How to sell in a VUCA world

A Changed World Requires Evolution of Sales Skills

The world is constantly changing, but the rapid and widescale change caused by COVID-19 has done more to shape the way society goes about its daily business than any event in living memory. Perhaps even more so than the last World War. If you wanted a definition of extreme VUCA, then we can all say we have lived through it.

While your organizational culture shapes behaviors in the sales context, the new paradigm will dictate the skills your salespeople must onboard to sell in a VUCA world.

What is the VUCA world?

VUCA is an acronym that describes the modern world in which we live:

  • Volatile

The world is in constant flux, and this creates a rapid pace of change that disrupts markets, strategies, and the way that things are done.

To negotiate this volatility, your salespeople and your sales processes must be flexible. Approaches to customers must be adaptable, and salespeople will need to evolve their research skills while organizations must prepare for people to reprioritize their needs more regularly. The customer journey is likely to be increasingly fragmented and meandering, and salespeople will need to engage more frequently to maintain their customers’ attention.

  • Uncertain

Market direction is unclear, and salespeople must help their customers to focus on the bigger picture and not become mired in day-to-day complexity of the changing environment. Salespeople should be good information gatherers and help their customers analyze relevant data. Such analysis must be accompanied by a compelling sales narrative.

  • Complex

Focus must be on serving a broader and deeper customer base, with penetration across geographies and cultures. Organizations must account for different regulations, and salespeople must resolve to navigate their unconscious biases and adapt their natural communication style for cultural differences.

  • Ambiguous

Faced with an uncertain future, customers are more uncertain of their buying decisions. Solutions that are offered must therefore be more adaptable to changing markets and needs. Salespeople must build high levels of trust between themselves and their customers. A more measured and subtle approach is needed to achieve this, with salespeople developing a bond between jointly held values and beliefs to help guide their customers though a volatile, complex and uncertain market.

Salespeople must engage throughout the customer journey

Key to selling in a VUCA world is to be present with your customer as they move along their individual customer journey. This journey stretches from recognition and definition of a problem, through identification and customization of solutions, to review beyond the sale. Typically, the customer journey can be summarized in eight steps:

  1. Recognize the problem

The customer recognizes that they have a problem and accepts the need for products or services to solve it.

  1. The need is defined

The need is defined as a general overview of the product or service that is required as a solution.

  1. The product or service need is detailed

The definition of the solution is detailed as customized specifications.

  1. Providers are sought

The search begins for potential providers of the solution needed.

  1. Solution proposals are requested

The organization creates a shortlist of preferred providers and requests proposals from these.

  1. Provider is selected

Received proposals are reviewed, and a provider is selected. This may follow further negotiations.

  1. Order given and confirmed

Following final negotiations and customization, the order is placed.

  1. Review

The solutions provided are reviewed, feedback given, and further actions taken. At this stage, the decision to continue, modify or stop is made. The salesperson who has developed a trusting relationship can influence these decisions.

Key sales skills in a VUCA world

The sales journey increases in complexity according to the size of the customer. Large organizations may have many people involved in the decision to purchase. The most talented salespeople benefit from a level of emotional intelligence that helps them understand and react appropriately to different behavioral patterns. Essential skills to accomplish this successfully include:

  • Communication

  • Problem solving

  • Time management

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Empathy

Early integration into the sales process is critical to sales success. This allows salespeople to build the trusting relationships that empower buying decisions to be made.

Contact us today to learn how we help salespeople understand themselves and your customers better to develop the relationships that develop loyal customers in the VUCA world.

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