How to Sell Change to Upper Management - PCG Digital

Change is never easy, but businesses must evolve to stay relevant. Bob Iger, ex-CEO of Disney mentioned this in his autobiography; Ride of a Lifetime, “Now more than ever, innovate or die. There can be no innovation if you operate out of fear of the new.” Innovation was a consistent topic at the recent Automotive Analytics and Attribution Summit where over 800 attendees watched experts from Facebook, Microsoft, Google and others share where they see technology and customer experience moving.

“Now more than ever, innovate or die. There can be no innovation if you operate out of fear of the new.”

Watching the conversations between attendees and experts, one thing stood out. Adoption of any new technology or process depends on buy-in from upper management. 

Many people in the audience were owners and upper management, so their view of adoption was an issue of selling it downstream to their staff. But for many, who were mid-management, the struggle they were envisioning is selling the change upstream to management who may view current success as a reason to hold firm.

This topic came up in my workshop with Marc McGurren, a sales trainer in the automotive space. As we shared a more effective strategy to create better engagement with online consumers, an attendee asked how to sell this new strategy to superiors.

Here is a summary of our response and a guide for helping to move this conversation with superiors forward.

Why Change Now?

Understanding this question will have an impact on any success regarding change and you must be able to answer: Why do you feel it important to change now? Why not 6 months ago? Why not 6 months from now?

One must be prepared with specific reasons, supported by data to make the case to upper management.

This exercise should be undertaken even if it is upper management deciding to change and then presenting to staff. People need to understand why they are going to have to alter their current routines. Note: If current results are good, this conversation may be more difficult. If current results have not been positive, then the conversation may be more well received.

To be effective, you need a plan of attack and know in advance on what you are going to work on changing in that content whether it be a sentence or a paragraph. 

What Exactly Are You Changing?

The key word in the question is “exactly”.  When change is presented in general or represented as a wholesale change, willingness to comply is often pushed aside due to fear of disruption. If on the other hand, the change is represented in a series of steps or minor adjustments, the team will be more willing to follow the new path.

Based on statistics from personality tests like Meyers Briggs, the largest group results states that individuals do not like change. They like routine. Thus the need to be specific with changes, and being clear on the series of changes with specific timeline to help increase adoption.

What Current Data is Supporting Change?

As Marc pointed out in our conversation during the Automotive Analytics and Attribution Summit, when discussing change it must be supported by Data. Data, Data and more Data. 

Leaders want to see specific data points supporting the need for change. If there is a downturn in customer interest, or inventory or other outside influences which will impact business, these must be presented with the case for change.

Gut feelings don’t interest leaders. What data will you present showing why the change has to happen. Focus on impact to bottom line results. Once you have this part of the presentation justifying change, then next step is key to present what the impact to the bottom line will be if the change happens.


What Results are Being Projected Post Change?

This can be tricky because it is a projection of results. When putting together these numbers, I recommend showing a range of numbers. Slower adoption of change to the higher potential when adoption is complete. If the change is due to outside influences of the market, make sure to get as much data from reliable sources to show your range of expectations.

If change is based on things within the control of the team, then again present a range based on adoption by the team. 

TIP: Be careful to not over-promise, but also do not be so cautious where leaders don’t see the value of the change. As I mentioned, this is the hardest step of the process.

Map Out a Plan for Implementation - with Timelines

What if the leaders say yes? What if employees ask leadership how the change will take place?

In both scenarios, having a thought out plan of action is key for adoption. A well documented plan will give leaders or employees confidence in the ability of the project managers to take charge and deliver on this change.

TIP: Go through current processes step by step to review what needs to be changed. Document each change and where it is happening. This will make it easier to walk the team through the new path with specific examples of new processes.

Remember with any change, we all want success for our new efforts. Change for change sake is not helpful. It is disruptive to the business. Businesses must evolve but following this plan, will make any change more effective and lead to the desired results.  

If I can help you in any way or you are interested in having our team help with implementation, reach out to me or call PCG at 732-450-8200.


Glenn Pasch

Glenn Pasch is a Partner and CEO of PCG Digital. Glenn continues to author articles for multiple industry publications, blogs and forums as well as continuing his writing online at

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