A day in the life of the decision-maker

Richard Branson is one of my favorite thought leaders. Among his famous quotes, one that stands out is, “If everybody followed the rules, nothing would ever change. Without change, there would be no progress.”
Changes in today’s business environment mean lots of progress. How your sales force adapts to the changes and new challenges customers face can mean the difference between business life and death.
Let’s consider what affects the engagement of decision-makers with you and your organization. Some reasons —technology and information overload — are so ubiquitous we’ve become immune to them. While these challenges can seem insurmountable to building relationships, they can also become opportunities for entry and a chance to maintain and even bolster your status as a trusted adviser.
They need to differentiate
In just about any industry, buyers have become savvier and their expectations of products and services only get more sophisticated. That creates a pace of change around product and service creation that’s only going to accelerate.
Customers are asking: “What do we need to do to remain competitive? How do we know that what we’re bringing to market today will still be attractive to customers tomorrow? How can we be proactive and stay ahead of competitors?” Your customers are looking for differentiation, that ability to stay a step or two ahead.
They have shifting priorities
Even the most surefire strategic priorities can change on a dime. What was top of mind today may fall to the bottom of the list tomorrow. The customer must adapt, reallocating resources — these may be people, budget or time resources. Having to adapt can create chaos on their teams. It leaves decision-makers with fires to put out, taking away even more of their time for new ways of solving their key challenges or focusing on growth.
Their commitments go beyond the work
High-level decision-makers are usually ambitious, with a lot on their plates. To grow their careers and influence today, it takes more than simply “doing the work” of the organization.
Decision-makers invest personal time, serving on boards or high-profile internal committees. He or she may also serve in other capacities, such as mentoring other employees or volunteering for their children or other causes they care about. If those aren’t enough, they also contribute to thought leadership, create their brands and have visibility on social media.
Today’s commitments are more holistic and demanding, and go way beyond the day job.
What can your sales force do to stand out?
The opportunity for your sales force is to become modern sellers. Modern sellers are trusted advisers and thought leaders. They’re recognized by their customers as a differentiator, and their customers view the work they do together as part of their competitive advantage.

One way to begin is to find out what challenges are at the top of your customers’ and prospects’ lists. Commit to helping them solve that challenge — even if it has nothing to do with the product or service you sell — you’ll immediately move up the value chain with them.

Amy Franko is the founder and president of Impact Instruction Group. Amy helps companies achieve high-value growth by improving sales strategy, performance and leadership. Her expertise is shared by respected publications such as Chief Learning Officer, Selling Power, TD Magazine, Training Industry, Training Magazine and Smart Business. Her book “The Modern Seller” is due out in 2018.