How COVID-19 and social distancing helps build better salespeople
4.30.20 – SIW – A look at the ways salespeople can hone their skills during these uncertain times
My suitcase was officially closeted on March 8th after returning home from an industry conference in Las Vegas. The next day, some of our company began working from home, as less than 10 miles away, in New Rochelle, N.Y., COVID-19 was already wreaking havoc. By the end of that week, the spread and threat of this silent enemy became very real in New York. We began working from home to protect our employees and their families from this unseen threat.
It has been more than a month since then. In those six short weeks, we have experienced incredible changes and challenges. Here in New York, as well as much of the rest of the world, directives to “shelter in place” have included the closing of schools, restaurants and gathering spaces being shuttered, millions losing their jobs, and eventually, only “essential businesses” continuing to operate.
The need for uninterrupted security and life-safety services is non-negotiable, meaning that security integrators are considered essential businesses. As such, you been tasked with the critical responsibility of remaining operational while doing what you can to keep your employees safe and healthy. It has required flexibility and ingenuity, sending some of your team to work remotely from home, having others serve your customers by reporting daily to the office, and others providing service in the field. The world has become scary in a way most of us have never imagined.
That said, there has been plenty to admire in how those in our industry have responded. We have seen people rising with resilience to maintain their jobs, to help their families and others in need, to continue working in support of entities who need our services, and to adapt to this everchanging new world. With uncertainty over how our “paused” economy will affect pipelines and revenue, management teams have made personal sacrifices in order to keep workers on their payroll, or to soften the financial impact on employees who are laid-off or furloughed. Manufacturers have been ramping up free online training and other resources to allow integrators to hone their skills and make productive use of down time. We’ve read about integrators donating their stockpile of construction masks to local hospitals to serve as personal protective equipment (PPE). We have seen and experienced some real “silver linings” and I believe, we will continue to see more.
I started to think more recently about how this pandemic environment and the continually changing world around us is affecting security salespeople and how we do our jobs.
- How are we, as salespeople, adapting to a world where we have more remote meetings and conversations than appointments face-to-face with prospects and customers?
- What may we be doing differently to maintain our sales prospecting activities and to develop new prospecting plans and activities to keep our pipeline active?
- What can we do to help prospect as the face of our company marketing plans and activities may also be changing?
- How can we use the network-based sales management software tools we have in our hands to improve the way we prospect, touch existing customers, and ultimately – sell?
I’ll share a few things I’ve learned so far as we work with salespeople and security integrators daily. We’ll also talk a little bit about the near future and how best to continue selling and supporting your accounts and your profession.
As you get used to working from home and in certain cases, deciding when to go to an appointment, versus handle meetings remotely, there can be a sense of being overwhelmed and “stuck” simultaneously. It can also be exhausting, spending so much time on the phone and in Zoom and GoToMeeting, Google and other webinar meetings, all while dealing with personal life interruptions such as: dogs, kids, spouses, laundry, meals, Amazon and other deliveries. Believe me, we’re all feeling it and learning together.
Do you remember when we used to wish we could work from home? Even our kids are wishing they could go back to school! Questions over how long this current situation will continue, and what our new normal will look like once we’re allowed to emerge from our cocoons, will require ongoing behavioral alignments. Here are a few ideas of how to make the adjustments easier.
To help smooth the rough edges, let’s first focus on six things that can help you create a comfortable and supportive work-from-home environment. It’s all about making your office space “yours.”
1. Your chair is your throne. Since you will be online and on webinars more than ever, be sure you create a comfortable place to work from. A comfortable desk chair is key. Now is the time to borrow yours from the office or order a supportive and adjustable work chair online. Key: seat height adjustment so that your feet are flat on the floor with a 90-degree bend at the knee, and your back also at about 90 degrees. Adjustable arm rests (height) are also recommended.
2.Monitors matter. Your desk will likely be something you already have in place. Having a second monitor is a good idea, as this can help you “multi-task” to a degree, especially when working on lead updates, estimates, and collaborating with customers on webinars. Most laptop computers can easily accommodate a second monitor output. Also, consider ways to adjust your monitor height and/or investigate stand-up desk options. There are plenty of affordable, adjustable stand-up desks that sit right on top your regular desk, allowing you to use them as much or little as you like.
3. Consider light. Natural lighting is great for your psyche. It can also be helpful with the many meetings we share ourselves on camera. Facing a window so that light is coming toward you is best. A desk lamp or lighting to the side versus rear or front of you, is also helpful. Good lighting not only makes it easier to work, it keeps spirits lifted, and helps us to be most productive.
4. Clarity in communication. If you need a good microphone for calls and meetings order it! Being able to clearly communicate is essential in working with prospects and customers. My Airpods have been great. Keep your phone charged and use it instead of the microphone and speakers on your laptop. This may also help lessen the bandwidth needed during meetings, making the onscreen meeting much more effective for you and your customer.
5. Create a commute. I’ve taken to walking to the office every morning. I get dressed “business on the top” and casual on the bottom and walk a loop that takes about 15 minutes, before sitting down and starting my day. This little “commute” as I call it, helps me to clear my head, practice a little mindfulness and start my day with fresh blood pumping.
6. Keep it clean and personalized. You may be sharing space with others in your home, or you may have your own spot. Either way, keep your workspace organized and clean, and personalize it in some way that makes you happy and keeps you focused. For instance, I keep a couple family photos, one of my favorite motivational sayings, a candle burning, and some Spring flowers on my desk. These simple things put me in a positive frame of mind.
Sales Skills Improvement
Now is the time to focus on what you can do to better your skills, strategy and methodologies as a salesperson.
1. Remember your mission. Why are you selling integrated security systems? The real reason is to help customers and prospects successfully address specific security and life safety needs. Remembering and focusing on your “why” and how you and your company best supports those who need the products and services you provide is key to your success. Just like your work situation has been turned upside down courtesy of COVID-19, so has your customers’. The security challenges they were facing six weeks ago may be totally different today, as well as what they anticipate will be most important moving forward. When you reach out to them, be prepared to discuss their changing short-term and long-term needs and how you can help them adapt to a new reality. For example, remote management and monitoring capabilities of their security systems may now be a higher priority, as well as touch-free solutions.
2. Questioning strategies. Deepening your questioning and listening skills is a great way to focus on personal improvement, strategic focus and honing methodologies used daily to succeed in sales. Because we are communicating differently, we need to go deeper ourselves in identifying and understanding needs, and how we may or may not, be able to help. Now is the time to track the questions that work best in identifying needs. Keep notes in your sales management software so that you can return to try approaches again and again, realigning and listening to understand what really works for different needs.
3. Turn up communication. Salespeople who utilize sales management software know that now more than ever, those tools enable quick identification of who to call, where engagement was left off, needs expressed, next steps to take, and production of estimates, proposals and contracts. Having software in place is the conduit allowing salespeople to work remotely and provide the personal and connected touch points prospects and customers need right now.
4. Connected sales process. We are connecting via phone and webinar every day. This is the new normal and it works/ These connections are great ways to collaborate with prospects and customers to design and build quotes together for their projects. Participating with you is much more meaningful and real. You are fully tuned to the needs of the customer, sharing your camera and screen so that together, you can focus on what they need. Guess what? This also increases trust in you and that builds real sales that return big on your investment.
Tracy Larson is President of WeSuite