Today’s post is by Clay Hall, Vice President of Sales of Reno Type.
In the midst of a global pandemic, those in sales roles might feel like pests. Unless you’ve lucked into selling plastic barriers, masks, or personal protective equipment (PPE), many of us felt like we were knocking on doors at a time when physical distance was top priority.
And yet, salespeople are vital to the longevity of their organizations. They support their company’s ability to satisfy payroll and protect against layoffs at a time when keeping a roof over one’s head is essential. They support their clients’ ability to continue fulfilling their expectations, keeping brands afloat as businesses repeatedly take hits. While we likely haven’t experienced a pandemic in our lifetimes, I can confidently say that sales is a critical exercise despite one of the most turbulent economic periods in recent history. The way to ride it out is to remember: Prioritize people first. Sales will follow.
Over my career, I’ve worked with such brands as FedEx, SiriusXM, and Honda, helping generate new revenue and grow existing revenues. Small brands or large, I always ask what value I can add to a clients’ process. While skill sets vary, we all have the power to contribute one precious thing to each of our clients: calm.
Consider it a commodity. Though priceless, it has intrinsic value and is often exchanged for currency. Those who offer calm to customers will earn a spot as confidant and counselor when clients might perceive other salespeople as pests.
There are a few ways to do this successfully.
1. Get into the mindset
The pandemic thrust us all into different and atypical modes of operation. While some thrive in crises, many feel frazzled. When we let our brains fire off in chaotic directions, our actions follow. Try to acknowledge the fight-or-flight feelings you’re having. If you do, it will be easier to put them aside. Then, remember a time when things were going well. Sales were skyrocketing; you were happy, healthy, and fulfilled; client accolades flowed in. Pay attention to this feeling. Can you map out what circumstances contributed to your success? Was it a steady diet and consistent exercise? Was it a disciplined and consistent sales call calendar? Work on identifying the process and see if there are any components you can re-integrate into your current routine. And be graceful with yourself. If you’re only able to bring back one or two components right now, you should celebrate the micro-success as a means of getting back on track.
In customer and prospect conversations, it’s essential to take a back seat. Listen to your discussion partner. What are their pain points? Where are they looking for new revenue opportunities? Sure, you want to hear them because it will help inform how you counsel them, but your customers truly need a safe place to vent. Perhaps they can’t confide in their spouse because the fear is too tangible at home and they both share the same stress. Maybe they can’t confide in their boss because profits are razor thin and raising additional concerns could position their head on the chopping block. Perhaps they simply don't know what the future holds, and they're collecting feedback from everyone possible to identify a safe path forward. Listen as an act in and of itself. To listen to your customer’s concerns is to draw closer, create a more collaborative relationship, and better understand how you can provide them with means to navigate through turbulence.
3. Speak low and speak measured
Studies suggest that individuals perceive speakers with lower-pitched voices to have higher levels of competency and trustworthiness. A measured cadence can also contribute to your listener’s sense of calm. For example, dentists have been using speech patterns that mimic hypnosis for centuries to build trust, ease fear, and relieve patient anxiety. Clinical research aside, simply be mindful of your vocal range and see what happens when you drop it down one or two notches. Additionally, observe the reaction when you take a beat longer than normal to formulate responses. Some studies indicate we have a tendency to take on the speech patterns of those we agree with or respect, meaning you may see your client’s patterns start to mimic your own.
4. Remember: This, too, shall pass
I’ve been in sales and sales-adjacent positions for decades. I waded through the heartbreak of September 11 and the subsequent uncertainty that followed. I managed through the worst of California’s fallout after the real estate bubble burst. I helped clients through the 2008 recession and, today, I’m helping my customers get through the worst of the pandemic. All this to say: This, too, shall pass. I say this with confidence so that you can also say it with confidence. Remember this and share it with your clients, calmly, steadily, and frequently. Fear only contributes to more erratic buying habits, so relaying a positive outlook to your customers can help them re-center and refocus, ultimately benefiting their bottom lines.
In the uncertainty of 2020, many of us have allowed our emotional responses to lead the way. I don’t say this to criticize, but to illustrate to you that if you can lean in to calm as a commodity, you will become an influential counselor on behalf of your clientele in 2021. People first, my friends. The sales will follow.