Sales Leadership in Action Group
Communicating Challenging News
Communication is tough at the best of times and even tougher when it is challenging news
on a departmental or company level. Most sales leaders do not communicate challenging
news well. Learning to improve their communication tactics will help them face less
resistance and facilitate a smooth transition when changes are to be made.
Bottom Line & Business Impact:
As sales leaders adopt an open communication policy they will be better able to
communicate challenging news, and dispel any negative murmurings early on
amongst the sales staff. This will increase employee morale, and lead to a more
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 1
The Impact of Poor Communication
Poor communication creates risk. Even a program or strategy designed to strengthen the
company or department can have adverse effects if not communicated well. This impacts
the perception of management, and can adversely affect the morale and performance of the
sales team. Sales leaders must understand and utilize effective communication when
Lay of the Land
presenting challenging news.
• The Process of Communication
• Methods to Communicate Effectively and Mitigate Risk
The Process of Communication
Communication is not what is said and how it is said, but what is heard and internalized.
Communicating news such as downsizing, outsourcing, and mergers and acquisitions are
challenging enough for experienced managers, let alone for new sales leaders. Issues such
as potential disruptions, decreased results, and resignation can all result from poor
Methods to Communicate Effectively and Mitigate Risk
1. Assume that the conﬁdential information will get out.
• “Hot” news rarely stays conﬁdential for long. There is a greater negative impact when
only part of the news gets out as opposed to when the entire story is shared.
2. Inform as soon as possible.
• Share information as soon as possible in front of the entire team where the message
can be controlled. This prevents rumors and partial stories from being circulated later.
3. Clearly explain why the change is happening and why it is necessary.
• Provide background information to better explain the thought process which led to
the decision, and what management is hoping to accomplish through the change.
• Share the plan to move forward and other options that were considered along with the
reasons they were rejected.
• Sharing as much of the big picture as possible allows the team to learn and
understand the reasons for the change and provides some level of credibility to the
4. Communicate often.
• Focus on key points, especially when discussing subsequent information.
• Celebrate milestones.
• If there is a big change, distribute an informing email amongst staff.
5. Do not communicate big news in small amounts.
• Share all news at once. People grow tired of change, which therefore creates a
negative perception of management by their staff. “Do they not know what they’re
• People need time to work through change. Constant change is very emotionally
6. Be as honest as possible.
• Acknowledge that the change will have bumps, such as more work or employee
evaluation. This will add credibility.
• Provide honest answers to questions and concerns. Avoiding the truth only provides
short term gains. Lying results in a tremendous amount of negative results.
7. Avoid having senior management communicate everything.
• People feel more comfortable hearing news from someone they are familiar with.
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 2
• While some news, such as downsizing a department, needs to come from the ‘top’,
direct changes to the department such as role & responsibility changes should come
from the sales leader.
8. Create a formal process for addressing employee questions and concerns.
• Staff want to know that their questions and concerns will be heard and taken into
• Answering these questions in a timely fashion is a priority.
9. Follow up.
• The bigger the change, the longer it takes to implement.
• Report on progress to date, including improvements being realized.
10.The parade effect.
• Be cognizant that while one department may have already gone through the change,
others may be just starting or part way through.
• This creates a mix of emotions at different stages, and communication must be
different at each level.
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 3
Putting into Practice
Effective One-on-One Coaching
Coaching on an Individual Basis
The 10 Steps of Coaching
How to Give Effective Feedback
Sale Leadership in Action Group products are for the exclusive use of SLiA Group’s clients, and for
internal purposes only. Members can use the document in whole or in part. The products are to be used
for internal purposes only, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the paid memberships. Members may
customize the tools and templates by editing titles, headers and footers with their company information.
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 4