Let’s start by acknowledging everything changed. In an instant. However, the need to sell is still mission-critical for most businesses. Just because the new environment changed doesn’t mean all the rules of selling went out the window. In fact, many of the cardinal rules of the profession of sales are now more important than ever. Yes, a few rules aren’t as relevant or simply gone. Those rules likely didn’t matter much anyway. And there are a couple of new ones. The majority however, the ones that really matter, are the ones that mattered all along.
You can’t be ‘sales-y’. Blatant and self-serving attempts to sell goods and services will be met with silence and ruin any credibility you once had.
You can’t be tone-deaf. All of your prospects, customers and clients are affected. Be understanding of their personal and professional concerns.
You must protect your attitude. While this may seem like a ‘no brainer’ your attitude, good and bad will be evident in all of your actions and inactions. Even working remotely. If this is a struggle right now try starting your day by acknowledging one thing you can be grateful for every day.
You must be relevant. Having something to say that is relevant and timely to your prospects and customers is more important than ever. Think ‘must have’ versus ‘nice to have’ when providing information.
You must be prepared. Time is a precious commodity. Value theirs by investing yours in pre-call preparation. DO NOT wing it! The 4 key questions you need to ask and answer internally when preparing for a sales call are:
- What’s the purpose of my call? (call objective)
- What do I already know? (your homework)
- What do I need to know that I don’t? (questions you’ll ask)
- What do I need them to share with me? (things to listen for)
If you can’t answer those four questions you are not prepared!
You must listen empathetically. Listening is the hardest thing we never do. There are five types of listening all people engage in Ignoring, pretending, selective, active, and empathetic. I’ll spare you the first three and focus on the last two. Active listening is hearing the words and content. Empathetic listening is understanding the meaning and emotion of the words. To ensure you are actively listening repeat what they say. To ensure you are empathetically listening restate what they say.
Marketing will save us. They can and should help, but that’s typically just messaging and now, perhaps pivoting as well as updating the market. Lead generation and execution is still in the hands of the sales department. You can’t be afraid of the phone!
I’ll wait and see how this all shakes out. In 20 plus years selling I’ve seen more than a couple of tough times. Every time there’s been a significant adverse event or downturn in the economy, two things never change. First, those who adapt, step up, respond, stay positive and take action come out stronger. Second, those who wait and see, curl up in a ball, freak out, take no action, and let their negative emotions and attitudes dominate will only see their peers pass them by.