In the mere months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, much has been written about the need to adjust to a new normal in how we’re doing business – and from where. We get it: We’re all working from home. We’re socially distanced. And we’re collaborating in new ways. Yet, as we continue to make sense of all that, one question looms large: When the day comes, what are we going back to?
Said another way: What’s next – in how we’ll serve customers, lead teams, and collaborate with each other?
Are You Planning for Sales Success?
Permit me to skip the one question that is hotly debated lately: When? Nobody really knows. Let’s just say it’s someday, and maybe soon. In fact, it may have already started for you – depending on where you are and when you’re reading this. And, as we know, not everyone is shut down – many people in essential jobs never stopped working.
But, whenever everything starts again for most of us, we can guarantee that the world into which we reemerge will be different from the one we left behind.
Now’s the time to look at that and think through some important issues. How can we make the best use of the time we have now to get ready – even if we don’t have all the answers?
As I think this through myself, I’m reminded of the times I’ve been to a busy fast-food place or a bustling coffee shop – standing in line for 5-10 minutes as the line inches forward. There’s always the risk that a person one or two in front of me, as he or she steps up to order, will utter, “Um, huh, let me see now…” and then spend another few agonizing minutes scanning the menu before deciding what to order.
Here’s what’s most maddening in such a scenario: Number one, they have already had five or more minutes to read through the menu and decide. And number two: They have been there hundreds of times, no doubt.
Top Considerations for Sales Leaders Right Now
In terms of where we all are now, one goal now needs to be: Don’t be that person. You should be ready when it is your turn to order. Before we’re ready to get back in the game more fully, we need to know that, if we’re not ready to operate in a new-new normal – if we drop the ball in any number of key areas – that might be just the spark to inspire a customer to go elsewhere.
Without attempting to have all the answers, here’s what to think about now:
Preparation is key: When this thing breaks loose, you cannot afford to have set-backs. Your people all need to be forward thinking, not excuse making. No hiccups allowed: You have had time to prepare, so your supply chain, inventory, distribution, and more all need to be at the top of their game.
Things will be different: Some of your customers were hit really hard; some may not be there. You will need to prepare to develop new relationships. Asking how their business has changed and how you can best serve them is good practice.
Needs have changed: Do not assume things are the same as before you left. For example, in the medical device field, when elective surgeries open up, the need for inventory and a fast process will be high. Prepare and put these systems in place right now. Communicate with your customers now and try to forecast if you are in an industry with a similar situation.
Top people are accessible: Business owners are accessible right now. Many gate keepers are not there to answer calls, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone – you might just have a direct line to your prospect.
Expect orphan accounts: Let’s be honest: Some businesses will not survive this, leaving their customers looking for the services you provide. “We are offering this, this, and this to our customers. We would love to serve you as well…”
No doubt many of the points I raise here will spark a pain or two, as you grapple with intangibles or find yourself in a haze of ambiguity. That’s to be expected, but don’t give up on working through some important questions that will help you prepare. There’s so much at stake.
I spoke to a business owner recently and he confessed to me his biggest fear: He didn’t want to let down his team. He said, “I am writing the chapters now of how I handled this storm. I want to look back and know I communicated with my team effectively and made good choices.”
That’s as good a motivation as any, in my view. Make the decisions on how you work with your customers now, based on how you want them to judge you after – because that is exactly what they will do.
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