The barrage of noise in the sales enablement space is endless. New sales models. Different conversational tactics. More tools for the technology stack. Yet another methodology.
We believe success in today’s complex sales environment is driven by something more fundamental. Brevet research, building on years of academic findings, finds one factor that sets apart high performers – situational awareness. Situational awareness is identifying the unique factors of a scenario and pattern-matching to past experiences.
High performers use these inputs and patterns to execute tailored actions. Scientists have shown that situational awareness differentiates elite professionals across the military, sports, and medical fields. The best “see” things others don’t. They adapt their actions in response to unique situations.
Think about situational awareness through the lens of a pilot. The pilot sees a dashboard of instruments with situational data: altitude, speed, location, wind speed. But situational awareness goes further. It includes the actions a pilot makes in response to changes in things like wind and weather. Each set of actions has a set of counter actions working in a system. Situational awareness is both reading and reacting to the situation appropriately.
Our research shows that high-performing sales reps are similarly agile. They know that one-size-does-not-fit-all. They deploy the right game-plan, tactic and message to match a specific scenario. Data demonstrate that the best reps have the richest mental library of situational cues and plays. This leads to the reason why they are the best – increased productivity over the rest of the reps.
What does Situational Awareness mean for Sales Enablement?
Modern sellers must adjust their tactics and messages to fit how today’s buyers want to buy. Dynamically adapting to these factors requires greater situational awareness than ever before.
Don't make the mistake of thinking sales situational awareness is just an individual trait. Sure, there have always been reps with an adept sense of the prospect’s situation. They might have a ‘feel’ for the people, events, and dynamics of a pursuit. They seem to know intuitively what actions influence the outcome. Good luck populating your sales team with these unicorns.
The fact is, situational awareness can be scaled across the entire sales organization. And sales enablement must play the lead role in scaling this practice. Deploying a truly adaptive selling strategy based on situational awareness involves four steps:
- Define What Reps Should Assess. Just like our pilot, a rep needs to understand what deal information is most important. You likely already using things like BANT, MEDDIC and other frameworks. But key situational factors go much deeper. They typically include the prospect’s political landscape, buying journey and other factors unique to your business.
- Build the Situations. Once the factors are defined, compile them into a set of selling situations. These archetypes represent the most common scenarios your teams face. Define the situation at a level in which the rep can easily identify. In our pilot example, this could include a scenario like executing a night landing. For a rep, it may be facing an incumbent with a product feature advantage.
- Build the Plays. A pilot landing at night follows specific actions to get the plane on the ground safely. Your reps must execute a similar set of actions appropriate to given sales scenarios. If the prospect isn’t price sensitive, don’t lead with discounts. If the buyer wants data to validate a renewal, don’t send data showing low usage. Each situation requires a set of plays. Each play includes tailored tactics, actions, messages and content to move the opportunity forward.
- Practice. Have your team bring in actual opportunities and match to the situations. Discuss the plays that they’re going to run by situation. Most importantly, practice. Not just the execution part, but more importantly, practice the ability to observe and call the right play. Too often reps misdiagnose the situation. This is the essence of old-fashioned deal strategy.
Build the Smarter Sales Organization
Don’t get too distracted with the latest hot “thing”. Without a focus on situational awareness, your sales enablement efforts will fall short. Check out our recent ATD webinar to learn more about this works with sales teams. Or, contact us to compare your situational factors against our deal benchmarks. Either way, let us show you how situational awareness can help you drive true sales performance.
About The Author
Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.