Thanks to the global pandemic, salespeople across the country and around the world are now coming to terms with a sobering reality. Critical meetings with decision makers have fallen off the calendars, leaving untold thousands of field sales professionals facing the same daunting question: “What in the world can I do to replace those lost meetings?”
Short answer: Embrace a viable remote sales model. Make sure it’s one that takes the “new normal” into account; one that prioritizes personal outreach to prospective buyers who haven’t heard from you before; one that is quantifiable. Set up a cookbook (also known as a behavioral plan) that supports that remote sales model. And then execute on that cookbook daily.
Here are three simple steps you can take right away to make that happen.
STEP ONE: Accept that this is officially a different time. The “new normal” that we will all have to work in over the next few months is one in which many of our old assumptions about how to launch and sustain business relationships will simply no longer stand. So: Assume things have changed, embrace that change, and prepare to exit your comfort zone. Assume, for instance, that there will need to be multiple personalized touches, many of them digital, before you connect with a single decision maker on a voice-to-voice call. Assume that each and every one of those touches matters and must be tracked. Assume that you will have to find a way to stand out quickly and dramatically from a crowd of (largely incompetent) salespeople who are in the same situation you are. (See Steps Two and Three for some guidance on this.) And, last but not least, assume that you are the one responsible for generating your own leads. At this stage, it really doesn’t matter whether you are used to having someone else do the up-front work. It’s now time to hold yourself accountable for the attitudes, techniques, and behaviors that produce actual conversations with first-time buyers. Many field sales reps we work with are used to getting, rather than generating, qualified opportunities. The ones who prosper in 2020 – and beyond – will be those who understand that now is the time to take personal responsibility for the entire sales process, including initial contact. Guess what? This may require a shift in mindset!
STEP TWO: Do your homework...and create the right collateral. Each given segment of any market you are pursuing can be defined by the distinct business “pains” experienced by the decision makers within it. By “pain,” I mean the gap that we can close between where the buyer is now and where he or she wants to be: that which leaves the buyer frustrated, uncertain, distressed, worried, anxious, concerned, or angry. Forget about features. Do the homework necessary to identify the specific pain that exists or will exist, based on what’s currently happening in your target buyer’s world. Find something that carries a powerful emotional impact...and then create digital collateral that you can use effectively (and legally) in virtual platforms like LinkedIn to start a discussion about that pain. (We can help you with Step Two. Email me if that’s something you want to learn more about.)
STEP THREE: Interrupt the pattern. One of the bigger challenges 2020 has dumped in the laps of truly professional salespeople is the unfortunate reality that a tidal wave of amateur salespeople – aggressive, desperate, and disrespectful of other people’s time – is, right now, assaulting our prospects. Our assignment: Don’t be like those amateurs. Interrupt the pattern people have come to expect from the typical sales call. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to do this in a remote selling situation, but I’ll share just one with you here: Open your voice-to-voice call with a new contact by using some variation on this opening:
"Hi Joe, it's Colum calling from XYZ Company. Did I catch you at a bad time?"
(If Joe sounds particularly harried, you can revise it as follows: "My guess is I am catching you at a bad time. How bad is it?")
If Joe tells you yes, it’s a bad time, say, “No problem – should we reschedule, or should I take thirty seconds to tell you the reason for my call, so you can decide whether it even makes sense for us to be talking?”
If Joe says it’s not a bad time, simply say, “Great. Would it make sense for me to take thirty seconds to tell you the reason for my call...and then you can decide if it even makes sense for us to be talking?”
How much better is that than what most salespeople open their calls with? (“If I could save your company a million dollars over the next 72 hours, would you be interested in learning more?” Click.)
We can't be perceived as better unless we are first perceived as different, and we can't be perceived as anything unless we first get their attention. The opening I’ve just shared with you does that in a way that is different from the typical, pushy aggressive salesperson.
There’s a famous saying from Dr. Robert Schuller: Tough times never last, but tough people do. At Sandler, we’re committed to supporting mentally and emotionally tough salespeople. Your meeting may have been cancelled, but your personal sales goal certainly hasn’t. If you follow the steps I’ve shared with you here, you’ll be well on your way to achieving that goal – and prospering during the tough times that are currently separating the sales amateurs from the sales professionals.