In a previous post, we briefly talked about taking a Moneyball approach to sales. We looked at the sales competencies that are present in a successful sales team. And we looked at finding the right salespeople with the right skills to match our market strategy and the business environment.
The current coronavirus crisis won’t last forever. We know that from experience. But we also know that events like these will have a long-lasting impact on the business environment. The question is, do you have the right people in place in your business to navigate these troubled waters? And will they support your market strategy not just in the current crisis, but in the aftermath once the crisis has passed?
Recently, we spoke with a number of leaders in different industries. And the predominant word that kept coming up for them was uncertainty. These sales leaders were also commenting that the landscape had changed. Some leaders were wondering if they have the right people to sell through this crisis. Others were hearing their clients were planning for the unknown. Almost all of the leaders were asking “what do I say to people right now”.
One thing we know for sure, things are going to be different from now on. The business landscape has changed, and we are going to have to sell much differently from before.
The Future Sales Landscape
Let’s do a little forecasting.
Here’s what we think are going to be the major marketplace obstacles going forward:
- Your clients will want to re-do agreements
- They’ll be faced with additional or new budget constraints
- Your buyers will be faced with staffing issues. Now more than ever they will be trying to get more accomplished with fewer people. And let’s face it, so will you.
- They will be faced with talent issues. They will have to face (as will you) the fact that they may not have the right people on the team to see their way through this crisis or the aftermath it has brought on.
- Priorities will shift. Prior to the crisis, your buyers were probably looking at ways to expand their presence. Today, they are simply looking for ways to survive.
- Unsolvable objections. We talked about objections that aren’t solvable in a previous blog post.
In this current environment, this new business reality, the changing landscape is going to involve organizations undergoing a number of contractions and it’s all going to be driven by a survival mindset. If we recognize that people sell to people, and we think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety and survival will be where most of your buyers will be operating. And people behave differently when they don’t feel safe or they are trying to survive. In these instances, your sales team has to be careful when pushing their buyers because you don’t want them to come across as tone deaf and damage their credibility.
The Foundation of a Successful Sales Team – Situational Selling
Here’s what we’re suggesting moving forward. Over the past few years, there have been a number of sales trends that have influenced how we sell. For example, there’s relationship-based selling, conceptual selling, and the challenger sales model, to name a few. All of these are viable models in the new business environment. But they all will undergo some changes.
Think about this. Let’s say you were going in to have routine elective surgery, for example, hernia repair or gall bladder removal. We’re talking about a simple procedure that people have done all the time. It’s so common that doctors have the procedure down to a process. Now, the doctor performing the surgery will usually have a strategy for executing the surgery and that strategy governs their process.
In this example, let’s say that while you are undergoing the procedure, your blood pressure suddenly starts to drop. In that situation, the doctor can’t go forward using the same strategy. She must come up with a new strategy that deals with the new variable. That change in strategy is going to impact not just the surgery, but can also impact her schedule for the entire day. She must be flexible and nimble to change how she’s executing the surgery on the fly.
This will be the case in sales as well. More of our sales encounters will become situational. And your sales team will need to be flexible, nimble, and use the information they have at hand to make snap decisions based on the situation.
Elements of Situational Selling for the Successful Sales Team
So, we must ask the question: Are our salespeople prepared to use multiple strategies, or have they been trained with a one-size-fits-all mentality? In these new encounters, salespeople will need to be flexible enough to think on their feet more. And there are a lot of sales reps who just aren’t built to do that.
In reviewing the situational selling condition, there are four pieces that we need to address. There’s the mind-set of the buyer as well as the seller. The mindset of the buyer has changed considerably over the last 3 months and we need to be cognizant of that. Next, we must think about the strategy needed to move the sale forward. And it probably won’t be a single strategy, but multiple strategies whose deployment depends on the situation.
Then we have to consider what tactics to use. And not all tactics are useful in today’s environment. For example, using certain scarcity tactics to create a sense of urgency probably won’t get your salespeople much traction in today’s marketplace. Remember, most of your tactics aren’t universal. The sales rep needs to use them with discretion and thoughtfulness.
As a leader, you might have some sales reps who have only one gear. They know one way to execute a sale and they don’t have the tactical sales savvy required in this marketplace. So you have to think about how you are going to train and coach them going forward. More importantly, you have to consider the profile of someone who is successful in this environment. Those are the people you want when building a successful sales team.
Identifying the High Performers for Your Sales Team
Here’s what we know from our experience in performing sales performance assessments. From the evidence of those past assessments:
- The high sales performers have a dominant selling style based on the situation that they were addressing.
- We saw clear and significant patterns in the win/loss rates when accounting for the combination of the situation and the strategy a sales rep used.
- High sales performers were more likely to use the strategy with the best odds of success in any given situation when compared to the rest of the sales organization.
- The only accurate label you could use to classify your high performers is that they are agile sellers or situational sellers.
Sales leaders will definitely need to get the right people with the right competencies to create a successful sales team in this business environment. To accomplish that will involve a true assessment of the members on your sales team as well as potential new talent. But once you have the right people with the right competencies in play, your team will be better positioned to navigate our new business reality.
To find out more about the competencies needed for today’s new business reality and how to instill them in your sales team, watch our video on driving sales in the face of business uncertainty here.