Leading our customers can be like navigating a minefield at the best of times, let alone when it feels like the earth is moving beneath us. For many, what was known about our market is now uncertain, and how we previously interacted with customers, might not work for now. There is no longer any such thing as “a sure thing” (Albeit I would argue there never was, but that is for another time).
How do we adapt? How do we manage our sales business in a state of constant change? How do we manage our mindset? So many questions!
While there is no playbook for “sales in a pandemic” or crystal ball for our future landscape, if our customer relationships remain in play (hopefully yours do), we need to be mindful of complacency. It is a fine balance in a highly charged, emotional environment.
Focus on what you can control – meaningful connection.
This is a time, when our traditional “what” (sales targets), takes a back seat and our “how” takes centre stage. Our “How” refers to the way we show up and it matters now more than ever.
In a complex, rapidly changing landscape – My advice, keep it simple.
Here are 9 tips for Sales success when face to face meetings, are no longer:
Be mindful of your energy.
The human brain mirrors what it feels, and our energy is no exception. Consider the energy you bring into your customer conversations. In the current climate, we all need our energy topped up, not drained. A happy, caring and respectful demeanour will have a lingering effect, long after your exchange has occurred. Often in the midst of your listener’s reflection, after-the-fact, will be where your impact is felt most.
Prepare with questions
Careful planning of our questions organises thoughts, calms our nerves and demonstrates intent. No customer wants to have their time wasted. I like to plan backwards 1) What is the outcome I would like to achieve? 2) What information do I need to achieve that outcome? 3) What questions do I need to ask to get that information? Remember, a tangible outcome might not be appropriate in the midst of uncertainty. Making the effort to understand a customer’s perspective and demonstrate we care is enough, if need be.
Focus your attention
Our visual sense is a powerful contributor in conversation. It enables us to read emotions through facial expression, connect through eye contact and be made aware of any peripheral distractions that cause our customer less focus. In the absence of face to face meetings when video conferencing is all we have, being cognisant of our own; gaze, focus and minimising distraction, is imperative for our customer to feel we are invested not only in the conversation, but in them as a person.
Listen deeply – Seek to understand
A conversation based on learning rather than telling should see us speaking 20% of the time (Ref 1). Talking is easy, listening is hard. Hear what the customer is saying then hear some more. “What am I sensing about this person?” is a great question to ask yourself as you progress a conversation. It helps to monitor the timing of your questions and determine the direction you take. Listen for the story behind the story, to deepen your understanding.
Patience is a virtue
All of us are processing our realities at different rates. You might find your customer doesn’t have the answers you want right now. Similarly, you might not achieve your desired outcome in one phone call. That’s OK. Be patient, this is a slow burn. Making a respectful effort to connect and understand their perspective, will contribute to their readiness to reach out in the future. They will be ready in their time. Be there to welcome them.
Leave judgement at the door
Preconceived ideas and unconscious bias can be dangerous in any conversation. They have the potential to blind us to opportunity, as we turn our focus on ourselves rather than the customer. We listen for what we want to hear to validate our assumptions, rather than what is real. Let’s remove our judgement hat and pull out the “assumption earplugs” before we start. Well planned questions might just provide answers that challenge those initial thoughts and open doors to fresh opportunity.
Respect your Customers boundaries
During a time when we are all being personally challenged to our core, it is critical to protect our decision-making compass – our personal values. The boundaries we put in place for ourselves tells others what is OK, and what is not OK. We must be mindful of our customers protecting theirs. Whether it be – their time, their decision to social distance or perhaps the less obvious boundary of a conversation they are not yet ready to have, respecting boundaries has never been more important. It demonstrates that we care, that we are listening and that we understand. It builds trust.
We are all in the midst of personal growth right now as we try to steady ourselves in a cyclone of rapid change. Having to connect with customers in new and unfamiliar ways will also challenge us all, especially when we are already depleted. Scheduling regular mindfulness sessions throughout our day, keeps us positive and brings us back to the moment we are in. It stops our mind dwelling on the past or leaping into an unknown future we can’t control. “Presence” has never been more important for our focus and well-being.
On a personal note, working in two hourly intervals works for me. I break these up with – exercise, meditation and mindful breathing. They are great circuit breakers that keep me focused when I need to be and switch me off when my brain is busiest. What works for you?
Our personal growth is accelerated when we take the time to reflect on what has or has not been effective. We can record what worked, what we would like to improve and work through any challenging objections. Whether you self-reflect through journaling or enlist a mentor or coach for support, reflection is time well spent for progressing personal growth and managing our mental well-being.
While there is a lot we can’t control right now, we can invest in our efforts and manage our expectations. Be kind to you.
Browning, Paul. (2020) Principled. UQP