I just stared at the ringing phone on my desk. Did I want to hear the message directly or let it roll to voicemail? I was a new major-account sales rep booking conventions into downtown Los Angeles when the Whittier quake hit, sending panic and major events into cancellation. I watched helplessly as my win column collapsed to a big fat zero!
While sympathetic to my losses, my boss told me that I needed to find new business to replace what was lost as my quota hadn’t changed. I never did replace that business since the situation challenged my confidence as a seller.
Years later when I was having dinner with my mentor, I shared that story, and he told me why I had failed—I had stepped out of the game and onto the sidelines. He said that there are obstacles that can get in our way from making that sale. When we let that obstacle win, it pushes us to the sideline to wait for things to change or another opportunity to come along.
This was a breakthrough for me and one that gave me passion for what I still do today. My work with sales teams is to leverage knowledge and expertise to never let an obstacle take me out of the game—unless it is by my choosing.
I am not comparing an earthquake to COVID-19 as it pales in comparison. My perspective is to explain how businesses are selling as we wait out this pandemic. Is the sales team making calls to new and existing customers filling their pipeline? Do they see opportunity in the market or are they standing by waiting for this to pass?
There are buyers out there today who are buying, but there are some changes in how they are doing so. If the sellers don’t respond to that change, they will not be able to convince a buyer to spend those coveted dollars on their solutions.
Research shows us that 95 percent of how sellers sell, make it psychologically difficult for buyers to buy.
As sales leaders, our job is to equip our sales teams to think differently and behave differently with their buyers. This pandemic is an obstacle to your success; unless you sharpen sales skills, you will be out of the game.
Here are just a few of the most effective sales skill-building topics for current market conditions:
- Value: What is the ROI from the customer perspective?
- Vision: What does your solution give them to help them in their business?
While the classroom is still the most valuable venue for training, virtual training can be as valuable with some new methods and best practices that are currently used to sharpen skills:
- Limit participant size to nine.
- Content slides should contain no more than six lines per page. The fewer slides the better. Use animation to draw or teach from a flip chart.
- Use media where everyone can see each other and keep mics open, creating a collaborative learning environment.
- Engage in discussions and roleplays. (For example, roleplay a client conversation in separate virtual groups of three where there is one seller, one buyer, and one is a coach who has a score sheet to critique. Share score sheets and learning points in a large-group meeting.)
- Be creative in audience responses (such as face or hand gestures for multiple choice or true-false statements).
- Create assignments where they break away in small virtual groups to prepare and present back to everyone. (For example, prepare for a roleplay; share a tool customized for a specific prospect.)
- Tie a fun exercise into a learning. (For example: On the second day of learning, ask each participant to take a blank sheet of paper and draw a concept they learned in the prior session that they really liked, without using words. Have others try to guess what has been drawn. Get a great review that connects both sessions.)
- Train for a minimum of four hours and a maximum of eight hours per day.
- Create a takeaway that they can use immediately in their job and report back.
With some out-of-the-box thinking, we can help our sellers sharpen their skills and move past obstacles now so when the new normal comes back, they are already in the game and well-skilled.
Need some help or have questions? Just ask. I look forward to your comments and feedback.