I attended a fascinating lecture in which the presenter talked about ambiguity. He espoused the view that one of the key skills that workers must develop in order to succeed in business, and in life, is a tolerance for ambiguity. Success in a rapidly changing world demands a person who is comfortable with uncertainty. When the rules for careers and the definitions of success are in a near constant state of flux, the person who is alive to the opportunities and possibilities inherent in change, is going to be better positioned to thrive.
This tolerance for ambiguity (which some label TofA) is especially relevant for sales professionals to embrace.
Ambiguity Affects How You Prospect
For instance, take how you prospect for new customers. You might have an ideal customer profile that you are prospecting to develop. This profile probably has been developed by Marketing, with input from Sales, and encompasses a tightly defined set of criteria that your new prospects ideally should meet. Sales is given directions to prospect only for prospects that fit this profile.
That’s all good in theory. But the chances that you will find potential prospects that fit your target profile from your first sales interaction with them are pretty slim. Oh sure, you might occasionally come across a sales lead that has fully thought through their requirements and have defined a specification for what they want to buy that exactly aligns with your ideal target profile. But that won’t be the case in most situations.
The fact is that you want prospects whose exact requirements are a bit ambiguous. If they are still unclear about the specific direction they want to take, then this provides an opportunity for you to work with them to ask the right questions, deliver the right value to help them make the trade-offs between potential solutions and create a clear buying vision for the decision they have to make.
Use Ambiguity To Determine Where To Invest Your Time
I see many sales managers who coach their salespeople to screen out potential prospects that don’t fit the BANT model and are still unclear about their requirements. Here’s the problem with that sales approach: if prospects already have their requirements specified in detail before you first talk with them, then it is very likely that one of your competitors has already helped the prospect define their requirements to fit the product or service that they are selling. In other words, you’re already behind. So, which type of potential prospect should you invest your time in?
The fact is that the normal sales environment is rife with ambiguity. Good prospects don’t usually fit your exact profile and are uncertain about what they really need. And your prospects don’t buy in a way that aligns with your sales process, making it hard to accurately forecast. This creates a problem for many sellers. They want a process that is bulletproof.
Welcome the ambiguity. Don’t fear it. Use it to you’re advantage as a competitive weapon.
Ambiguity forces you to listen. If you knew with 100% certainty that a prospect would respond in particular fashion to every question you ask then you could just operate on sales autopilot. But they don’t.
A prospect may be uncertain about their requirements. They may really not know what they want. That’s not a signal to throw them back in the nurture pool and get back to them later once they decide. It’s a cue to engage in a sales serious conversation about their requirements (not your solution.)
There’s opportunity in that ambiguity. If you’re paying attention and listening, then you’ll know when the customer is asking for your assistance to help them better understand the problem they are trying to solve and to them assist in defining a better solution.
Are you alive to the opportunities that can be found in the ambiguities?