Prior to COVID-19, reps could often pop in and see a prospect or existing customer without an appointment. Or perhaps they would could linger a bit, ask for a favor and get access to the person they wanted to meet.
Remember those days (less than a year ago)? It was like driving a car on the highway. A rep could cruise along at 60 mph, flip on a blinker, move to the left lane and drive a little faster without any concern of confronting a problem.
A high level of preparation, insight and vision was not a prerequisite for success. In today’s landscape, it’s a must.
COVID-19 has created a mask or veil for customers — existing or prospective. Smartphones, tablets, social media and other tech tools provide a way for constant communication, but they also provide a way for customers and prospects to hide. Voicemail boxes are full, emails and texts go unanswered, numbers get blocked and read receipts go without a response. Now that the novelty of virtual meetings has worn off, today’s customers have found a way to hide behind all of this.
No margin for error
Almost overnight, contacting customers, communicating and selling changed. Reaching someone today requires a lot more than it used to. It takes more preparation and increased creativity in terms of how to engage and intrigue the customer.
Cruising down the highway of sales prospecting is over. Now, it’s more like driving a Formula 1 race car. Speeds are excessive, the racetrack is narrow, there are a lot of competitors crowding the field, and the margin for error is next to nil. Competing in today’s COVID-19 world requires exceptional preparedness, nimbleness and mindfulness. In essence, you have to see down the track and into the turn to put distance between you and your competitors.
This is the yellow flag
Recognizing that the race for sales has changed is the first step to shifting gears and adopting a new strategy. This is not a cause for panic; rather, it’s a recognition that opportunity exists. Those who arrive with a better strategy will prevail.
Virtual engagement is essential to connect during whatever is left of the global pandemic era, and it will be essential in the post-pandemic world as well. Engagement is a combination of navigating a conversation over Zoom (or other platform) while simultaneously knowing how to raise that engagement to a new level. To accomplish this, your reps need to determine the two or three topics of discussion that will move an unreceptive customer to receptivity.
This is paramount. Realizing that most customers will not re-evaluate their current preset memories, biases or habits unless they have to is an essential baseline.
To get a customer to this realization, the conversation needs to reach the level of critical thought. Critical thinking occurs when an individual stops, reflects and re-evaluates what they are doing. That’s when they recognize change may be in order.
Get your reps to reassess the conversations they’re having. Do they achieve a threshold of critical thinking? Re-examine the questions asked and the topics of conversation. Are your reps merely getting customers and prospects to recite what they already know? That’s not getting them to the front of the pack.
Sales reps’ questions must create a dialogue that gets the prospect to pause and rethink. That is winner-circle performance.
The choice, with a lot of preparation, is up to you: podium finish or pit row!
Charles Brennan Jr. is president of Brennan Sales Institute and the author of “Take your Sales to the Next Level”