Having sold through some pretty bad economic times throughout my sales career (.com bubble burst of 1999, Great Recession of 2008 and now COVID-19), I’ve come to realize that the environment doesn’t control sales; rather it is the psychology we have that controls our environments regardless of circumstances.
Selling Through Adversity And Getting to The Bottom of It
Let’s start with the question of why do salespeople end up as salespeople? I believe we all have 2 major things in common. We are usually great at relationship building and are highly resilient.
During unprecedented times like COVID-19, our mentality and skillset don’t change, we are who we are, and deep down it takes a very driven person to succeed in sales, so the present time is no different. We are lucky in fact, because we deal with rejection daily, and have trained our entire career for this moment. We all have numbers to meet, so it is time to use our skillset to our advantage, and not take any “no’s” personally. Thomas Edison said, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
How can we succeed in these harsh times?
1. Accept that change is a part of life
2. Make connections
3. Keep things in perspective
4. Look for the opportunities
5. Be mindful of the good things in your life
6. Maintain a hopeful outlook
7. Talk to a psychologist
A quick story about what felt to be a similar situation when I lived in NYC and we were hit by hurricane Sandy. I was working on Wall Street and lived in the East Village. For those of you familiar with the situation you know that both areas were without electricity for over 2 weeks and were under mandatory evacuation notices. I didn’t take it seriously at first, and I stayed home thinking it was all exaggerated on the news and that everything would be fine. I didn’t realize the severity of the issue until that night when I saw Con Edison explode! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and moments later, the power was out in Manhattan from 14th street down. We didn’t have cell phone service; we didn’t have a TV or any way to charge our phones, and it really felt like the world was ending. My dog and I ended up evacuating to a friend’s house where I lived and worked for the next 4 weeks. There were 9 people in the 2-bedroom apartment, 3 dogs and 2 cats. Chaos is an understatement. I had never worked remotely before, so this was a challenge for me, but I remember my best friend telling me “this too shall pass” and asked “when it does, where are you going to be? Are you going to be behind, or can you use this time to get ahead and set yourself apart?”
The moral of the story is: those 4 weeks of my life are when I learned the true meaning of resilience. As the APA said, I accepted that change is part of life, I used the time to connect with friends, family, and clients that I had been putting off, I kept things in perspective, I was mindful of the positive things in life, but most of all, I looked for the opportunities. I wasn’t the only one in this situation, and I could use this common denominator to connect with people I wouldn’t usually have anything in common with. All of a sudden, you and the CEO of a company have shared the same life experience and you have a legitimate reason to reach out. The takeaway here is always to stay positive and look for any opportunity to move forward. In the words of Sam Levenson, "Don't watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going."
Selling (and buying) is and always has been about trust. Whether a simple purchase of new sneakers or a 7-figure Enterprise deal to CXO’s, the needle doesn’t move until a sense of trust can be felt.
In light of the Coronavirus Pandemic, creating and maintaining trust with your clients and prospects has never been more critical.Although everyone is feeling and managing themselves and their emotions differently, below are a few observations about trust that I’ve made as I navigate selling during this unprecedented time:
Giving and Taking The push and pull of buyer and seller is typical to any business interaction. A salesperson may offer to provide specific resources or deliver additional value, for example, while the buyer may make promises of future purchases or a reference.
Although the give and take nature of a deal isn’t neglected during
uncertain times like this, I have noticed that giving or taking has been amplified. Sending an encouraging message, offering a discounted or all together free product or service and giving a little extra to your delivery driver are felt much more now than in the past. Likewise, taking from our clients and prospects - their time, maybe their money, hopefully not their toilet paper - is perceived much more intensely as well. In many ways, I’ve gotten the sense
that people are holding things closer to themselves now more than in the past. So, when you have a chance to give, give graciously and openly knowing that it will be felt deeply. And when taking, take with compassion, understanding, and patience.
By practicing this with our clients and prospects, we can begin to solidify the trust that is so integral to our work. Be genuine, be vulnerable. As time goes on and the days we are forced indoors adds up, it’s nearly impossible to conduct business without mentioning Coronavirus or its impact on our daily lives. We, either as an individual employee or part of a larger organization, we are faced with new and unique challenges. No longer can we approach our work and attempt to sell with the exact models or strategies we employed in the past. That’s not to say everything we do should be thrown out or disregarded but we need to approach this time with a sense of curiosity, openness, and vulnerability. Nobody can answer the question: “What is the best way to sell during this Pandemic” but if we approach this knowing it is still much, we don’t know, can we begin to uncover the gems or devise strategies. This same approach of being comfortable in the unknowing should be communicated to our clients and prospects. Forget what you thought you’ve learned in terms of business needs or personal wins for your buyer and speak with them openly about what has changed. Dig deeper into conversations by sharing what has changed in how you approach your own work and what you’re still trying to figure out - maybe then will your buyer open up about how their concerns and problems have changed as well. As salespeople, we have the opportunity to solve problems and add value to our customers. So be genuine in your quest to help, and be most impactful by uncovering the truest nature of the problems. Don’t take yourself too seriously. This isn’t to say that the feelings of everyone impacted by Coronavirus aren’t to be taken seriously. Everyone has their own battles to fight, that’s not the point here. But for many salespeople, nothing we do during our days at home compares to the sacrifice of healthcare workers and others coming into contact with COVID-19. I don’t mean to diminish our work, but when speaking to clients and prospects, it’s important to maintain perspective. We can inflate our role in the fight against coronavirus, or we can be the much-needed ear and lighthearted voice to help people. No, we may not be fighting the virus directly, but we can offer the service that makes someone’s day or provide a solution that helps a business make it through these tough times. Conversely though, if someone truly doesn’t need what you’re selling, as in “normal” times, you move on and find the next opportunity. No harm is done.
By displaying self-awareness throughout our work using the tactics above, we can earn trust from buyers as they navigate their new business landscape and personal lives. Gone are the days of winning deals because of features or functionality, but here to stay now more than ever is our ability as salespeople to emotionally engage with our work and the people we serve.
Putting things in perspective
Our economy was doing well before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now that literally everything is shut down, schools, companies, etc...learning, and work is all done remotely at home. The nature of sales itself has changed in this growing crisis. Salespeople need to shift their focus to selling to people who will need their product and service during this time. You should not bother people if what you sell doesn’t improve their position in some meaningful way.
Some ways in which you can be successful during this time are:
We are still in the early days of this pandemic and the future is uncertain. If we all come together with an open mind and heart, we can help each other out during this time and hopefully make some sales.