Salespeople should ‘prime’ customers for VUCA… now!
We are in one of the most challenging times that most salespeople will have ever faced. As such it is not ‘business as usual’ and to try to address it in the same way as before is a mistake.
The sales landscape is changing and as this environment is different, and sales professionals should embrace the opportunity to do something different and keep their competitive edge. It is about continuing to add value to customers and helping the relationship to grow under extraordinary conditions.
Many in the commercial world already recognise volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity as drivers for change. The concept of VUCA can be used to describe the chaotic, turbulent and rapidly changing business environment that has become the ‘new normal’ for organisations for some time to come.
The Original VUCA Model
VUCA is a concept originally used by the US Military. It was coined to describe the environment after the Cold War when threats we considered to come from different sources that were harder to track, could appear and then disappear and that were highly confusing. It describes as landscape of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. More recently VUCA has been used to inform leadership and also provides solid thinking salespeople can use.
In the commercial world the concept of VUCA can be considered a means of identifying opportunities. Focusing on each element separately helps determine better ways of working to respond to change.
Volatility – refers to the nature, speed, volume, size and dynamics of change in an industry, market or organisation. The more volatile the environment is, the greater and faster conditions change and the harder it is to keep up.
Uncertainty – refers to the extent to which organisations can confidently predict future events and issues that may impact them. The more uncertain the environment is, the harder it is to predict.
Complexity – refers to the number, diversity and interconnected nature of factors that organisations need to take into account. The more complex the environment is, the harder it is to analyse.
Ambiguity – refers to a lack of clarity and difficulty of understanding exactly what the situation is resulting in a ‘haziness of reality’. The more ambiguous the environment is, the harder it is to interpret.
First introduced in 2007 by Robert Johansen, VUCA Prime is a behavioural leadership model to counteract each of the four elements of VUCA with a specific positive response. They are:
Vision rises above Volatility — when conditions are changing unpredictably, leaders should keep focused on the desired target state and vision. The vision should be a compelling picture of the future that aligns stakeholders around purpose and outline the nature of the benefits.
Understanding reduces Uncertainty — when uncertainty is encountered, explore and experiment in order to increase understanding of external political, economic, social, technological, legislative and environmental (PESTLE) factors.
Clarity counters Complexity — when faced with the unknown and unpredictable conditions; learn to simplify where possible as clarity informs decisions and decisions enable execution.
Agility overcomes Ambiguity — when the future contains multiple alternatives, be ready to adapt the approach to match the desired outcome. Organisational agility is assisted by the ability to innovate and improvise.
In an ever-changing world, leaders must change their approach. Navigating in a VUCA environment should not be seen as a problem that can be resolved, but as an ongoing scenario that must be effectively managed.
To survive and thrive, organizations need to take a broader perspective when making strategic investment decisions in a VUCA environment. Rather than simply react to change, organizations need to move towards a more proactive response to change.
VUCA Prime as a sales model
Sales is already shifting more than ever before towards using a more collaborative approach, so an effective salesperson can position themselves as something of a ‘servant leader’ to their customers.
The VUCA Prime Sales Model provides a means of doing this with the focus it gives to both self and others. It allows salespeople to prepare so that they are able to act more confidently to then guide customers more effectively.
To be well equipped to use this approach a sales profession should be comfortable with:
– Moving along the change curve
– Individual reactions
– VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity)
– Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
– Sales best practice (Classic, Consultative, Value based, Enterprise)
Foundations of VUCA
– Predictability of outcome vs knowledge of situation
– Commercial uses
VUCA Prime as a sales model
– Head in the right direction
– Pause and think
– Define steps to achieve
– Be able to change
– Purpose and ‘Outrageous Ambition’
– Establishing mutual benefit
– ‘Start at Why’
– Inputs drive outputs
– Listening and KYC
– Generating insight
– Structured thinking models
– Telling stories
– Acting with Courage
– Defining steps and KPIs
– Creative thinking
– Becoming more Adaptable
– Using OODA Loops
– Applying an entrepreneurial mindset
This might sound like a big ask, but so are the rewards. Never have the changes and associated challenges been so dramatic. The opportunity to genuinely achieve ‘trusted adviser’ status that many salespeople aspire to is clear and present.
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.