VUCA is a term used by the U.S. Army to describe the world we now live in. If you are not familiar with the acronym VUCA you will be once I describe what it represents: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. Sound familiar?
Ann Hermann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International and thought leader in brain research, helps professionals operate and succeed in a VUCA world by applying better thinking.
The world of sales performance has totally changed, and one of the greatest challenges salespeople face is that many are using systems and approaches that were built in another era and no longer work. Both sellers and buyers are in an unfamiliar environment that has created pressure on them to think differently.
Ann, who works with global leaders such as IBM to help them fully leverage their intellectual capital and build thinking agility, understands that salespeople are struggling to demonstrate value to their customers. While she deals with all the aspects of VUCA, the one that speaks most directly to the sales world based on her research and experience is Complexity.
To shorten the sales cycle and build long-term loyalty in today’s complex business environment, Ann says salespeople will require a much deeper understanding of what is going on in the minds of their customers: What are they thinking, what are stakeholders thinking, what data does the customer need to make the buying decision, what are all the informational factors that impact their decisions, and how you can adapt your own thinking to theirs to break through the noise of this VUCA world so you make it easier for your customers to buy?
You know that your interactions with your customer are much more complex. In the recent past it was easier to get by with more generic approaches and less knowledge. In the new sales world your customers are more informed, and that demands that you have more information, too, so you can understand what your customers really care about. It also makes your ability to ask questions and listen on a deeper level, contrary to what some methodologies are teaching, more important than ever.
Ann emphasized how a customer’s buying decision is directly related to the thinking that is going on in the customer’s head and that it is equally important for you to know how you think so you can adapt to what your customers need and thus truly accelerate the process for them and you.
The shift in sales is radical but the good news is that so much is now known about how people think. Ann uses her company’s 30 years of research and current innovations to provide salespeople and sales leaders with easy to apply, specific steps, tools, and processes that translate all the neuroscience data into practical, useable information that can help you, as a salesperson, sell more.
So how do you think? Your thinking preferences create a lens through which you see the world, which in turn impacts how you behave and communicate. Ann described four thinking preference clusters that determine how you sell and how you buy. Although her Whole Brain® Thinking analysis uses the HBDI® assessment , to accurate measure thinking preferences, even without it you likely will recognize some of your thinking preferences from among these four:
- Results ( data, analysis, causal relationships, clear ability to cut to the chase)
- Execution (follow through, action orientation, adherence to process)
- People ( highly intuitive, effective listening, ability to engaging authentically, connect, )
- Strategy (thinking beyond the frame, big picture, context of the situation)
It is interesting that 90% of the population has two or three strong preferences, however, while your thinking style impacts how you communicate and connect best with your customers, you’re not restricted to just your natural preferences. The good news is you have access to all four and with training and practice, you can learn to flex outside your preferences when necessary to get better results.
To help you expand your brain bandwidth, consider these questions: How do you think? Which two or three reflect your preferences? How do you learn? And what are the implications in terms of how you try to engage different customers in meaningful conversations? What about those customers you really struggle with? How might your preferences create a disconnect?
The big challenge is your customers also have multiple thinking preferences which you might not be able to read easily because the lens you are looking and listening through acts as a filter. So, for example, if your less-preferred area is “Execution” but precise follow-through is extremely important to the prospect, you could quickly lose credibility and shut down the opportunity. If you don’t have a strong preference for “People”- focused thinking, a customer who prefers highly interpersonal thinking likely won’t feel comfortable enough in the relationship with you to share the vital information you need to win the sale.
When both you and your customers are dealing with greater complexity, it’s more critical than ever to be able to cut through the noise and connect with what is most important to your customers. You can better understand what motivates your customers if you start from a point of thinking, so the first step is to understand your own thinking preferences. Through skill-building and training, Ann says you can then learn to be more attentive to your less-preferred areas rather than just defaulting to your natural style and risk becoming a “prisoner of your preferences.”
By being an agile thinker you begin to ask questions you (and your competitors) might not have otherwise asked, and hear messages you might otherwise miss. The goal is to broaden your bandwidth, to avoid mental blind spots and make sure you don’t miss what it is your customers really care about and need to buy. In short, you can develop your own Whole Brain®.
To get started:
- Stop and really understand where your blind spots are. Think about what worked and what didn’t work in the past. For example, if you lost a deal because of misalignment with the customer, analyze what happened. Did you miss something in the big picture? If so, work to reduce the Strategy blind spot. Are you losing deals at the closing stage of the sales process?
Focus on Execution.
- Seek coaching from your sales manager to focus on the blind spots you identify.
- Approach everything you do with a learning mind-set.
Ann is all about application, particularly when the goal is to simplify “Complexity” in our world, and that’s why she believes you will get the best results by focusing on practical techniques you can quickly put to use. Her advice:
- Understand how your customers think before trying to understand what they think.
- Go in with a clean slate, as if you were a “beginner” in every new situation so your thinking is less likely to cloud your listening and insights; this will give you a competitive edge.
- Keep learning and growing so you can you move at least at the same rate of speed as your customers.
- Become more aware of how you learn and listen, and don’t let your natural filters get in the way of learning what you need to know to be of value to your customers and close more sales.
Or download Herrmann International’s complimentary white paper, “Achieving Higher Levels of Sales Performance in a Demanding World”.