“How to sell in a volatile, uncertain and complex world” – interview by John Smibert.
In recent years the USA military realised that the world they operate in has changed and they needed to change with it. To explain the changed world they use the term VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
In this discussion Ian J Lowe tells us that businesses are living in a VUCA world. We as salespeople need to understand what this means to our customers – we need to become part of the solution versus part of the problem. He says that if we do this we can help change the world.
He outlines how we need to change in order to help our customers with the VUCA situation – to work with them to navigate themselves through this difficult business world.
As CEO’s and sales leaders we need to change our mode of operation. We need to equip our organisation and our people to deal with this new environment so they could respond in ways that were appropriate to the situation.
Ian states that in order to do this we need to start by taking our eyes off ourselves and off our products and services, and to genuinely focus on the client and what they’re trying to achieve. He goes on to say “we can’t go in with some preconceived solution or some agenda so that we can get what we want”. If we do this we add to the customers VUCA and will be seen as not adding value.
View the full interview below.
Ian is the CEO of Eccoh.co (formally Go-Givers Australia). He is an expert in sales transformation and a specialist in why people sell.
John: Welcome back, Ian Lowe!
Ian: Pleased to be here, John!
John: Hey, recently we had a discussion about ‘salespeople can change the world’, and I got thinking about that, and I know we’ve discussed it a little bit. The world’s pretty volatile, it’s pretty unstable uncertain; big organisations are changing, they’re struggling with issues, and things are changing faster and faster and faster.
Ian: So true.
John: That’s a difficult environment for a salesperson to ‘change the world’ in.
Ian: Absolutely, and even more reason why we need to have a different mindset to deal with this new environment. There’s a great term that came out of the US military, which is we live in a VUCA world.
John: I thought for a moment you were swearing there.
Ian: [laughs] VUCA – it stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous”.
John: Okay. What did that mean to them?
Ian: Well, that meant to the US military that they had to change their whole entire mode of operation. They had to equip their organisation and their people to deal with this new environment so they could respond in ways that were appropriate to the situation.
John: Okay, I think that makes sense. Now, how do you relate that to the business world, the world that salespeople are trying to change?
Ian: If you think about it, we’re all operating in that environment. Our clients are dealing with more volatility, more uncertainty, more complexity, and more ambiguousness than ever before.
John: It’s accelerating, isn’t it, more into that environment.
Ian: And what are we going to do? Are we going to add to that by simply going in and trying to use our sales techniques to sell stuff?
John: Be a challenger.
Ian: Be a challenger, or be a—whatever it is, it takes us to be more than just salespeople, if we’re going to help our organisations and our clients and our prospective clients to navigate through this environment.
John: Okay, so we have to be more than salespeople of a traditional nature, I guess you mean.
John: So, how? How do we need to be more? How do we need to change?
Ian: I think it starts with taking our eyes off ourselves and off our products and off our services, and a focus on the client and what they’re trying to achieve genuinely.
Ian: Not “I’m going to pretend to be nice so that this person will buy my stuff from me.” Genuinely focus on the client, and helping them to navigate the complexities that they’re dealing with.
John: Okay, and really help them with, what you say, VUCA.
Ian: Absolutely, yes – we’re in a VUCA era, you know. We need to be creative, imaginative, and think of new ways to be able to find solutions to deal with these complex problems.
John: To help them become less complex, help them become less uncertain, less volatile; that’s our role.
Ian: Yes, yes. And we can’t go in with some preconceived solution or some agenda so that we can get what we want.
John: I agree, I totally agree. In previous interviews we talked a lot about giving, and the whole focus of our being is to give to clients, ensuring we get reciprocity.
John: That’s a good subject. So, the bottom line for salespeople is we can actually take away some of the volatility, uncertainty that clients have in that sort of world, by working with them in the right way, with focus on them, and understanding what their issues and challenges are.
Ian: Yes, absolutely. We don’t want our clients to question our motives and to question our agendas, on top of everything else they’re dealing with. We need to be congruent.
John: For salespeople to change, particularly if they come through the era where they were all about selling to the customer, where we talk about being on the customer’s side, but more often than not we don’t behave that way, do we?
Ian: Exactly right. And that’s often the starting point of a relationship; they’ve heard the fine words before, they’ve heard the big vision, but they’ve experienced the behaviour that’s contrary to that.
John: I’d like to come back and talk more with you about how a salesperson and their organisation can make that change in their mindset.
Ian: I’d love to do it, John.
John: Because if they can do that, they can change the world.
Ian: Absolutely – yes, absolutely. We’ve got to really believe that we can change the world for the better.
John: Look forward to having those discussions – thanks very much, Ian!
Ian: Fantastic – pleasure!
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