Five ‘not new’ ways to sell in difficult times
Selling in the current climate is arguably more difficult than ever before. But it doesn’t need ‘brand new’ ways of working to be effective. I want to share five ‘not new’ ways to sell in difficult times.
I will look at these from a chronological point of view, working backwards. And so, let’s start with something that was really developed, I would say, in the Nineties and that is virtual selling.
When thinking about virtual selling, what elements have we got that we can use that are going to help us? We’ve got Zoom, Skype, Teams, whatever your favourite video conferencing platform is. All on your desk or even in your hand. A far cry from the great big piece of kit that was used when I started in the workplace that only very senior people could use. It even had its own special room. Don’t forget though that virtual also includes the phone and email. So really getting expert at using these as well as video conferencing is something that can help you when times are a little tough and we can’t do the things we normally would when face to face.
Let’s drop back into the Eighties as this is when something called VUCA and more importantly, VUCA Prime was introduced. Based on military thinking VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. VUCA Prime is a way of dealing with those, the countermeasures if you like. To combat volatility, we need vision. To deal with uncertainty, we need understanding. To understand the complexity, we need clarity and to counter ambiguity, we need agility. These are all things that a modern salesperson should understand. They can use them to guide not only their own activity, but also that of their customers. It’s an area where they can really bring value.
What about the third element that we could bring in of ‘not new’ ways of working. Let’s travel back another the decade to the Seventies and consider opportunity management. This is something a little bit different to key account management. It looks at a particular opportunity or particular chance of winning business that we might have within an existing account or indeed a brand new one. Probably the most famous exponent of this would be Miller Heiman through their strategic selling sales system. Other methodologies are available and we may just want to also look at these and take the parts that help us really focus in on understanding key elements of winning business. This might include asking is it a good opportunity? Who do we know that influences decision making in the opportunity? What’s happening to affect them? How can we really make a difference?
A structured approach to thinking is something that still rings true today. When times are difficult, this is a chance to add value by understanding customers and what they’re trying to do.
Next up I’d like to think about social selling. Now you’re probably thinking, hang on a minute, if we’ve gone Nineties, Eighties, Seventies, surely social selling is more of a Noughties thing and I’m out of sequence.
Well, yes,If we’re thinking about using LinkedIn and other social platforms where we can connect with people and use these and other means of communicating in a more modern way. But if we think about selling and being social, I’m going to argue, this goes back to the Forties, the 1740s. This was when the first golf club was inaugurated. So maybe that’s when the first form of sort of social selling was undertaken by the fine gentleman of the Leith Links. Now, whatever platform or whichever means we use to be more social in the way that we operate, that still rings very true now in the ‘not new’ way of working in difficult times. Sharing information of value and generating insight however you choose to deliver that, is a great thing to do.
So my last one for the fifth one, I want to go back a few more years… 200,000 years. Some people might even argue 3 million years, as I am referring to when humans really begun to speak.
It would be logical to surmise that if this is when humans really begun to speak then it would be when we really began to listen. My wife might argue that I need still to learn that skill, but in principle, listening skills are probably the most important that we have. As a ‘not new’ way we can use these communication skills to make a difference in difficult times by talking to customers and understanding where they might have issues and whether there are things that we might be able to help them with. Again, for a salesperson it should not be a new way of working and it should certainly not be one that is forgotten just because times have changed.
In the spirit of adding value I want to add an extra idea. Unsurprisingly I would also advocate using partnering skills or PQ to bring your overall sales approach up to date. Whilst the idea of using these to inform and adapt your sales approach might be quite modern Partnering Intelligence as a concept was researched and developed in the Nineties. Developing the mindset for collaboration and co-creation is a must for today’s sales professionals and especially in challenging times where with the right thinking opportunities to work together present themselves more than ever.
None of the things I’ve suggested are ‘brand new’ but that we apply them in current circumstances and that we start to use them more effectively might be what is new. That is the way to look at it to benefit. The application might be new by being a little different, and that might be where we can really make a difference with our customers.
Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.