Successful selling in a time of uncertainty

The famous opening line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities could just as easily apply to the selling in 2021: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Supply chain disruptions are impacting everything from ketchup to semiconductors. Prices are rising. Add in labor shortages, and you have unprecedented challenges. Is this the best of times or the worst of times? Most sellers find the current environment challenging.  Elite salespeople embrace the turmoil and say: “What a wonderful time to be in sales!”

How can disruption be wonderful? The essence of selling is getting people to change. Making a sale requires disrupting the status quo. Think back to 2019, when most customers were reasonably comfortable and had very little incentive to change. Fast-forward to 2021. Customers who are struggling with supply chain issues, price increases, and labor shortages are open to alternatives. They are willing to listen to anyone that can relieve the pressure. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow.

Surprisingly, we see far too many sales organizations struggling when they should be in hyper-growth mode.  Why? There are two reasons.

Excuse-making: Weak salespeople spend an awful lot of time whining and not enough time selling. Even though supply chain issues are not the responsibility of the sales organization, we hear salespeople droning on about shortages and price increases. Product allocations, long lead times, and price increases can be a challenge, but salespeople complaining about it seems more like excuse-making than problem-solving. The antidote to excuse-making is accountability. Strong leaders hold salespeople accountable. If you are afraid to hold sellers accountable because “they might leave,” you may have a sales leadership issue.

Sales DNA and Selling Competencies: Market disruption unmasks selling incompetence. If your company is experiencing a supply chain disruption, so is your competition. Your toughest competitor received the same mountain of price increases that you did. Converting disruption into a compelling reason to buy requires lots of positive sales DNA and strong selling competencies. Most sellers are not aware of the significant weaknesses that prevent them from winning their unfair share of sales opportunities. The fix is simple. Evaluate your sellers and use the findings to improve performance.

Price increases, product shortages, and scarce labor are not obstacles to selling. They are an invitation to have a business discussion.  Accept the invitation and use it to position yourself as a trusted advisor that can be counted on during this difficult period.  You will build enduring relationships and enjoy the business for years.

Albert Einstein said it best “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”