Change is inevitable in any organization. Whether implementing new processes, adopting cutting-edge technologies, or redefining workflows, change management is essential for growth and staying competitive.

One of the most prominent challenges leaders and managers face is getting key stakeholders and end-users on board with these changes. Resistance to change can be a significant roadblock to progress.

In this article, we'll explore:

Understanding resistance to change

Why do people resist change? Resistance to change is a natural and biological response. We are creatures of habit, and any disruption to the status quo can be unsettling, uncomfortable, and even a little scary.

Some common reasons for resistance to change are:

Fear of the unknown

Our employees often fear what they don't understand. When introducing a new process or technology, project stakeholders may worry about how it will affect their roles, job security, and daily routines.

For example, your company is rolling out new automated lead scoring. This new technology will automatically score your leads based on your various criteria and nurture them through the sales funnel.

Employees who previously handled the lead qualification and nurturing manually might worry that this technology will make their roles redundant and result in layoffs or downsizing.

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Current comfortability

Even if the current processes are inefficient or outdated, some individuals may feel comfortable simply because they are familiar with them. Change threatens this comfort zone (even if it's a good change).

💭 Consider this RevOps scenario:

Your team has been using manual data entry processes to collect and analyze customer data. They manually input data from various sources (CRM, marketing platform, sales reports, etc.) into spreadsheets and databases.

RevOps leaders recognize the need for change and want to implement an automated data integration system to connect all the data sources, streamline the data collection, and provide real-time and easily reportable analytics.

Although this new system will be more efficient and time-conserving, your team may resist it due to their comfort with the manual method. Team members are accustomed to the data entry process. They know the ins and outs of the existing spreadsheets and databases, providing them with comfort and control.

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Lack of awareness

Internal stakeholders might not fully grasp the reasons behind the proposed changes or the benefits they will bring. This can lead to skepticism and resistance.

For example, your company has been using the same outdated CRM for years, it lacks advanced features and struggles to keep up with your growing customer base. You've recognized that it's time for a change and have discovered a new CRM system that is more robust and modern.

The system will enhance data management, your sales cycle, analytics, and reporting capabilities. Deciding to upgrade to a new CRM system impacts many teams (think: sales, marketing, CSM, support, etc.).

Some of these teams are resistant due to the need for more understanding about why the change is necessary.

Loss of control

Some individuals may resist change because they perceive it as a loss of control over their work or a shift in organizational power dynamics.

💭 Let's explore a RevOps scenario where your team has decided to implement a unified sales and marketing platform…

The new platform centralizes customer data and streamlines communication. Some team members have expressed resistance to this change because they fear the new system will centralize decision-making and reduce their autonomy. The team may have shared concerns about losing control of their day-to-day operations.

This resistance all stems from employees feeling a loss of control.

Strategies to secure stakeholder buy-in

No need to fear – help is on the way! Now that we've identified common reasons for resistance to change, let's delve into strategies to overcome these barriers and gain buy-in from stakeholders.

Clear communication

My favorite strategy to combat change resistance is communication. The importance of clear and transparent communication cannot be overstated.
Take time to explain the change's reasons, benefits, and how it aligns with the organization's goals. Address concerns openly, honestly, and – you guessed it – transparently!

Use various communication tools such as emails, meetings, Slack, and presentations to ensure everyone is informed. Clear and constant communication builds trust, reduces uncertainty, creates space to address concerns, promotes understanding, and can even encourage engagement.

For example, create a strategic communication plan when kicking off a new project. Identify the impacted audiences and create your communication plan from there. Your plan can include a short kick-off email, a mid-implementation update, training invites, and the launch communication. 

Involve stakeholders from the beginning

Raise your hand if you've ever been personally victimized by processes created in a silo. 🙋

You're not alone – people are more likely to support what they help create, so involve stakeholders in the decision-making process, and gather their input.

This collaboration not only gives them a sense of ownership but also ensures the changes are more likely to meet their needs.

