In announcing reductions at Salesforce yesterday, Marc Benioff was quoted, saying customers “are taking a more measured approach to their purchasing decisions.”

We’re taking deep breaths, trying to understand what that means, looking at how we, sellers, respond and move forward. What does it take to succeed?

Pile onto this all the shifts in buyer behavior we see, increasing numbers of buyers actively disengaging with sellers, preferring to navigate their buying processes with out sales help. From a seller point of view, there will be far fewer organizations buying–deferring or eliminating initiatives, and for those that do, it’s becoming impossible to reach and engage them.

The temptation is to do what we’ve always done, the only thing many sellers know, do more! Come up with more “clever” sequences and techniques, cast a wider net. As the number of opportunities available are reduced, there are more sellers chasing what few are left. So competition becomes much greater, aggravating the feeding frenzy.

As concerned as we sellers are about achieving our goals, earning our commissions, or even keeping our jobs, let’s pause, for a moment, looking at what all of this means to customers.

Customers have, for months, been:

The issues many of us have been talking about, for years, become the most critical issues for our customers’ and our success. Things like information overwhelm, sensemaking, decision confidence, buyer regret, FOMU become much greater and much more important to everyone engaged in a buying effort.

And these issues have little to do with solution selection, but are all about the fears, uncertainties, risks they perceive with the change. It’s all about what they have to demonstrate to their management that their project is critical and necessary, and they will achieve the results expected.

And it’s these conditions that create the great opportunity for sellers that can respond appropriately. Customers will be crying for help! They have experienced higher levels of regret in digital only buying journeys. Given what they now face, they need–and will demand more!

But sellers will have to respond very differently than we have traditionally responded. Our sequences, our assembly line techniques for herding through processed that are optimized for us will fail! While they may address our needs, they do nothing for the customer.

We need to engage customers in different conversations. We need to talk to them about their businesses, about what they are trying to achieve individually and organizationally. We have to help them make sense of all the information they are flooded with, but that sensemaking has a different context because of the changes in the economy and what their companies face. We have to help a larger group of buyers gain confidence in what they are doing. That they are making the right decision, not only for their project, but that this is the right use of funds/resources for their companies. These issues apply beyond the buying group, itself, reaching more broadly in the organization and up the management food chain.

And in doing this, in engaging customers in this way, we profoundly change our relationship with them. We help them manage their way through these challenges presented by the economy. We help them do better. In many cases, we may be helping them and their colleagues keep their jobs. In some cases, we may be helping their businesses survive.

Every organization is facing a similar challenge, navigating the risk, uncertainty faced in the economy and the global business environment. Many have never faced this. For those that have, the world is profoundly different. No one organization has all the answers, but working together we discover the answers and move forward.

There has never been a more exciting time for sellers. There has never been a time where sellers can make a real difference in creating value with their customers.

The only issue is, are we prepared to respond to this opportunity? To we have the purpose, focus, skills, and desire to step up to this opportunity and move forward with our customers.

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