Situational Fluency as an Enabler to Sales Agility
We’ve had a recent set of interactions with a prospect who identified “situational fluency” as a core competency for their sales force. This prospect was keenly interested in our approach to situational fluency, including how we define it and why. It was an interesting exercise and allowed us to shape this prospect’s thinking and help them make sense of situational fluency amidst a sea of varied and conflicting positions about this important topic. This blog explores the nature of situational fluency, the genesis of our perspective, and the implications for situational fluency as a sales force competency.
What is Situational Fluency?
VantagePoint defines situational fluency as the ability to do the following:
You’ll notice that situational fluency involves three steps, the first of which is assessing and making sense of the buying situation. How did we come up with our definition and perspective on situational fluency? Well, through a lot of research, that’s how! Here’s what the research revealed:
Because of this evidence-based approach to situational fluency, VantagePoint has positioned situational fluency as one element of sales agility. It is an important element, but it is one of three elements that enable sales agility.
You will notice that our perspective on situational fluency that it is the culmination and execution of two other decisions. The three decisions that drive situational sales agility are:
Although you could accurately think of situational fluency as the culmination of the three decisions or steps, the quality of the first two decisions has a dramatic effect on the impact of the execution in the third step. It doesn’t matter how well you execute a strategy if it is the wrong strategy for the situation you’re facing. Effective execution only works if you are executing the right thing at the right time in the right way.
Assessing and making sense of the buying situation is the core of situational intelligence. What should sellers assess and make sense of regarding the buying situation? Our research revealed five categories of buying factors that comprise each unique buying situation. They are as follows:
Although there are many buying factors sellers must consider, they fall into the five primary categories of problem awareness, competitive landscape, customer dynamics, buying stage, and solution definition. Is the buyer early, mid, or late in their buying journey? How many competitors are involved, who are they, and what is their relationship with the buying team? How aware is the client of the problems they are facing? Do they have a defined solution in mind? If so, what is most and least important to them? What are the dynamics amongst the buying team? What is the process they will use to make their decision? What level are the buying team members in the organization? Helping salespeople get their head around five categories of buying factors is far more manageable than having them target each of the 17 buying factors identified in our research.
As we mentioned, situational readiness is about selecting the best course of action based on the situation an individual is facing. As you can see, an accurate assessment of the buying situation is an important predecessor to selecting the best path of action. All these factors come together to form the nature of the buying situation and point in the direction of a “best path” forward. When choosing the best path forward, the highest performing sellers select the best amongst four primary sales strategies, not one.
How do salespeople make the best situation-strategy choice? Well, we’ve identified four primary situation archetypes that align to the four sales strategies as a guideline for strategy selection.
Each of these situation archetypes align with one of the four sales strategies. The degree to which the buying situation a salesperson faces align with one of these four archetypes gives sellers a strong clue as to which of the four strategies is likely to represent the best situation-strategy fit. The strategies that are the best fit for each archetype are indicated below.
There are much more sophisticated ways we can use machine learning to analyze deal level data, identify the five – seven most influential buying factors, and tease out the four-six unique buying situations; however, this situation archetype-strategy selection fit is a very straightforward way to equip salespeople to make the best strategy choice.
Once the buying situation has been assessed, and the strategy selection made, it is time to effectively execute the selected strategy and monitor buyer reactions. Each of the four sales strategies consists of three primary sales tactics indicated below.
As you may have surmised, execution of a given strategy is not as discrete as it may appear. High performing sellers select a primary strategy; however, they borrow tactics from all the strategies as needed as the buyer progresses through their buying journey. That is the reason we offer the situation-strategy fit, as well as guidance as to when tactics from other strategies may need to be incorporated.
In summary, situational fluency is an important component of a broader approach to sales agility. The decisions salespeople make about the situation they face, and the best path of action based on that situation, determine the relative fit and potential impact of sales execution. This helps ensure that salespeople execute the right things, at the right time, and in the right way.
If you find this approach to situational fluency appealing, you may wish to learn more about sales agility and situational fluency by reading our extensive white paper on this topic.
To learn more about situational fluency, we encourage you to download the first two chapters of the book, The Sales Agility Code. Click here to learn more.