Build a strong business case

Use data and evidence to build a compelling case for change. Prove to the users why the change is needed. Show your stakeholders how the new processes or technologies will improve efficiency, reduce costs, or enhance quality.

Visual aids like charts and graphs can be effective in conveying this information.

📖 Example business case

For example, your SaaS company has a sales ops team struggling to meet revenue targets due to several inefficient processes. You must make a strong business case to leadership and stakeholders on why a change is needed. You decide to show the following evidence: 

  • Your conversion rate is 15% compared to the industry average of 25%. Why is it so low? The sales process needs to be enhanced to keep up with the changing landscape.
  • Manual data entry cost can be shown at $50,000/month and employee time spent doing repetitive manual tasks is 30+ hours/week. The high manual data entry costs and substantial time spent on tasks indicate some operational process inefficiencies.
  • The average response time to customer questions is 24 hours. Your company has also seen customer complaints increase about lack of personalization in responses by 40%! This delay in response and increase in complaints can highlight the effects of data silos affecting customer satisfaction.

With the new processes and technologies you’d like to implement, you believe these issues can be resolved. The solutions you decide to discuss with leadership include: 

  • Implementing predictive analytics to help the sales team identify high-potential leads. These analytics aim to achieve (at minimum) the industry average of 25% conversions.
  • Automating repetitive and routine tasks can reduce operational costs and save employees time for more strategic activities and higher productivity. Automation can help save $50,000/month.
  • Migrating to a new unified CRM system to centralize customer data enables better cross-functional collaboration (including, but not limited to, sales and customer success). This new system can reduce response times and increase account personalization, improving customer satisfaction.

Ultimately, the data you need to build a strong case depends on the problem you’re working to resolve. When building the case, think quantitatively and analytically. Provide numerical evidence that is easy for your leadership to digest.

Provide training and support

One common reason for resistance is the fear of incompetence with the new changes. Provide adequate training and ongoing stakeholder support to help your team acquire the necessary skills and confidence to adapt.

Videos, process guides, open office hours, and team channels are all ways to help end-users get trained and adapt to the process. No question is off-limits.

Have multiple communication channels where end-users can ask questions and get answers quickly and collaborate with your sales enablement team to ensure confidence in the new process is gained quickly.

Recognize and reward

Acknowledge and reward those who embrace the changes and contribute positively to the transition. Public recognition and incentives can motivate others to follow suit.

There's nothing like a little shout-out on an all-hands call to make someone feel special.

Depending on how critical the process is to your RevOps goals, you may want to offer a financial incentive for those who adhere to the new process quickly. Who wouldn’t love a mini-bonus?

Do you have an employee of the month program? Consider picking someone who is doing a great job working with the change. If your company has a PTO program (other than unlimited PTO), consider offering additional days off for those contributing positively to the change.

These rewards can motivate your team to adopt the change.

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Address emotional concerns

Understand that emotions often drive resistance to change. Take the time to listen to stakeholders' fears and anxieties actively. Empathize with their concerns and offer reassurance when possible.

Empathy turns good leaders into great ones.

How can you show empathy to your employees? Acknowledge and validate their feelings while they’re sharing their concerns, help them understand the why behind the change, and provide assurance and remind them of the ways they are going to be supported.

Be patient

Change takes time. It's essential to be patient and not expect instant compliance. Anticipate setbacks and be prepared to adjust your approach as needed. Compliance can take several weeks all the way up to several months, depending on the complexity of the change.

Review your group's historical track record with previous process changes to better understand how long it might take your team to adjust.

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Dealing with resistance to change and securing stakeholder engagement is critical to successful organizational growth. Leaders and managers can navigate change more effectively by understanding the reasons behind resistance and implementing these strategies.

Remember, change is not the enemy; it's a catalyst for progress. With the right approach, you can turn resistance into acceptance and drive positive organizational transformations and successful project outcomes.

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