You and I live in a time where the rate of change is accelerating, and this has generated stress and anxiety among many people. You and I might feel nothing is how it should be, or how we want it. Unfortunately, there is no way to slow the rate of change, so it is increasingly difficult to keep pace.
Some changes, like new business models, are positive. An Uber is better than a taxi. An Airbnb is better than a hotel. But there are also negative changes, like our political divisiveness, an intense culture war, and the problems in our current environment. We have a hot war in Europe, the highest inflation in more than four decades, high interest rates, and crimes in large cities.
I share these trends and factors because this accelerating rate of change contributes to them. When decision makers try to make sense of the world, uncertainty often causes them to pause, believing that it is safer to wait to make a purchase until things slow down. You have to help your clients by giving them the confidence and certainty to move forward, as waiting is often more dangerous than changing.
You and I Live with Accelerating Change
Trying to avoid a necessary change is part of human nature. Many sales organizations are still selling the way they did in the past, with some using approaches designed for the late 1960s or the 1990s.
The number of changes in the last decade should be enough for sales leaders to recognize that buyers have changed, too. Unfortunately, sales organizations that have refused to change how they sell struggle to be effective, harming their company and their sales results.
In the 1960s, there was no way to learn about a company and its products without meeting with a salesperson. In the 1990s, the internet and e-commerce were just starting to take root.
Today, anyone can find information about anything. The problem is that there is so much information it can overwhelm people trying to make an important decision, one that they are rarely called to make.
Your Development Plan
Recently, I wrote about overemphasizing cold outreach, including tactics like requiring pipelines to have many times more revenue than the salesperson’s quota. Some will have already started to recognize that this strategy provides a false sense of confidence. I encourage sales leaders to question whether an approach favored by private equity firms may not be right for their business.
Fewer sales organizations have adopted a modern sales approach, one that includes the changes in how buyers buy, the rate of change, and the difficulty of creating the certainty to move forward.
No matter where you are on this journey, you need a development plan that will allow you to change your sales methodologies and use the new skills and character traits necessary to succeed in sales.
- A modern sales approach: If you want to improve your sales results, the first change you must make is adopting a modern sales approach. This is necessary, as buyers need salespeople to help them make an important decision. Those with a legacy approach fail to create value in the sales conversation, often losing in the first meeting.
- Modern sales methodologies: Your modern sales approach needs a set of methodologies in line with value creation. Your development plan may start with a modern prospecting methodology, an updated discovery, and a collaborative conversation with your contacts and their stakeholders, and the ability to lead the client.
- Greater business acumen: In this environment, your prospective clients are looking for salespeople who know more than they know. The salesperson who can only talk about their company and their solution is no longer going to win deals when competing with salespeople who have greater business acumen. This is a mismatch.
- Expertise and authority: Business acumen by itself isn’t enough. Your development plan must include expertise and authority, something we call being One-Up. In the future, there will be less demand for almost everything because there are no generations large enough to replace the Baby Boomers. Those who sell like salespeople of the past will lose to experts.
- Change management: Your deal is your client’s change initiative. If you are going to be part of the team making change, you must contribute to managing change. Those who believe their responsibility is to sell their solution will find themselves losing valuable opportunities, especially when pursuing large or enterprise clients.
The Future and You
The future is already here. Those who haven’t made the changes listed above will continue to find selling more difficult than it has to be. While we don’t know what comes next, we do know that the rate of change is accelerating. If the fast adoption of artificial intelligence doesn’t convince you that the world is changing faster than we can adapt, nothing will.
These changes are significant, but they aren’t so difficult that any salesperson or sales organization can’t adopt them with a well-designed development plan. The results often come faster than most sales reps and sales teams expect.
Your Development Plan
You need a development plan that will allow you to adopt a modern sales approach and the accompanying methodologies. You also need a plan to accelerate business acumen and the expertise and authority that causes buyers to prefer the salesperson possessing these attributes. It is easy to make a purchase, but it is difficult to make change.
Once you conclude your development plan, it is likely that there will be new changes in the environment, requiring other adjustments to your sales approach. As long as you are in sales, you can expect that what you are doing today will eventually lose its effectiveness and require something new.