As someone who heads sales — my job frequently puts me on an airplane whether to visit clients or attend SIA-hosted events with hundreds of people in attendance — I had to learn to adapt to my new world. And, like so many similar to me, we had to do a reset and learn how to work in a Covid-19 world that was no longer high touch, social or, frankly, much fun.
Needless to say, many of us have learned to accept the things we cannot change and therefore have rewired ourselves to focus and sell differently. And this is in a very people-oriented industry where in-person meetings and events are the preferred method of interacting. What’s amazing is that in the past year, I have had more time to meet, strategize and, most important, be present. Why does this matter?
It matters because there is still a job to be done, initiatives to meet and revenue to drive. And, even more so, all of us are struggling to understand what more we’ll need as we move into whatever the post-pandemic world will become.
Selling through a pandemic has become consulting and advising. Yes, you still want to win the deal, but now a Zoom or Teams meeting has much more meaning. How you interact with your client for that hour will now be the most important discussion that you will undertake. It is time to be focused while being strategic and innovative. You should view this as an opportunity to present the best of yourself and your team and optimize solutions to your client’s existing challenges while setting the stage for the future.
Selling amid Covid though video calls has all the same principles that you would adopt in face-to-face meetings. But there are some things to be aware of. Use the technology to form a connection with the person on the other end. Don’t hide behind sales jargon and presentations. Share your screen when you have something compelling to show but make sure that the attention returns to your team making the pitch when the presentation is done.
Design your discussions with examples of similar solutions you have provided to other organizations as they’ve worked through the pandemic as well as differentiate yourself from the competition through case studies and outcomes.
Don’t assume anything. Again, be present, ask the questions that matter so that when you are having conversations, you’re bringing the correct expertise, knowledge and tools relevant to solving their specific problem. Keep the discussion “on track” and do ensure inclusivity for all participants. Often, it’s difficult for video call participants to know when someone is done speaking and avoid speaking over others. Hence, members of a group call can inadvertently swing the pendulum too far to one side — resulting in folks holding back or not actively participating. Stay tuned in for the cues in and outside the conversation. So if it’s a large group, make an effort to draw in the quieter members on the client side. Invite the use of the chat or raised-hands features.
I’m sure many of you have an arsenal of “lessons learned” while selling through a pandemic. I know we at SIA do. If there a few that didn’t go so well, ask yourself why and what you could have done better. And, the reverse: If something went really well, why and what was the impact?
Remember, your clients are investing their time with your company for insight into how to manage through a new way of work relative to upskilling or new skills, risk avoidance, disaster preparedness and anything else they weren’t prepared for when we entered March 2020. Your organization is probably working through many of the same challenges as we move forward. And there is much of value to share and take forward.
I’ve learned over these many months to be much more openminded, thoughtful and to look outside the box both professionally and personally. It’s been helpful and relatable to others as we are all in this together. As an industry, I think one outcome we’ll see is much more collaboration and willingness to solve problems collectively. What a silver lining to the Covid cloud.