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    How to help your sales team thrive in the midst of uncertainty

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    If there’s one thing the past two years has seen more than any other time in recently memory, it’s change. With new variants of Covid circulating and no clear end to the pandemic in sight, the reality is that we must all become very good at operating in uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

    My team at Membrain is in the process of updating our most popular white paper, The Top 10 Sales Methodologies Compared, to reflect current realities and provide updates from leaders at each of the paper’s featured methodologies. In this process, we’ve been interviewing sales leaders including Spencer Wixom of Challenger. He shared valuable insights about helping sales teams thrive in the midst of the current environment, that I want to share with you here.

    What sales teams need to know right now

    The Challenger approach, like all good sales approaches, begins with a buyer-centric mindset. Wixom says that the most important thing for sales teams to remember right now is that buyers behave differently in the midst of uncertainty than they do during robust, stable times.

    This changing buyer behavior can be erratic, but there are some key features that are somewhat universal at the moment:

    • Greater scrutiny of terms, conditions, and pricing
      When everything is going well, buyers tend to focus on growth and opportunities, and to pay less attention to how much things cost or, especially, the fine print associated with them. During times of uncertainty, people naturally look for security and stability, and that means looking harder both at what they’re spending and the terms and conditions that apply.
    • Fewer people looking for suppliers
      This factor can vary enormously across sectors, with some industries becoming “hotter” and others going cold. But overall, people and companies tend to spend less when the market is tumultuous, and this is reflected in fewer new opportunities for sellers in general. Additionally, they tend to stick with known and trusted sources, so it can be harder to break into new “logos.”
    • Existing customers become less active
      The same factors driving the first two points also drive existing customers to be less engaged and less likely to be purchasing more, even from trusted suppliers.

    Put together, uncertainty creates a much more sluggish sales environment, and forces sales teams to think differently and be more proactive.

    How to thrive the Challenger way

    In order to thrive in the uncertainty of the current pandemic (and beyond), says Wixom, “sales teams have to go out and create demand, rather than reacting to established demand.”

    Sellers must be skilled at persuading groups of people to take action.
    Spencer Wixom

    “In a stable, growing economy, buyers will buy almost despite you,” he continues. “Now, they buy only because of you.”

    This means that for many organizations, the need to define HOW you sell is more pressing than ever. Products and services won’t stand for themselves. Many buyers are only buying from sellers who know how to make a business case and help them get the idea funded.

    “Sellers must be skilled at fundamentally persuading groups of people to take action,” says Wixom. And, they must now be able to do so virtually, via Zoom and other technology, thanks to the reduction in travel and gathering.

    Challenger, says Wixom, has some powerful tools for helping sales teams accomplish this. He describes their core approach as being about bringing new ideas, challenging existing ideas - and returning to fundamentals.

    “Sales has always been an evolution,” says Wixom. “We learn things as new ideas get injected into the industry. Historically, there have been a few tectonic shifts - the discovery of PSS at Xerox, then SPIN Selling from features to benefits, to the idea of open-ended questioning, to the shift from extracting customer value to injecting value into the relationship.”

    The current environment may well drive a new tectonic shift for the industry, and those who embrace the necessary changes now will be its leaders.

    How to create a virtuous cycle

    Having the intention and the plan to adapt to a new market is not enough - the plans must be operationalized across the organization.Wixom and I agree on this point.

    When you connect marketing with sales with customer success with account management and operations, you create a virtuous cycle that allows you to drive value for and with customers over multiple years or even a lifetime.

    To do this, you have to have not only the plan, but the tools to put the plan directly into the hands of salespeople and customer success folks when and where they need it, in order to execute on it. That’s what we provide with Membrain - the built-in workflows that guide salespeople through the cycle to create the proactive value that helps you and your customers to thrive.

    We’d love to show you how Membrain supports your teams locally and globally, whether they’re working in person or remote, and how it can transform your sales team to meet the needs of buyers now and in the future. Contact us for a demo.

    George Brontén
    Published September 8, 2021
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn