Sales people as counselors! Really?
Yes, and more so now than ever before. As sales professionals, we are all pretty accustomed to “working from home” in many ways. The average on the road sales-type spends a great deal of time “alone” in one way or another. Now we can define alone as the situation that exists as you travel from client to client and reach out for one more phone call to fill that time between face to face meetings. We can also define alone as that endless string of old-style phone calls that you used to make during the day. Alone, maybe not literally, but most certainly wrapped up on one on one interactions… just like the world today in many cases, but with a degree of freedom that we now cherish and wish to have back.
So the world of the salesperson, inside, outside, roar warrior or not, has not really changed all that much. It is still up to us to earn the right to interrupt a client and have them spend time with us. It's just different now! Our anchor was ourselves, and it still is. Our dependence was mostly on what we did as individuals. And again is mostly still is.
But, for the client, the world has shifted terribly in many cases. Their anchor was most likely their personal space in their office arena. They had cubes, they had labs, they had common places to gather and socialize. They had a quick smile amongst teammates and over the wall conversations. They had instantaneous and freely non-structured times of communication with other people. For the most part that is now all gone. Now they have to schedule a video call, schedule a phone update, time-activate a meeting with people that they once would have just walked over to see. Nothing is as easy and simple as it once was. And all this is likely brand new to them, and they are stuck in the middle not really knowing which way to turn, mostly just in PAUSE mode, waiting for the good old ways to come back. They are confused and it is still the job of the salesperson to figure out how best to interact with them. How to serve them.
And that ‘how” is more critical than ever. If the engagement between client and sales is still rooted in all about product features and benefits that “engagement” will last, at best, a few minutes, as the patience for “worthlessness” has grown to an all-time high. Again, it comes back to the vital few basics of client communication. PREPARE. Understand the challenges of the client in terms of today, in the middle of this pandemic. PERSONALIZE that understanding by intelligent inquiry…(example, chatting with my engineer client…”Bill, a few of my clients tell me that they are struggling to connect with their teammates on critical project elements, causing projects to be late…. Are you seeing that?) Listen closely, understand their position, and PROPOSE an alternate idea or solution to their approach. It is called a pivot. It starts with listening without bias, understanding the personal challenges of the individual that you are talking with, acknowledging what their perspective is…and only then reaching out to offer another perspective. The PIVOT… AND it begins with significant preparation about the client, their industry and their business challenges.
So, understand that our clients are working in ways that are not preferred by them. They have perspectives on how that has changed their world. Seek to understand, before being understood (Stephen Covey). And be a counselor with the PERSON that is your client.