Skip to main content
Topline Performance Solutions, Inc | Woburn, MA

This website uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience.
You can learn more by clicking here.

Bill Bartlett, a Sandler trainer and author of the best-selling Sandler book, The Sales Coach's Playbook, talks about his best practices for coaching your team through an organizational change. Bill shares his attitudes, behaviors, and techniques for coaching in this special episode.

Learn how to succeed at organizational change!

Click here for The Sales Coach's Playbook!

The How to Succeed Podcast is a public and free podcast from Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations around the globe.

Mike Montague: Welcome to the How to Succeed Podcast. The show that helps you get to the top and stay there. This is How to Succeed at Organizational Change. The show is brought to you by Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales management and customer service training. For more information on Sandler Training, including white papers, webinars and more, visit I'm your host Mike Montague and my guest this week is Bill Bartlett. He is one of our world-famous Sandler trainers from Illinois and author of the best-selling book, The Sales Coaches Playbook. We're going to talk with him about how to succeed at creating organizational change. Bill, welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about organizational change and why it’s important? Who should be paying attention to it?

Bill Bartlett: Well thanks, Mike. One of the things that we know is that change is inevitable in today's environment. And with the speed that information flows, businesses change every two months now. When I was first in business it was every 18 months because it took time to get the message to move through. But now with the internet and with other available sources, we now change at a rapid pace.

Mike Montague: Yeah I think we're trying to do that at Sandler. We relaunched our Sandler Online training platform which has allowed us to release products faster than we ever have before. So we might have come out with a new book once a year for the last 50 years and now it's once a month. We've really cranked this thing up. So I'm interested to hear what you have today and I think any leader is trying to figure out, how do I get my company on board with change and how do I make these things effective? Not just changing stuff, but actually get those changes adopted by the organization?

Bill Bartlett: That's the key isn't it? I think many times these are ... I have a CEO who said if I tell my people that mice can pull locomotives, it's their job to prove me right. Well, that's his version of change and by the way, that's not reality. So I think the reality is change is something that takes time in a business. And just because people say we should change doesn't mean we will change. Most human beings are reluctant to change and transition really is the key to lasting change. So how do we help people transition?

Mike Montague: Yeah so let's dig into it here and start with the attitude. I think there are attitudes that you need to have as the leader in order to effectively get people to transition through a change. But also, you need some attitudes in your people. So talk about attitude, why is that a key component here?

Bill Bartlett: Well because most leaders fail as they believe that change is an event. Change is not an event, it's a process. So the belief has to be that this is a process that's going to take time. Here's a second thing that a leader really has to think about. Thinking that their people will think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They won't. But a leader's job is to help people see that there's an upside to the change, not just the downside. And that's what most individuals see. Change is bad. But guess what? If it's framed right, change is good. You know, leaders have to be flexible and look for opportunities to connect with their people about change. So buy in happens over time. But one last thing Michael, and that is that emotion is such an important part of change. That most people deny that there's an emotional aspect to it, but there are all kinds of emotional reactions that happen when change occurs.

Mike Montague: Yeah. I think you have to think about change as a sale to your people, right? They have to have an emotional reason to change. Otherwise, they're not going to buy what you're selling.

Bill Bartlett: That's so true. You know what it takes is a strategic mindset. When we look at change occurring, the leader should think, okay what's my strategy and how do I share it with people? And if I can do that I can teach them how to anticipate opportunities that are going to come their way.

Mike Montague: Yeah I think that's so true and a common mistake that leaders make. Because a lot of them say, "Well I get to decide something changes and then it magically does." And they don't say “I have to prove to everybody else why this change is a good idea and why it's in their best interest.”

Bill Bartlett: Oh it's so true. And most of the new change is a light switch. On and off. When in reality change is a reset. And in that reset, every time you move that dial a little bit, good things or bad things happen. And it's time for leaders to really calibrate that moving the dial and not just spinning it like it's Wheel of Fortune.

Mike Montague: Yeah I think that happens so much. And as we're talking about change here I think about bad attitudes that you don't want to have. And we see leaders do that a lot. We see leaders that change to the flavor of the month so they're changing too much. Or then flip-flop and change back before that process has time to occur. So when we move over to behavior here, why does behavior matter? What are the goals, plans, and actions we need to do to make a successful change stick?

Bill Bartlett: Well let's look at six key points in behavior. They're short so we can talk about them. The first one is leaders need to know where they are today. What's reality? And not where do I believe we are or where do I hope we are, but all behavior starts with the acknowledgment that we're anchored right here today. And then the second point is to know where they're committed to being as a result of the change. It's one thing to change and say that's good, but the other thing is to say here's where we're going. This is the dot that we're moving toward. And we're going to be better because of this move.

