What VUCA Really Means for Sellers


In a VUCA world, both sellers and buyers experience that change is relentless and its effects are constant, this is the ‘new norm’. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world after the end of the Cold War. The term is currently used to describe the accelerated speed of change and the impact from the technological, political, social and economic challenges.

  • Change is unstable and happens faster.
  • Cause and effect are unknown and outcomes less predictable.
  • Issues and problems are multi-layered with many interconnecting part and variables.
  • Clarity is not assumed; best guess is likely as no precedents exist.

VUCA has required business models to become agile. Buyer behaviour is driving sellers to adapt to the change in power, sales leaders must get used to not being in the driving seat and to develop new approaches to continue to secure B2B sales. Helping buyers understand and conquer complexities is a highly valued skill that sale leader must instil in their sales team.

Volatility on Seller Janice B Gordon

Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

Sellers must have an awareness of the current pressures that buyer’s face. The impact of VUCA on both sellers and buyers is longer hours, the challenge to keep up with new technologies, new processes and new behaviours, creating more stress. The challenging performance pressures associated with outdated sales systems that justify internal ROI initiatives are no longer fit for purpose. Sellers must be comfortable with the ‘new norm’ of VUCA so that their buyers can have the confidence to buy in a VUCA environment.

It may appear that in a VUCA world we are all working with the best guess when the reality is that with have always work on a gut feel and informed choice, a known fact has always been a luxury.

What has Changed?

in the past, there were many more constants that we could predict that the risk assessment was between a few variables and so we felt comfortable and confident with the decision.  Today, when there are few constants and many variables, buyers must practice making decisions with less certainty to feel comfortable and confident in the decision.

6 Strategies, if you Adopt, Will Help Sales Teams Navigate the VUCA World

  1. Give-up Control

In a VUCA world, you are working with uncertainty and instability.  Traditional education teaches us that the more responsibility we have the control we have when the current reality is that, we must learn to give up control and instead become confident that what comes, we have the skills to course correct. You really must be comfortable with being uncomfortable to thrive in a VUCA world. Sellers have a role to help buyers simplify the options, understand the variables and make decisions given the circumstances.

  1. Develop Resilience

Along with failure, I put rejection, often sales professional develop a rejection collection mindset. Sellers must have the resilience ingrain in their culture so their people can bounce back from situations that do not go their way.  You would think to work in sales this is a given. However, working in sales in a VUCA world, when you feel you are walking on quicksand there can be a slow ebbing away of confidence, motivation and productivity. When your sales team treats rejection and failure as just feedback that brings insight, that it is not personal, but it is information.

Janice B Gordon VUCA on Seller

  1. Nurture Confidence

Sellers have a duty to inspire buyers with confidence in their decisions because of the greater the confidence the easier the decision.

You will have heard saying like ‘if you are not confident in your product how do you expect buyer to be?’ well the same can be said for being confident when all around you is fluid, you have to be confident in yourself, confident that you have the right analysis and confidence in the process. Trusting that given all these data points, your advising with the best case. Your knowledge experience and belief in the process provide strong foundations for your buyers to believe in your brand. Invest in building confidence in your sales team.

  1. Rise to the Challenges

There is no point deigning that the VUCA is here to stay. Millennials are influencing the decision in the workplace, almost the entire world is online, people are empowered by their phones, you can search and find answers to almost anything online.  All these things are changing the way we communicate and purchase, even in the B2B space.

Sellers must have an honest dialogue about the challenges and the treats. Team insight discussions will help your sales team to understand the big issues affecting their customers and it gives them a language to discuss the issues and the impact on their buyer’s decision. These insight discussions within the sales team will help the buyers make sense of the impact of VUCA with the help of a trusted adviser’s perspective. Remember in a VUCA world speed always trumps right or wrong, so review your policies and processes to ensure they are fit for the new norm and exceed rather than hinder the buyer journey and customers experience.

  1. Build Trust

Trust in the decision.  Recognise that a decision is a means of gaining more relevant data that makes our best guess more informed.  Trusting in the unknown means both buyers and sellers must develop a new way of thinking and an openness to new possibilities.  Sellers must trust in their own insight and help the buyer.  Creating a solution is a collaboration of information and perspectives and a negotiation of the best options to deliver the stated outcome and impact. With the required level of trust, there will be mutual respect, a meeting of mind and an opportunity for partnership.

Buyers can only feel secure in their decisions if they feel secure in the relationship with the seller. This is demonstrating consistency in what you say to deliver, a customer-oriented perspective such that the buyer feels the sales professional is a trusted member of the team. It is critical to have a solid relationship building process of quality questions and active listening that creates pleasantly engaging buyer experiences.

  1. Give Guidance

Helping your buyer to clearly articulate their measure of success, their ideal outcomes and the greatest potential impact that your solution could have on their business. You now have a clear focus of where you are heading (the goal) and why.  Just like a plane fly from London to New York, before taking off you have a flight plan and data on the anticipated Atlantic crossing conditions.  It is expected that the plane will course correct continuously, however, during the flight there is more turbulence than expected, given new data you can decide to land and wait for better conditions, go around the turbulence and add time and fuel cost to the flight or go through is and suffer more discomfort.  When you have new information, you can assess the impact on the goal, the solution and the decision.

VUCA on Sellers course correct Janice B Gordon

Encourage your sales team to step outside of their comfort zone you give themselves permission to innovate, to find new connections and experience new things, this practice will accelerate their insight beyond where others fear to go.

It is overwhelming for your buyers coping with the unexpected upheavals and dramatic fluctuations of a VUCA world, do not let your sales team become overwhelming. Both buyers and seller must go with your you have in a VUCA world as speed is critical. Sellers must embrace the VUCA world because it is the ‘new norm’. The quicker your sales team develops the behaviours to gain insight and opportunities from the challenges VUCA presents, the quicker they gain competitive advantage and a loyal following of buyers and customers.

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