No one could have predicted COVID-19, but the people who can adapt are the ones who will advance their sales careers during this time.
With the current state of sales, everything is changing fast.
- Approximately 50% of B2B companies have reduced their budgets.
- Digital is now the preferred sales interaction, with a 250% boost in mobile app ordering.
- 96% of B2B companies have switched to remote selling.
As a salesperson on the frontline, you need to be aware of current trends and recalibrate your methods to align with these new directions.
Advancing your sales career can feel impossible right now when you’re struggling to maintain the status quo, but it is doable. Here are my eight tips to help guide your success.
Don’t cut corners.
With over 20 years of sales leadership at HealthMarkets and other companies, I am no stranger to transitions, uncertainties, and fluctuations in the market. Whether these shifts were set in motion by an economic turn, consumer demand, industry trend, or an environmental factor, an unpredictable turn of events is no reason to compromise sales quality and integrity.
The pressure to close deals and meet quotas will always be there, but your customers want to see you take steps to maximize value during uncertain times.
Instead of rushing to make a sale at the expense of your organization’s best practices, devote time and energy to treat each account like a relationship. Continuously examine your tactics and ask, “Am I cutting corners with this account? Or am I operating in a way that is ethical and promotes excellence throughout the sales funnel?”
Look for ways to innovate
How you pivot when business is difficult shows your true character and resilience. While it can feel safer to maintain the status quo in uncertain times, don’t shy away from risk. Be that salesperson who sees the hurdle as an opportunity to troubleshoot and innovate.
This response is “driven by the intensely human desire to help, to connect with other people, and be part of the solution when things get hard. … Crises present us with unique conditions that allow innovators to think and move more freely to create rapid, impactful change,” notes Larry Clark, the managing director of global learning solutions at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning.
Uncertain times require bold action to come out on top.
An upbeat attitude instills confidence and reassures customers, which they need more than ever in times of crisis. In his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, Professor Gerald Zaltman confirms that emotions influence most purchases since people are drawn to what makes them feel gratified.
The main takeaway here is simple. If you radiate positivity in all business interactions — directly with prospects and behind-the-scenes when they are not around — those potential customers will notice.
An upbeat, enthusiastic attitude will leave a strong emotional imprint and go a long way to securing a sale in the short-term and a relationship in the long-term.
Use a clear, defined process
Your two main objectives when selling are to convert new leads and establish repeat customers. To hit those marks, you need a consistent sales process. You need a structured, targeted chain of action steps to guide you from initial contact across the entire customer journey to a successful close.
When you define each stage in the process ahead of time, it teaches you to anticipate what a prospect needs to advance in the sales funnel — which pain points to address, questions to ask, or areas of hesitation to resolve.
This keeps you and the customer on track.
Act as a resource
Not all consumer interactions lead to sales opportunities right away, but this doesn’t make the connection any less valuable. Position yourself as a credible and accessible resource to your customer base. Provide answers, information, materials, and engagement.
Think about how you can educate and empower them through your specific niche instead of coming across as overly promotional.
If a customer has a need that you can help with, do it — even when there isn’t an immediate payoff for you.
Helpfulness and kindness will put you at the top of a customer’s list when they are in the market for your products or services.
Elevate your standards.
Of course, your organization has standards and quotas to meet. But while managers can hold you accountable, you’re the only one who knows the full extent of what you can deliver.
Salespeople who rank in the top 20% “make high performance the default assumption,” according to Nick Hedges, CEO of Velocify.
Challenge yourself to outperform the benchmarks that management sets, and create your own activity-based goals. For instance, if you need to contribute to a 25% annual revenue growth, aim for 30% or 35%.
Invest in continuous learning
Many professionals default to the notion of, “I have enough experience and knowledge in my career already.” This kind of thinking is very limiting.
If you want to continuously expand and advance, especially in uncertain times, then block out time on a regular basis to learn more about your products or services, industry and market trends, and new skills that could benefit you.
“A curious mind wants to know more — it longs for new challenges, ideas, and experiences, and isn’t satisfied with the status quo. When you have this mindset, you want to grow, learn, and develop beyond imagination,” points out Debbie Allen, the author of Success Is Easy.
Understand the why
Everyone has an underlying conviction that bolsters and informs what they do. When was the last time you stopped to consider yours?
Build some clarity around the why of your business venture, and you’ll find renewed purpose, stimulation, and an incentive to push forward during uncertainty.
Identify why you want to help the target customer and why that customer needs your product or service, to begin with. Once you are clear on these motives, use them as fuel to initiate conversations with prospects, and escalate your relationships with existing customers to the next level.
The bottom line
Uncertain times can’t always be predicted, but you can plan for how to continue achieving and succeeding regardless of your circumstances.
Here are three takeaways I encourage you to remember when striving to advance your sales performance and career, no matter what state the business economy finds itself in.
Difficulties can be opportunities. Be on the lookout for ways to problem solve and innovate your sales technique. Act ethically, and stay focused on sustainable, long-term relationships even if you do not see an immediate payoff.
High standards will accelerate you further. Make a consistent effort to aim for more than what your organization expects. Learn as much as you can about the market you sell in, and never be comfortable with the baseline status quo. You determine your career’s momentum.
Motivation and attitude are essential. Focus on the positives, and keep in mind why this job matters in the first place. Customers will be drawn to the upbeat energy and helpful, considerate approach you bring to each interaction. This is how you will earn their trust and confidence.
Now start changing your career for the better.