Change. It happens all the time, and sales cycles are no exception. Maybe even more often than in other professions, change happens. You’ve got a mix of personalities and factors. You’ve got a winner-takes-all process with dollars and careers on the line. There is competition, sometimes severe competition. There are others out there whose goal is to screw you over. They make plans, set their tactics to do so in secret and will spring them on you unannounced.
And that’s just on the selling side. On the buying side, you have many of the same factors. Budgets disappear, organizations re-organize, schedules expand or contract, urgency disappears or increases, new solutions to old problems are found, and so on.
Many people, and salespeople are no exception, fear change. They avoid it, ignore it, are unaware of it. When change happens in a sales cycle these people are automatically at a disadvantage. They are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sales people who understand and accept change, who prepare for it and react quickly and correctly to it, get a jump on the competition. In any sales cycle, the seller who gets into the sales cycle first starts with an advantage – more time to learn and convince. When change happens, it’s almost like a re-start, and the first to get into the new sales cycle enjoys that same advantage.
You’re two months into what was a three-month sales cycle and you’re feeling pretty good. You’ve gone through whatever your discovery process is and you understand the environment. Your solution is good, you’re priced within the budget, and the customer likes you and what you’ve told them so far. You’ve got to feel good about a situation like that.
A prompt pops up on your computer reminding you to call the customer and make sure everything is okay, to make sure nothing has changed. And what you learn is that there will be a delay of one month in the award.
Somewhere else, your counterpart at a competitor isn’t feeling as good. He’s struggling to prove himself and his company and solution with a new customer. His price is a little higher, and he is somewhat of an unknown quantity to the customer. He makes the same call and learns the same thing.
Whether either one recognizes it or not, the playing field has just gotten a lot closer to level than it was. So, what does each one do?
That depends on a lot of factors. If they are smart and capable, they will want to know why. What changed? Why did it change? Who caused the change? Does it help or hurt me? Has the customer lost urgency for a solution? Is there a new competitor or solution being offered? Did someone lowball their way into consideration and cause a re-evaluation starting at the beginning? There are so many possibilities.
What is certain is that the salesperson who understands the change and uses it to formulate a new set of strategies and tactics and implements them quickly and well will gain advantage. The struggling competitor can leverage the change to move to the front. The over-confident leader can miss something crucial and find themselves in a hole and falling back on the last resort of every desperate salesperson – discounting.
One huge problem in today’s environment of computer-assisted sales is that in this situation, the computer fails to assist. In fact, it can hamper you. The computer is the last participant in the sales cycle to recognize change, and it is often the one least equipped to handle it. It’s last because it is waiting for you to tell it about the change. It is least equipped to handle it because it is programmed to assist you through a simple linear process – do this then that and you will increase your probability of winning.
But you’ve already done this and that and gotten to this point in the sales cycle, but it just changed! It’s like some bad science fiction movie where your computer starts to repeat “cannot compute” over and over again until smoke starts to rise out of the vents.
You need to recognize change, to embrace it and use it to strengthen your position. You need to recognize and use change as a weapon to bludgeon your competition into submission. You need sales tools that will help you do that.
WARNING: SHAMELESS PROMOTION FOLLOWS:
The only way a computer can understand change and adapt to it is if it understands the sales process and is able to flex with change, to reposition you correctly in the new environment and provide guidance commensurate with the new situation. This is called computational selling – and it uses the power of the computer to actually model the sales cycle and understand the process, and to factor in all variables, including change, and change its calculations based on these. To my knowledge (and I believe that is quite extensive on this subject), only the ASPEC technology is able to do this.