Building a sales organization that is able to respond to “the unexpected” is one of the most challenging roles for leaders to play in today’s environment.
Market dynamics are significantly different than in the past where there were greater continuity and relatively less unpredictability.
Today it is commonplace to see multiple new technologies shot into markets simultaneously; each ripping market flow with massive disruption.
And customers have more power today than ever before. They are orders of magnitude better informed of their choices than people were even 5 years ago thanks to the internet and the hyper-connected world it has created.
New businesses are formed in staggering numbers today, dominated by the opportunities made available through Internet applications. The internet of things is spawning new business ideas at a staggering rate, bringing with it competitive intensity and rivalries never have seen before.
These dynamics, characterized by randomness and unpredictability define the chaos facing today’s sales leader.
If the leaders can’t find their way through the barrage of unexpected events that slam their organization, they will fail and their organizations will die.
Here are 3 ways to lead with the unexpected poised to take an organization down.
Plan B mentality
It’s not about what you plan to do, but rather what you have to do when the plan doesn’t pan out.
The ability to adapt to the unanticipated requires a Plan B mentality. It’s all very well to create a theoretically brilliant sales strategy; it’s quite another to execute it and achieve the results originally intended. There are too many forces at play during the execution phase of the plan to prevent it from succeeding exactly the way it was originally intended.
A surprising new technology is introduced, a new competitor springs up, market pricing suddenly is reduced, customers reorganize and decision making changes, government policy changes and customer demand changes without warning.
The only effective coping mechanism in the face of this dynamic is to have contingency plans on the shelf ready to go on a moment’s notice.
These “what if” plans are just as important — no, MORE important — than the base plan because they prepare the organization for a body blow; they make responding to the unexpected an integral part of the culture.
Sales organizations that think no further than Plan A will not only underperform in the face of constant change, they will most likely “die”.
Simple is good; simpler is better. The ability to adapt fast requires simplicity. A real-time response to the unexpected cannot occur if the organization is bound up with a complex bureaucracy.
Complex rules, systems and decision making processes slow response time when “hitting the window” of opportunity is crucial.
As preparation for the unexpected, leaders must simplify organizational infrastructure in all respects to make it easy to quickly replace the base plan with the appropriate contingency. A successful response requires immediacy not a prolonged implementation period which results from having to push through internal barriers and complicated logistics to change direction.
Culture of nimbleness
How fast can you jump from one tactic to another? How willing are people to leave the original plan and take a 45-degree turn from it?
The ability to adapt requires a culture of nimbleness, flexibility, and love of change; the acceptance to quickly make a counter move from the current direction.
For this to happen, leaders must have the undying trust of employees.
If there is no trust, people will likely be unprepared to shift direction, believing that when leadership changes their mind it’s a sign of uncertainty and incompetence as opposed to a strategic move.
Successful leaders know the sales world will not likely “unfold as it should”; that unforeseen events will be the norm and will be the forces that shape the strategic outcome of their organization.
They treat contingency planning not as an option but as a critical priority. They understand that if they do not effectively respond to the unexpected, their survival is in doubt.