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Lead Sales Through Uncertainty

By Dave Egloff | May 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

Sales Strategy and Operationssales performanceSales Strategy and Design

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review called “6 Strategies for Leading Through Uncertainty,”  Rebecca Zucker and Darin Rowell help managers deal with unavoidable uncertainty.  The six strategies that they reveal include:

  1. Embrace the discomfort of not knowing.  Move from a know-it-all to a learn-it-all mindset. You don’t need to have all the answers.
  2. Distinguish between “complicated” and “complex” issues.  They require different solutions.
  3. Let go of perfectionism.  Instead, aim for progress, expect mistakes, and recognize that you can continually course-correct as needed.
  4. Resist the urge to oversimplify and come to quick conclusions.  Take a disciplined approach to understand both the complexity of the situation and your own biases.
  5. Don’t go it alone.  Connect with your peers who have their own set of experiences and perspectives to draw from.
  6. Zoom out.  Taking a broad, systemic view of the issues at hand can reveal unexamined assumptions that would otherwise be invisible.

These are all great tips, and to avoid giving away too much, I’d like to focus on just a few items. 

Embracing not knowing, not going alone, and zooming out

I love these concepts.  I’ve always admired people who have the confidence to say “I don’t know” and appreciate the perspectives of others.  As the African proverb goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

I would ask all leaders: who is in your “together” group?  Who is helping you bring a diversity of opinion?  Who’s helping you see things around the corner?  Is someone able to objectively call out what’s in your blind spot?  The last thing leaders need right now is an echo chamber where their ideas are amplified without counterarguments. 

Challenge yourself to be better.  Proactively respond and adapt to a new normal.  The workplace has changed.  B2B commerce is evolving.  Are you keeping pace?  This is where the concept of zooming out applies.  We have all made assumptions about how to lead sellers and how to engage buyers.  Technology, generational shifts and a global pandemic have triggered a reboot.

While you embrace not knowing, improve your network and examine the broader picture, seek opportunities to network with those inside and outside of your company – and industry.  Leaders should look to attend webinars and conferences to pick up on macro-trends and themes.  As a shameless plug, Gartner is hosting a CSO and Sales Leader Conference next week.  Check it out.  There will be many opportunities to learn and network.

Distinguish between “complicated” and “complex” issues

This is an interesting one that has many interpretations.  I always look to break things down into simpler tasks and concepts.  Recently, many CSOs have faced unique pressure to rebound ahead of the competition.  Unfortunately, if CSOs move too quickly (e.g., hiring sellers ahead of the demand curve), they may be burdened with idle resources that financially constrain the organization. When CSOs react too slowly, they risk having their competitors take market share.

Despite limited information, CSOs must reset their sales organizations as they navigate through the uncertainty. To lead their organizations through the recovery and into this new normal, CSOs should focus on the confluence of current disruptions, emerging trends and future demands.  This simple concept can greatly improve investments, resource allocation and even messaging.

There is a brave new world out there.  The future of work – the future of selling – looks different from the recent past.  Those who figure it out quickly will reap the rewards of attracting talented sellers and engaging active buyers.  This transitional period heightens the need for good leadership even when the path forward is a bit murky.

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