Third is to identify the why, when and what elements of getting there. Why are we changing? When are we doing it? And what are we actually changing? We don't have to change everything for this to be a good thing, but why, when and what?

Four, involve the people affected by and integral to carrying out the change. We don't want to change them. We want them to buy into being part of the change. So let's get them involved if it's going to affect them. But realize that they're integral to the success of it.

Five, developing a plan to accomplish this. It's not a wing it world. Change doesn't happen because we snap our fingers and so there has to be some type of strategic planning.

And here's the key last point, monitoring progress. We need to have check-ins as to what's going on and whether the right things are happening or we're facing hidden road blocks.

Mike Montague: Yeah and when I'm thinking about behavior, that last one is the one that sticks out for me as leaders. I think a lot of times we will say, hey I want this change to happen, and then we check in 90 days later to see if it's changed or not and we didn't do that daily. So will you talk a little bit about how do we coach people and hold them accountable and what's that process look like? How often do we need to be monitoring?

Bill Bartlett: There's a major chapter in my book about change and I go through something called the change curve. When we start to see change occur, or when change occurs in a company, the first thing that happens is that people go into shock. They can't believe that their comfortable lives are going to change. And then the next stage is denial. And in denial, performance tends to dip a little bit because they're denying that this is going to last and it's going to be a good thing.

And then from denial, there's some subtle form of resistance that goes on. And that is performance may be improving because of the change, but we don't have total buy in. Here's where we want them to go. The fourth stage of that curve is really the key and that's exploration. We want to get them to explore the upside of change and what it could do for them.

And then we get to commitment. We can't get to commitment unless they've explored all that. And the last part of that curve is adaptation where people adapt to the change and really make it part of their lifestyle.

Those six areas have to happen over time. We can't compact them, we can't legislate them, but a good leader knows where their people are on that change curve at any given time and deals with the BAT triangle, behavior, attitude and technique triangle that Sandler's so famous for, in helping people buy in.

Mike Montague: Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense to me. So what I'm hearing there is one, people are individuals and they're on their own time schedule of change based on where they were. So if you had an employee that's been around and doing it one way for 20 years, they're going to take a little bit longer to change, most likely than somebody that's brand new on the job this week and they've never learned the other way.

Bill Bartlett: No question. We all over time build comfort zones. All human beings. That's what we do is spend our lives building these wonderful comfort plateaus. And when someone dynamites us out of those, there's a shock that happens. And by the way, the older people get, it's not ageism, but the older people get the more difficult it is. And so a good leader understands that, you're right. Change happens individually not in mass.

Mike Montague: And I love what you have said about the success triangles too. Obviously, I've built a show around it, I'm a big fan. But everybody is going to struggle and maybe for different reasons. So they might not believe that change is right for them. Or they might not know what to do or they might not know how to do it. Because you've asked them to do something new. So you need to look at each person and say, where are they stuck? Is it attitude, behavior or technique?

Bill Bartlett: Yeah and we know that behavior's about goal setting. So help people set some goals associated with the change. We know attitude is about belief. So help them wrap their minds around the right beliefs to drive the change. And technique is about skill, make sure that everybody feels they have the skill to be successful in the change. And that BAT triangle that Sandler created, he was a genius, really is focused on success. But you could use it for change too. Think of someone who wants to lose weight. You don't just stop eating, right? You set some health goals. You change your belief about food and exercise. And then you learn some new skills. It can be applied to any change we're making in our life.

Mike Montague: Yeah. I love it. That's good stuff. So we've got one triangle left here and we're on technique. What are some techniques, tricks, tools, hacks for helping create successful organizational change?

Bill Bartlett: I like creating change groups. I like creating focus groups within a company and getting people to discuss it openly. Giving them a topic and then allowing them to come up with solutions on it. I think, in coming up with solutions, buy in happens. And so I would advise any leader to sit down and build some small work pods when a change occurs. And ask them to take ownership of different parts of change to come back.

And by the way, make the work pods diverse. Don't make them all accountants or salespeople. But allow people to react. Here's the second thing I would think is important, and that is culture. How is this change going to impact the culture? Well, we know that most people don't define their culture, it just exists around them.

And so a good leader will say, let's define our culture first, under the heading as is. What is our culture right now? And then let's define it to be. What do we want it to be after a metered period of time, whether it's six months or a year? And then the leader should think how big is the gap between where we are with the culture and where we're going? And how can I help my people fill that gap?

