You Cannot Sell What You Do Not Own

For Sale by Owner

One day John, a newly promoted supervisor with Fictional Products, met with his boss, Bill, to discuss a new procedure recently mandated by a change to company policy.

John was not happy with the change because he knew that his team would not like it. The new procedure added two documentation steps to an existing operation, and he knew that it would add both time and energy to an already cumbersome process.

As he spoke with Bill, John argued his case to no avail. Bill insisted that John implement the procedure as written. John left the meeting feeling tired and discouraged. He knew that “selling” this change would be a tough job he did not want to tackle.

Before he called a meeting with his team to tell them about the change, he went back to his office to consider the situation more thoroughly. Sitting alone in his office, he thought through the following questions:

  • Does this change violate any laws or challenge any personally held moral and ethical considerations?
  • Does this change put anyone physically at risk?
  • Did Bill listen to my concerns and offer valid reasoning for the change?
  • Is my concern with the implementation specifics or with the overall goal?
  • Am I focused on avoiding the struggle and frustration I might experience as I “sell” this procedure to my team or am I focused on the end goal?

And, he concluded that…

  • The procedure change did not violate any legal, moral, or ethical concerns.
  • The change did not put anyone at risk physically.
  • Even though Bill disagreed with John’s concerns, Bill had listened to them and had offered valid reasons for the change.
  • John was able to agree with the stated goal even though he did not really like the added work the procedure demanded.
  • And, he realized that his real, and primary, concern was avoiding the resistance he expected to receive from his team when he told them about the change.

In the end, John decided that he needed to “get on-board” with the change, and then do the work necessary to “sell” his team on it.

John realized that whether he was selling something physical, like a boat, or something conceptual, like a procedure change, he could not sell something that he did not own. Because he understood both the reasoning behind the change and the overall goal, he was able “own it” despite some concerns he had with the implementation specifics.

Your Now Step:  Consider a change you have some reservations about that you need to sell to your team, use the questions that John thought through as you find a way to sell the idea to yourself before you try to sell it to others.

photo credit: Images_of_Money via photopin cc


  1. says

    It really is that simple – a great analogy. Sometimes though changes and the over goal are things that some managers struggle to buy into – particularly changes that result in significant job losses. Still, I agree: the more ownership you can get, the easier things will be.
    Like the story format by the way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *