Using Change to Your Competitive Advantage

You probably don’t consider the impact of physics on your sales efforts. But you should.

You should evaluate your prospects’ buying processes in terms of Heisenberg’s famous principle of uncertainty. Werner Heisenberg, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932, is most well known for his Uncertainty Principle in which he demonstrated that the act of observing or measuring a process will necessarily change its outcome. While Heisenberg arrived at his famous formulation through his work with the behavior of sub-atomic particles, I have always found that a variation of the Uncertainty Principle applies to sales as well.

My Uncertainty Principle of Selling states: The process of selling to your prospect invariably changes their requirements and decision criteria moving forward. The very process of discovery, of helping the prospect define their requirements, and providing the data and information in response to their questions, forces them to re-assess their needs and what the criteria will be that they use in evaluating sellers and making an informed purchase decision.

What happens when your prospect learns that your SaaS product provides a feature, and associated value, that they hadn’t anticipated when they first put together their requirements? Or, what happens when your prospect’s expectations for the new machine tool they are looking to acquire aren’t fully met by any of the products that they have evaluated? The trajectory of their buying process changes and necessarily forces immediate strategy adjustments on the part of the seller, otherwise known as you.

Why is this “Uncertainty” important to you? Because too many sales people fall into the trap of thinking about their sales process, and their prospects’ buying process, like the instructions on your shampoo bottle: just lather, rinse and repeat.

You need to factor into your selling strategies the fact that your prospect’s buying process isn’t a linear, inflexible string of events. You should always make a detailed account plan for a sales opportunity. For instance, your account strategy can consist of steps 1 through N, that you believe will take the prospect through their buying process. But then, as soon as the customer has completed step 1, the situation will likely change and render your plans moot. This means that you have to be flexible in your approach to selling.

The second reason that the Uncertainty Principle of Selling is important to you is that it reinforces the necessity of being completely and rapidly responsive to your prospect in their search for the information they need to gather and evaluate in order to make a good decision. Studies show that if you can be the seller who provides the information that shapes your prospect’s “buying paradigm” or “buyer’s vision” then your odds of winning their business rise fairly substantially. It is always a much stronger position to be in if you are proactively shaping your selling strategy by providing the value to the prospect that shapes their buying process, rather than having to be completely reactive to the actions of your competitors.

Conduct a review of your pipeline and ask the following questions about each one of your qualified prospects:

1. What can I do for this prospect right now, this minute, today, that will have the maximum sales impact in the least time possible? Make a list of the actions you can proactively and immediately take to shape the buyer’s paradigm and use the Uncertainty Principle to your competitive advantage.

2. What can I do today that will create value for this prospect and differentiate my product, company and me from my competitors? Define one step you can take that will set your offering apart in a meaningful, tangible way. If this takes too long to figure out what this should be then you haven’t been paying attention to your prospect.

3. What information does this prospect still require from me in order to make an informed purchase decision in the shortest time possible? You should know what this is at any point in the sales process.

The key is to use the Uncertainty Principle to your advantage. Plan your account strategy but be alert and alive to the possibility of change.


Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by selling faster. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, “The Speed of Selling.” Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to our blog!

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