Mike Montague: I think that's really good. You got to get people involved or really in the process. You've got to help them figure out this change themselves. And I love what you said about the beta test groups. I found that if you can't get a small group of people to change, there's no way you're going to get the whole company to change, right?

Bill Bartlett: It's so true. It's just so true. And the other part of that is it helps you understand who the rock pile is in the company that are going to fight change. One of the things that we have to realize is there's always the meeting that happens after the meeting and there are people whose minds are locked in negativity and they will come together to try to find a way to thwart this. And so we need to know what that rock pile looks like and we need to help them work through it. Not by legislating it, but by working with getting them to think upside.

Mike Montague: Yeah. I think that's interesting. I heard a great quote that the devil doesn't need an advocate. He does just fine by himself. But having that person that is the toughest to move, if you can convert them, then you can get a lot of other people on board with the change, right?

Bill Bartlett: Yeah. And they don't hide their negativity so it's not like you've got to go search them out. They're going to be there for sure.

Mike Montague: And you've got different camps. So also, you want to get the people that are pro on board. So you can get somebody that has an easy time with change and is a champion of the cause to recruit other people that way.

Bill Bartlett: Every bit. And if we realize that there are emotions associated with this, anxiety, fear, threat, depression, there are things like that that go with it. We can help people work through those. But without putting a label on them. But just understanding that everybody will have some degree of all of that when change occurs.

And coaching. My book goes through the details of how to do that too, which I'm really proud of.

Mike Montague: Yeah there is amazing stuff. I mean, there are a bunch of different chapters in there that are applicable to almost anything that you're doing. So I highly recommend the book. There's a reason why it was a best-seller. And you're going to like it if you check that out. And we also have programs available. You can talk to your local Sandler trainers about getting involved. And you can get some more in-depth training there too.

Anything else you want to add on organizational change or how we tie all three of these together, attitude, behavior, and technique and make sure that this change sticks?

Bill Bartlett: Well I'll come back to the fact that change is not an event, it's a process. And so since it is a process, success within the change is a process too. Let's go back to the behavior, attitude and technique triangle and let's make sure that all those points are clear. That we're working with the people in the right behavior, the right beliefs, and the right skill.

But one more point, Mike, that I think is key and that is transition is the key to lasting change. Human beings will fight change, they'll accept transition. So if we can get people to understand that this is more evolutionary than it is just straight black and white change, we have a better chance of getting them to accept the fact that this will take place over a metered amount of time.

Mike Montague: That is awesome. Ladies and gentlemen, we're talking with Bill Bartlett. He is a Sandler trainer from Illinois and author of the best-selling book, The Sales Coaches Playbook. And you can find that on sale on Amazon are at And I like to call Bill the most interesting man in Sandler after those commercials. So let's get to know you a little bit better, Bill. What is the perfect day for you?

Bill Bartlett: I'm a man of habit. And so I get up in the morning, I usually go for a three-to-five-mile run to get the juices running and that's my time for strategic thinking too. It's usually the most creative time. As I'm running my mind is clear, my senses are firing and I'm taking in information. From there, I sit down and I write for an hour so I'm working on another book. So now I sit down and I write for an hour. And the stuff that I thought of when I was running really comes flowing out. From there, I like to have an early appointment. I'd like to be with a prospect or be with a client first thing in the morning and provide some type of value to them. And in doing so, I feel good about the fact that this business really is based in servant leadership.

Next, basically prospecting. My business grows because I create time blocks for prospecting and that's a key part of every day. From there, the afternoon is typically a little bit of buffer time. So 1:00 I create a half an hour buffer time to clear my mind and do a little strategic thinking. Again, is my day going the way it should? Is it time to correct? And then more sales calls, on into working with my employees to develop their skills too.

So it's one of those things that takes on a rhythm. Those won't always be in the same order but those are always going to be the elements of a good day for me.

Mike Montague: I like it. And here's an interesting question for you. What's a failure you are most proud of in your life?

Bill Bartlett: Well, one of the things that happened early on in business, I'm going to say five years into my Sandler world, I've been working with clients for a long time. And really, they've been clients for a couple of years. And I sat down in a business to do a business review with a client and we were talking and the client happened to pass off the fact that he was using another company for hiring. And I asked him about it and he said, well yeah, they do some things that allow us to bring in salespeople. And I said to him, well, Jack, I do the same thing. He said, oh you never said that, I never knew.

