As an executive at Richardson sales training, I have the pleasure of working with some of the world’s top sales leaders. In doing so, I've learned about the specific factors driving change among those organizations.
Renewed sensitivity to risk demands emotional awareness
While future economic conditions in 2019 are debatable, it remains clear that business sentiment in today’s highly volatile market is softening. As a result, the consideration of risk is creeping into decision making in a way that we haven’t seen in the last few years. Consequently, sales professionals can expect to encounter an increasingly risk-averse outlook among customer stakeholder groups.
Understanding the emotional disposition of buyers in this unpredictable and uneven buyer landscape will be critically important for the sales professional's success in 2019. They will need to be more aware of the less obvious, less measurable buying factors that influence purchasing decisions. Consider that research from Harvard Business School shows that 95 percent of all purchasing decisions are made with the subconscious mind. As some envision eroding business conditions, modern sellers will need to understand how the customer's psychology drives these subconscious decisions.
AI as a new entrant in the marketplace competes for control
As AI takes a stronger role in serving data to sales leaders and the sales enablement community, the benefits come with risks for sales professionals. Therefore, it’s important to understand the three inherent problems with technology.
First, AI is only as strong as the input data. Too often this data is incomplete or wrong. Second, AI lacks a contextual understanding of the sale. Each selling scenario is different. There are nuanced backstories, unique stakeholder dynamics, and late-stage changes to the customer's needs. AI cannot encompass this constantly unfurling picture. Third, reliance on AI can blunt the sales professional’s critical thinking skills while eroding the sales professional’s sense of responsibility. The technology has yet to prove its ability to provide guide rails to a process that is fluid.
Reading each selling scenario and responding with a range of skills
As uncertainty grows, sales professionals can expect greater volatility in the marketplace. To respond, sales professionals will need both a full range of modern consultative selling skills and the ability to selectively leverage the right skills based on the context and customer situation. More than ever, it will be critical for sales professionals to "read the field" in each selling scenario. They will need to understand the various stakeholder’s needs, the customer's buying process, their perceptions of value, and more.
Successful sales professionals will take this information and use it to dynamically move from skill to skill with agility and fluidity that is seamless to the customer while remaining authentic and truly consultative. The best sales professionals understand how to transition between skills, even as the situation changes within the course of customer conversations.
Responding to a less-bullish economic environment demands making a case for change
The ability to make a case for change will become more important than ever in a less bullish environment. Developing this case means identifying the buying factors. These factors are the facts, circumstances, and influences behind the customer’s buying decisions. Some of the most common buying factors are:
- The case for change: The case for change centers on either a business challenge or opportunity that triggers the buying journey. The sales professional must understand the nature of the challenge or opportunity so that they can understand how to position the solution in a way that fits the customer’s strategy with clear and measurable outcomes.
- Stakeholder dynamics: More stakeholders are involved in the decision process than before. Sales professionals must assess the differing needs and varied levels of support among the decision makers.
- The decision process: As the stakeholder's needs change, so do timelines because internal priorities compete for attention. The sales professional needs the skills to gauge the momentum of the sale, willingness to invest, funding for the purchase, and the details behind the procurement process.
Previously, customers had to decide where they would spend on solutions. In 2019, they will decide if they want to spend at all. In 2019, the market will demand more proof of efficacy and outcomes.