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Developing skills for the downturn: 3 books every seller should read this holiday season
The holidays are a season of indulgence (friends, family, food) and perspective (retrospectives on the past year and optimism for the new).
They also offer a terrific oppty to leverage downtime to cultivate fresh perspectives on our work, particularly as the new fiscal year approaches and strategies re-set.
For many sellers, account managers, and customer success managers, one top of mind topic this holiday season will inevitably be the evolving expectations of their role as a result of the shifting economic environment.
Key changes are imminent.
Customer and prospect relationships will undergo new challenges. Those same relationships will face new levels of internal scrutiny. And yet at the same time, many will be expected to produce similar, if not better, results.
"Do more with less" will become the internal mantra. And "my business should be more valuable than ever" will become the new customer and prospect mantra.
Is it possible to "do more with less" and deliver better outcomes to customers with less resource? Absolutely.
I once led a team that underwent multiple, significant reductions in staff who nonetheless generated historical high's in customer NPS and net dollar retention amidst the broader contraction of the business.
If that experience is illustrative, the primary challenge for field teams won't be creatively fighting economic headwinds and overcoming new commercial barriers. The primary challenge will be skills-based.
The skills required for field teams to be successful over the next several months will in many cases look vastly different than the skills that drove previous successful outcomes.
Negotiation skills, as an example, will become critically important. So will the ability to deploy radical empathy in the creation of 'whole product' solutions to solve for new customer problems and constraints. And in cases where there's a skills overlap between pre- and post-downturn, the margin of error on execution will be markedly thinner than before.
To help support this new skills development, I put together a quick holiday reading list that focuses on a handful of core skills required for effectively navigate the downturn below.
Target skills: customer-centricity, empathy
Why read it?
In a bull market, flashy features and functions alongside the promise of value can carry a lot of weight in the buying process. Organizations with an appetite for risk are happy to lean-in to emerging technologies and potentially transformative value.
In a bear market, by contrast, pragmatism reigns supreme: the vendor demonstrably capable of solving business challenges and desired outcomes wins.
"Outside-In" is a classic read on the fundamentals of customer-centricity and what it means to operate with customer empathy, helping one first define then put into practice principles of "customer-first" design thinking. The outlined case studies are helpful in translating customer-centricity from the philosophy de jure of Silicon Valley to practical lessons and how-to's that can be applied in the everyday.
Target skills: negotiation, active listening
Why read it?
Increasing economic pressures naturally create more challenging negotiations and pricing pressures. Those with strong listening and negotiation skills can ensure they're "doing more with less" by maximizing their at-bats.
"Never Split the Difference," written by famed FBI negotiator Chris Voss, borrows from experience in hostage negotiation to craft key learnings on negotiation. Though Voss does a masterful job of discussion the art of negotiation, his lessons on active listening and its role in effective negotiation are even more powerful.
Target skills: operational efficiency, activity prioritization
Why read it?
We're going to be asked to become more efficient. But what does becoming more efficient mean? What does it look like?
I've yet to read a more effective book on driving operational rigor than "4DX."
"4DX" helps teach how to "do more with less" by helping you define, with ruthless prioritization, what more looks like -- and what getting to more, as efficiently as possible, requires.