In this article, we discuss the impact of VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) challenges on the role of the sales professional.
The biggest problem today is that we have been raised in a context in which we believe the world is predictable. Even the British weather that we love to talk about is not conforming to what has gone before. We live in a world where everything is uncertain; the world is interconnected, we live with legacy systems. Such that, what is expected to happen because you believe you have known unknowns – now you have unknown unknowns. How can you govern, advise and decide in these circumstances?
What is needed is a new mindset to expect uncertainty and live with unknowns and best guesses.
In a VUCA world, there is a challenge for business leaders and sales professional to adapt to the increasing requirement for clarity and simplicity.
The job of the sales professional is to help buyers and business leaders to predict and anticipate on a more sustainable footing. The challenge is to live with possibility rather than reaching for absolute certainty and you can imagine how conflicting this requirement can be. The sales professional must coach their relationships in this new mindset. They are developing resilience in their customers to cope with the inherent risk that a VUCA world presents for large-scale social and technological change.
One of the critical mindset changes is leading away from what is probably and toward what is possible.
The VUCA environment means that we must focus on what is possible (because anything can happen) rather than on what is likely to occur (which is determined by what happened before).
Sales professionals must adopt the new paradigm of a sales consultant adviser if they are to gain the trust of their customer. The Harvard Business Review Consulting is More Than Giving Advice, shows how closely aligned consultancy is to the sales interaction in the hierarchy of consulting purposes:
Consultation is the mechanism in managing a VUCA world when there are greater need and demand for clarity and simplicity.
The Global Simplicity Index 2011 is the first-ever study to calculate the cost of complexity in the world’s largest organisations. The research was conducted jointly by management consultancy, Simplicity, and Warwick Business School.
Since 2009, an annual stock portfolio comprised of the publicly traded simplest brands in the global Top 10, which has outperformed the major indexes by 679%, and 64% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides simpler experiences and communications.
Here are three ways you can help improve your ability to deal with higher levels of complexity and gain a clear perspective:
Sales professionals need to become more like business consultants when presenting complex solutions
The impact of your knowledge, your research and your advice are far-reaching in a consulting sales solution process. If this advice is siloed into functional areas, the effect is reduced, and the risk of complication is increased.
Unless you work across the whole organisation and can influence at the right level, the outcome will be minimal and possibly fail. I have certainly worked on a project that has not had the buy-in across the breadth of the organisation or have in the past sold into a department with little discussion across the organisation to access the impact on connected departments and so the effect of the solution is not fully understood, utilised or measured.
Sales professionals must become business consultants when presenting complex solutions to customers, moving from sales centric to buyer-centric, and then to organisation centric sales consultant advisers.
The required skills are of thought leadership, trusted expertise, independent problem solving and visionary; because leaders, buyers and customers expect you to know the what, so they can ask you how and you ask them why? Leading the trusted relationship with authority and the permission to ask difficult, uncomfortable strategic searching questions. The sales consultant adviser negotiates and influences a vision of possibilities and with buy-in, then helps make a reality.
The new role of a sales consultant adviser is to:
Research shows that the average B2B opportunity has six decision-makers involved. That is a lot of human interactions. The way the seller influences is now an organisation-wide strategic approach. The belief is that a consultative decision reduces the company risk. Leaders, buyers and customers expect that all advisory positions are sensitive to human needs, excellent relationships builders and skilled in improving the whole connected organisation’s ability to solve future not just present problems. This is a big ask for a sales professional but a walk in the park for a seasoned consultant.
Janice is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management. She is passionate about helping companies adapt their sales approach to the economic, social and technological challenges. This has led her to create the popular the sales enablement system, Scale Your Sales. Janice is the international Strategic Account Sales Speaker, author and consultant, achieving many noted accolades including Sage Top100 Global Business Influencer 2017. Contact Janice today about Scaling your Sales
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