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How to Help Customers Deal With Uncertainty

Author: David Brock, CEO, Partners in Excellence

Probably the single biggest issue anyone and every organization faces today is uncertainty. Each of us faces things few have every experienced in the past–at least at this magnitude. We have a global health pandemic, economic, political and social turmoil. We have businesses that are facing massive disruption. We face impacts personally, to our families and communities. We face issues within our jobs, functions, our organizations. They become more complex as we work with our customers, partners, suppliers; just as they are facing the same types of challenges.

Known Unknowns

We all are looking for answers to questions where there are no clear answers or solutions. We may not even know the questions we should be asking. To deal with this, it’s natural to look for cause/effect relationships–yet none exist in this uncertain/complex time.

When everything around us is uncertain and complex, we often become overwhelmed and, ultimately, numb.

We must recognize we face situations that are not completely knowable or predictable. Yet we must act, we must find ways of moving forward. If we fail to act, that becomes a path to failure.

We must develop answers, as best we can, and move forward. And we are obligated, if we care about our customers and want to create value with them, to help our customer(s) navigate this uncertainty and complexity, as well.

A model for dealing with this type of complexity is Cynefin, and we learn that we must probe, sense, respond. Instead of springing into action, we must move more carefully. Rather than look for “the answers,” we start to explore, “What works?” We experiment, but in a way that’s safe to fail. As we find what works, we systematize and scale them, creating new practices and ways of doing things. Some of the experiments will fail, but we want to structure them in a way that makes it safe to fail, so that we can learn from them to adjust our next strategies.

How to Lead Customers Out of Uncertainty

Sales people will be the ones that can help lead customers out of the uncertainty they are experiencing. We, with our colleagues, see the things our customers are facing more frequently. We see what each customer is experiencing, we see the experiments they are conducting, we see what tends to work and what tends to fail. We can bring that collective experience, collaborating with customers to help them figure out what works for them.

Because our experiences span hundreds to thousands of similar customers, we have the opportunity, perhaps the obligation, to help our customers better understand, manage, and respond to uncertainty, complexity, and risk. We can share ideas, things that may be working, things that don’t.

We can help our customers make sense of what they face, leveraging our experience in helping them identify courses of action. We can help them develop confidence in moving forward–even in the face of many unknowns.

Learning from Our Own Experience

And each of these experiences, enriches our own capabilities to help other customers.

And as we develop approaches to deal with uncertainty and complexity, we create new practices and new ways of doing things. We help our customers become more confident in moving forward in a world that has changed forever.

As sales people, we have a huge opportunity to help our customers change and move forward. We can provide great leadership and create great value.

Are you prepared to do this?


Author David Brock is founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE. Read more from Brock here.

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