The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly changing the way we live our lives. We’ve started washing our hands more, we’ve become more suspicious when we hear a cough, and we’ve adapted to a new social routine. Social distancing dominates that new routine.
For businesses, our plans have to change. That’s an understatement. But, attempting to capture the impact of this pandemic on business this early is a worthless endeavor. Right now, we’re just figuring out how to adapt and operate. Soon, we’ll have to review financial forecasts and make some decisions. A host of factors like the severity of the pandemic, the location of our businesses, and government responses will influence these decisions.
For now, though, we adapt, we try, and we wait.
Change is certain
“The only thing that is constant is change.” In our modern context, many have repeated Heraclitus’ maxim about many things. However, right now, we understand them much more clearly.
On March 18, 2020, we had some good news. For the first time since the outbreak started, China reported no new local coronavirus cases from the day before. We also had bad news – the first two members of Congress were diagnosed with the disease and layoffs surged. This bad news made us wake up, and it made us change. That’s a good thing.
We’re primed to think that things will continue as normal, no matter what’s happening. Change, however, is never temporary. “No man steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus knew a thing or two about change.
Business will find a new normal
As we send office workers home with laptops in hand, we’re learning to do business differently. Technologies like Slack, Teams, Zoom, and WebEx help us to communicate. We’ll rely even more on email, chat, and text. And, who knows, we may even start using our phones as phones again?
No matter what, business, as we know it, won’t ever be the same. What we learn along the way will come with us when we return to “normal.” Our next normal isn’t what was – it’s the new normal.
The new normal is likely to include social distancing. While we may slow the virus, it’s going to be with us for a while. It will likely take up to 24 months for us to produce a viable, accessible vaccine.
Selling with socially acceptable distance
Business-to-business sellers use relationships to build trust and earn business. Bond and rapport building work best face-to-face. In our new normal, that already hard to get face-to-face time will be even more rarified. “If I can get the appointment, I can get the sale,” thinking won’t work anymore.
Salespeople will have to learn how to build trust over the phone, through email, and with new technologies. Some will make the switch quickly, while others will struggle. Their communication styles and preferences could indicate how this change will go. For example, a person well-versed in reading body language probably doesn’t perform as well on the phone as they do in person.
Adapting selling to new technologies
Online meetings, like on Zoom, GoToMeeting, Zoho Meetings, or WebEx, help bridge the gap between phone and in-person interactions. On a side note, if you don’t already have one of these, you should get as many licenses as you have sellers. They incorporate video, screen sharing, audio, and text chat in convenient, easy-to-use applications.
These new technologies create a few traps for salespeople – ones that could cost them business. Here are some tips for having great online meetings.
Schedule meetings in advance
These interactions take more time and focus than a phone call – show your customer or prospect respect by respecting their time.
Keep it brief
We all have more than one screen and have more than one thing on our minds. Long-running online meetings are painful for everyone involved.
Have an agenda
Let me rephrase that – have an agenda and stick to it. Keeping brief requires you to have a plan. Share that plan with all the participants.
Use tangents to set future meetings
Things pop up and can derail an agenda. They are important, but so is the topic of your present conversation. Use tangents to get the next appointment.
Make yourself quiet
Login only from a quiet place and mute your mic when you aren’t talking. Seriously, don’t be the person who is in their car and orders a coffee at the Starbucks drive-thru during a meeting. We all have busy lives, but setting aside time for things communicates respect.
Be mindful of your microphone
Use a headset if you’re not using your phone. Webcam and tablet microphones pick up everything around them. Your audience wants to hear from you, not the draft in your office.
Clean your desktop
If you’re going to share your screen, make sure you close everything you don’t need before you start the meeting. It’s easy to forget how much personal, sensitive, or confidential information we all have. It’s nobody’s business but ours.
On camera? Dress for it
Finally, dress for the occasion. Wear what would make sense for the same in-person interaction but with sweatpants or shorts or pajama bottoms
When nothing is the same, do something different.
We’re all going to find out what new normal is, together. Rather, we’re all going to create it together. Your sales process is going to change, your sales team is going to change, and your sellers’ skills will have to change, too.
As a leader of salespeople, you’ll be doing a lot of coaching, reinforcing, and motivating over the next several months. Remember that these efforts aren’t just for a temporary change, rather they are part of your sales team’s journey of growth.
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