If you have participated in my Anticipatory Leader System, it is likely clear to you: sales is an Anticipatory career.
No matter what industry a salesperson works in, they should be easily one of the most Anticipatory individuals in the contemporary working world!
Let’s think about that for a second. You are in a very customer-facing business, facilitating the connection between an individual, department, or organization and a product or service that they need. In many cases, your career itself is only successful if this connection between someone and their needs are met and maintained.
Therefore, being able to anticipate what a customer needs and any troubles they face long before those troubles take place would be beneficial, right?
Absolutely! Yet the unfortunate reality is most in sales simply preserve the customer’s status quo as long as possible and too often, lose customers when fully predictable problems disrupt the product or service’s solution.
So as mentioned above, sales is one of the most Anticipatory-minded careers out there. Understanding this fact and leveraging it to your advantage starts with understanding what sales really is, and connecting the skill to being Anticipatory.
A career in sales has been around since long before currency existed. Exchange and reciprocity are basic foundations of sociology: I have something that you desire, and you have something I desire, or I have something that solves a problem you have, and you can help me solve a problem.
The act of selling is actually a very human, non-material action. Based on the aforementioned circumstance where an individual or organization has something that would benefit the other, a sale takes place when the individual or organization with the product or service demonstrates that their product or service is the best option for that interested individual.
While basic necessities like food or clothing are considered easy to sell, over time, luxury items became prominent, brand names took hold, and suddenly we as humans discovered there is a prominent difference between a ‘want’ and a ‘need’.
This concept is in and of itself a Hard Trend future certainty — determining a ‘want’ from a ‘need’ will be here forever. As a professional in sales, you are always looking to prove to your customers that what you have is something they need, and the way to authenticate this is by illustrating just how your product or service will continue to solve their problems.
Your product or service may solve a customer's short-term problem; however, how does it pre-solve their long-term problems or better yet, pre-solve problems that the customer doesn’t even realize they have yet?
The best way to ensure that your customers are always viewing your product or service as a need is by looking so far ahead that you see what could potentially render your product or service irrelevant.
For instance, let’s suppose you are a corporate salesperson working for a business-to-business (B2B) organization that manufactures a revolutionary headlight for motorcycles designed to identify obstacles and alert you through on-board technology, much like backup sensors on a car. Your job is to acquire Honda as a new customer of this innovative headlight that does something no other headlight has ever done before.
How would you approach a sales representative at Honda in this case? Would you portray this life-changing and potentially life-saving product as a want, like it would be ‘cool’ to have? Of course not!
An Anticipatory salesperson would double down on the future certainties of the industry and humankind, such as the fact that we are only getting more distracted daily while driving anything let alone a motorcycle, and that this product is solving future problems riders will have with safety at night.
Especially in corporate or B2B sales, many salespeople have a tendency of looking at a customer base or organization as they do their personal technology — a faceless machine that will just say yes to something that they need.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and a recent competency I have taught more and more as autonomous technology transforms our lives is applicable here.
You are selling to human beings, not machines. This requires you to be human, relate to them, and above all else, think exponentially about their wants and needs. As our lives start to become more autonomous every day with transformative digital technology, individual customers and corporate customers with sales departments alike will remember you and your sales team just as much as they remember what your product or service does for them, if not more.
Selling is an art form and always will be. Your product or service will likely solve a customer’s problem with science, but you connecting them with it and revealing to them just how this will solve future problems they will have long before they have them is the art side of that science.
Another Anticipatory principle that goes hand-in-hand with being human in sales has to do with relating to the fears a customer may have of change. I’ve encouraged many business leaders to conduct what I call a Time Travel Audit within their organization, where they uncover if a person is past-oriented, present-oriented, or future-oriented.
You may find that most customer’s knee-jerk reaction to change is to resist it — they are frequently past-oriented. Get on their level, because as a salesperson, you too are just discovering the power of a new, revolutionary product or service.
Help bring them to realize that they can be future-oriented without losing touch with their past by highlighting yet another Anticipatory competency: the Both/And Principle. The old will be here to stay, but the new can help improve their lives and more. This and more is how you go from a status quo salesperson to an Anticipatory one.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.