This year has been all about adapting quickly to unexpected events. And yet, the lessons I’ve learned from that experience have me thinking a lot about how we all need to get better at iterating—steadily and wisely—the one place where we can definitely anticipate change: selling.
Big changes are going to keep coming. They will impact the way people buy and how we meet their needs…nothing unexpected there! With that fact in mind, one of the most vulnerable areas in sales I see right now with my own clients is succession planning. Far too many leaders are still using rigid, tried-and-true selling methods and imposing them on everyone. How in the world can you possibly build for sales success in the future if you’re already missing out on fully engaging your youngest sellers?
It turns out that I’m not alone in worrying about this.
“Conflict is coming.” That warning comes from my friend, Dr. Howard Dover, Clinical Professor of Marketing and Sales at the University of Texas at Dallas, whom I spoke with recently in a LinkedIn Live interview. We talked about the importance of hanging onto your best and youngest sellers. To do that, you must change the way you manage them, otherwise you’ll pay a painful price. Dover points to research within his Center for Professional Sales that shows how—unlike older groups—Generation Z sellers never come back when their engagement levels drop. “When you lose them,” he warns, “you lose them forever.”
Recognize what’s changing in the marketplace and the vital role that your youngest sellers can play in helping you to steadily adapt.
Your buyer sets the terms now.
Look at your market today and ask: what are the skills demanded by your buyer…as opposed to just sticking with what’s familiar to the seller. That’s the first hurdle you must overcome. Today, people want to buy from those who have earned their trust. And yet, too often they’re hampered from doing so by institutionalized selling processes built on a belief that the marketplace doesn’t really need to change. Instead, listen carefully to your buyer. If they prefer Zoom calls, become great at it. If they hate email and prefer texting, become a pro. This is where your youngest sellers can teach new skills to the rest.
Challenge assumptions with situational awareness.
The global pandemic has provided a difficult, but necessary lesson for some older institutionally-minded sellers. Those who kept waiting for things to get back to normal are still waiting. For them, the rate of change has been overwhelming. After a few months, they had to recognize their whole way of selling had to change.
Dover points out that because there are so many segments in the market now, you might be tempted to think everything will work everywhere. However, that’s a costly mistake. What may work in one segment will be a disaster elsewhere. Instead, you must adopt what he calls “situational awareness.” Your goal now should no longer be about replicating old ways that once were successful. Identify the components that worked. And then, you make them fit in today’s market.
As Dover explains: “The modern seller has to be agile to meet the changing position of the seller.” That’s different from following some time-honoured method or steps. Always be iterating and changing tactics. Again, younger sellers hold the key to mastering this skill. They are the most adaptable to change.
Technology is the lever, not the solution.
“Turning on the tech tools does nothing on its own,” Dover cautions. Technology on its own doesn’t solve your sales problems. But, it’s the powerful lever that forms your solution to selling more in less time. This is where I see sales leaders really struggling. Either they ignore technology altogether because they see it as being somehow at odds with how they used to achieve success in sales. Or, they adopt it without understanding what it’s designed to do. Technology can reshape how you work, but only if you understand what it leverages. Again, this is where your youngest sellers can help shift all that institutionalized thinking that is holding back your organization.
So, get serious today about how you’re going to plan for the future. Your success hinges on how well you manage your youngest sellers. Getting there means you must adopt a living, breathing dynamic sales methodology—one that keeps them engaged and gives them the many opportunities to share what they know and adapt quickly to new approaches. Give your youngest and best in sales the opportunity to lead. Your future depends on it!