Selling in a VUCA world by C3 Advisory

Have you thought about how to sell in a VUCA world?

As sales professionals we need to get our heads around VUCA – the model that came out of the military but is being applied more and more by businesses.  We are selling in situations that are often VOLATILE, UNCERTAIN, COMPLEX or AMBIGUOUS – sometimes all four (that’s’ VUCA).  One response would be to say “there’s no point in planning, we just have to accept that buying is unpredictable”.  But that’s a cop out.

VOLATILITY means that the situation is changing rapidly.  The response is to “devote resources to develop agility”.  This may mean building in slack so you can respond to change.  It requires flexibility, the ability to change your approach, your offer, your team as you move forward with the prospect or client.  We should expect changes in priorities and process from our buyers often during the buying cycle itself.

UNCERTAINTY implies we just don’t know what will happen (even though the situation may stay the same).  The key here is good intelligence as well as flexibility.  In selling this probably means going beyond your existing sources and “triangulating” to get multiple angles on the situation.  It also highlights the need to co-create with the client.

COMPLEXITY If the situation you are being asked to address is complex – e.g. delivering in multiple markets and jurisdictions, you will need to find ways to communicate the complex clearly.  You may need to restructure your selling team to draw in subject matter experts to address specific aspects of your offer and you may need to draw in more people from the client.  Be aware there may be “unknown unknowns” in a complex situation.

AMBIGUITY is a situation where the least is known.  The best response is experimentation.  You may need to propose a range of options and try them out.  You may need to start with a lower risk solution that makes it easier to take a first step together.  Once you have established trust in your capabilities you will then be able to move forward with the client into their ambiguous situation where even they may not understand their requirements.

Overall, to sell in a VUCA world requires us to anticipate better, always looking ahead and asking more questions.  These will often be opinion based questions rather than purely questions to establish facts.

It requires us to think about the consequences of our actions and those of our clients.  We need to ensure that our intention and our impact are aligned rather than meaning to do one thing but actually having the opposite effect.

VUCA may well demand that we challenge assumptions more – both in our own solutions but also in the client’s mind.  The way of solving this problem now may well differ from the solutions that have worked in the past.

We need to be flexible, ready to adapt.  We need to prepare for new challenges. For example when we go into a pitch we should have thought through the most likely questions and be ready with convincing, authentic answers.

Selling in a VUCA world requires a new mindset and new approaches.  VUCA links strongly to three other themes I am finding highly relevant at the moment – customer experience in the buying process, customer-centricity in the selling process and social selling for a changing buying environment

For more on this see Professor Nate Bennett (of Georgia State and writing in HBR) who has good insights here https://hbr.org/2014/09/a-framework-for-understanding-vuca/

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