How To Enable Salespeople To Navigate B2B Buying Dynamics

shutterstock_310254482Sailing requires a lot of capabilities. As a sailor you learn various mechanical principles – how the equipment works, and based on that, what to do on the sailboat. You have to become an experienced sailing practitioner to be able to sail the ocean. But these mechanical skills aren’t sufficient. You also have to learn the essentials of how to navigate.

Sailing experience is actually built on all the things you can control – managing the sailing mechanics on the boat – and on your ability to navigate all the things you cannot control – nature’s dynamics.

Mechanics are predictable. Dynamics are probabilities in uncertainty

Imagine the mechanical steps you take to create a new account or a new opportunity in your CRM system. Mechanics describe precisely in which way something has to be done. Mechanics have a lot to do with “if/then” clauses. In this example, you need the account data before you can create your opportunity. Mechanics are pretty predictable. If all the required data are entered, a new account or a new opportunity will be created.

Dynamics instead represent probability, possibility, and uncertainty in often complex environments. Imagine your recent conversations with different B2B buying teams. Were these situations predictable? You have probably developed a few scenarios to get prepared for the conversations. But at the end, a slightly different scenario may have happened. Dynamics are not really predictable.

Navigating different dynamics along the customer’s journey

  • Change dynamics in the awareness phase of the customer’s journey:
    A challenge occurs, the situation gets analyzed, and options for tackling the challenge are discussed. Customer stakeholders often come from different functions and roles, and have different approaches regarding how to address the situation. The key question is, “Do we change the current state for a better future state: Yes or no?” The decision can be “yes,” “no,” or “not now.” For sales professionals, the biggest challenge here is to provide perspectives that help the stakeholders make a decision to change the current state for a better future state.
  • Decision dynamics in the actual buying phase of the customer’s journey:
    The buying team may change, because some senior executives may delegate the project and procurement people may join the buying team. Decision dynamics are focused on how to make the best buying decision as a team with different perspectives and approaches to achieve the best results and wins with the lowest possible risks. Decision dynamics have different characteristics than change dynamics. For sales professionals, the biggest challenge is to contribute to the customer’s value calculation in a way that’s beyond TCO or product-driven ROIs to be perceived as the best possible buying option. Business value ideally tackles the top or the bottom line.
  • Value dynamics in the implementation and adoption phase:
    When the implemented products and services deliver the value that has been bought, thoughtful value confirmations tailored for each buyer role are they key to developing future business. This step is often overlooked, but as buyers have different approaches regarding how to tackle a situation, they will also have different perceptions of value.
    For sales professionals, the biggest challenge is to get back to the initially involved senior executives, even if they have delegated the project for implementation. These value confirmation conversations can lead directly to new opportunities.

What makes the difference in these situations? Mechanics or dynamics?

Mechanics, as we defined the term above, are everything that can be controlled by the sales professionals. Dynamics are what happens in reality, in complex situations with different stakeholders, and their different approaches, changing objectives and an often-changing situational context. In those complex, often unpredictable environments, sales professionals need a solid foundation of skills and competencies, customer, market and product knowledge, strategies and specific expertise – just to remain in the game. What makes the difference is their ability to quickly adjust their strategies, behaviors and activities to new, changed and complex situations. That’s navigating dynamics.

Navigating dynamics requires adaptive competencies – a key challenge for sales enablement

Developing adaptive competencies happens in iterations of training, practice, learning and coaching   Whatever the specific challenges in a sales organization might be, a solid foundation of selling competencies, various knowledge areas, and customer management strategies has to be in place before adaptive competencies can be developed.  You don’t train a new sailor to navigate the ocean before learning the basics.

Adaptive training sessions can consist of various highly interactive sessions, including real-world simulations. Those curriculums should consider cycles of training, practice, and learning, reinforced by coaching before the next cycle begins with training. Those cycles ensure that people can learn what works for them and adjust what didn’t work so far. This approach also requires that coaching is an integral part of reinforcing and building adaptive competencies. Integrating the frontline sales managers early builds the foundation for execution and reinforcement. Key learning objectives should include situational awareness, applying principles instead of rules, and creativity, as well as critical and strategic thinking.

Adaptive competencies are what sales professionals need as an add-on to their mechanics. Adaptive competencies enable them to navigate the dynamics of today’s ever-changing, complex, buyer-driven world.

Questions for you:

  • How do you navigate complex B2B buying dynamics?
  • How important is the alignment of your sales process to the customer’s journey to successfully navigate buying dynamics?
  • How does your engagement principle reflect buying dynamics?

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This article was initially written for Top Sales Magazine, September 29, 2015.

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