are its key attributes?
  • Determine the change's Price: what must people give (up) to use the change?
  • Define the Positioning of the change compared to other project, situations and changes at hand
  • Build the Change's Promotion plan: decide how you will generate Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

In what other ways do you think commercial and change processes have common ground?