My failure was I hadn't sat down in two years I'd worked with this client on the full realm of products and services that I had. The only thing that I focused on was training. And while we were doing a good job in that area, money was going out the back door because he was finding others to work on some of the things that I could have been doing too.

Mike Montague: So you found that out and fixed the problem, I'm guessing?

Bill Bartlett: Well I did. And certainly now, twice a year, we sit down and do Caesar meetings. Chief executive semi-annual reviews and what we do is we sit down and ask some key questions to our clients. One, why did you hire us? And two, on a scale of ten high and one low, how are we servicing your needs? And then the third question, what else should we be doing for you? And this is where we get to talk about other products that we have.

But the fourth question is the toughest. Why would you fire us or be dissatisfied with us? And lastly, who else do you know that may need our services? Those five questions twice a year prevent that from happening ever again.

Mike Montague: Awesome. And what advice would you give for your younger self in particular or maybe any college kid that's coming into their first job right now?

Bill Bartlett: Focus no strategic thinking. For me when I came out of college, I was pretty tactical in nature when I got into sales. I really spent my time focusing on closing business and I was with the Gillette company right away and really making a name for myself. But I think one of the most important things that young people can do today is develop their strategic thinking. To see the big picture and to see where they fit within that picture.

Because if you can see the big picture and where you fit, you can create a road map to grow. And many times, and I was guilty of it, my roadmap was a tube that I followed. It wasn't this major force field.

Mike Montague: Yeah, that's interesting. I think I would say the same thing for me. I always had a really strong vision about where I wanted to go, and I might not always know how I was going to get there, but when you define that stuff and you look forward and see how you fit, the paths become a lot more clear like you mentioned. That's great. What is your favorite Sandler rule for change?

Bill Bartlett: Well that's an easy one because I'm looking at it. It's a plaque on my wall. It's rule number one that you have to learn to fail in order to win. And underneath it, it says fail fast, fail forward. And so I've learned more in my career from the failures that I've had than from the success probably. Because I don't repeat them but I always create a good goal on how to better utilize what went wrong.

So for me, it's all about risking failure. Because you can only achieve true success when you're willing to risk the failure associated with it. And for me, that's an important rule for me to follow in business as an entrepreneur.

Mike Montague: I like it. All right, based on what we're talking about today, how to succeed at creating organizational change, what's one key attitude you would like people to have?

Bill Bartlett: Here's what I want people to think about. The upside of change is worth the risk associated with the downside. And what we have to think about is what really is in this for me that makes me a better person, that makes me more effective? Versus being afraid of the downside, of what could happen. Our minds tend to work on negatives before they work on positives so we always think of negatives first.

So the downside is a flag that comes up first. I ask people to change their thinking and go to upside. What's in it for me? What can I do to benefit from this change?

Mike Montague: And one key behavior you would like people to do?

Bill Bartlett: Well, first of all, make sure that when they enter into any type of change that they're flexible. Behavior, flexible is an attribute of behavior but what we have to be able to do is to make sure that we aren't too rigid when we're going through things. Realize that there's probably more than one way to accomplish a task and we allow our mind to work on what's best for us and the accomplishment without the rigidity of there's only one way to do it.

Mike Montague: And the best technique to use?

Bill Bartlett: One of the challenges of technique is open thinking. And do people really open their mind to thinking about the possibilities? Open thinking, when it comes to change, allows us to put different types of areas on the table that we might not have thought of before. So that open thinking means taking as much information as you can in the change and just filter it to where it's supposed to be.

Mike Montague: Anything else you want to add or tell people about your book?

Bill Bartlett: Well the book is moving up in popularity on Amazon. We've got some exciting things coming with it. And one of them is there's a workbook that goes with it now. So anybody who buys the book should look into talking to their Sandler trainer about the work book. Because the book is a leader's guide to the workbook. And the work book allows them to customize the book to their own needs. And so I think that's one of those things that allows people to really make it a real activity versus just a reading adventure.

Mike Montague: I completely agree. Bill, thanks for being on the show. For more information on this topic and much more, you can follow us on Linked In, Facebook or Twitter at Sandler training or get any of our free resources including some white papers on coaching at As always, you can subscribe or leave us a review on iTunes or Google Play. Thank you for listening and remember, whatever you are, be a good one. You can find Bill's book, the Sales Coaches Playbook at or And the How to Succeed podcast is brought to you by Sandler training, the worldwide leader in sales, management and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations.

If you would like to learn more about Sandler Training, contact us today.

Find whitepapers, webinars, and more in our free resources section of our website.

Register online for the 2018 Sandler Summit.



Share this article: