The craving for human-to-human interaction in the same physical space is becoming louder and louder, especially as more of us get vaccinated and lockdown measures start (and stop) to ease.
For salespeople this will include a strong desire to return to “let’s grab coffee” or “meet for lunch” or “to a walkthrough” because our brains are wired to function in a “if this… then that” function.
For example, “if lockdowns are easing then I can go meet clients for lunch.” That’s great, but as David Sandler said, “never do anything unless you know why you’re doing it.”
Humans are great with past (when everything was “better”), we’re okay with the present and we suck at the future.
Sales leaders who have enjoyed the boost to their P&L statements from little or no traveling, entertaining and trade shows for the past year will be tempting, and berated by their salespeople, to go back to “the way things were before.”
For example, “there’s a trade show in Weyburn, I have to go!” “Why?” “Because we always went before, and our competitors will be there!”
“Because we did it before” is a big red flag, which might cause you to think of the Sandler Rule, “if your competition is doing it stop doing it right away.”
That doesn’t mean that we stop doing trade shows, lunch-and-learns, client entertainment/appreciation or the myriad of other activities that pile up on the “cost of sales side of the ledger, it means that we want to be strategic about doing them.
The challenge with strategic is it isn’t a simple “if/then” equation. It requires thinking, which our brain is loath to do because that burns up lots of calories.
To reduce the friction in making strategic sales choices instead of relying on heuristics we coach our clients to “put the pressure on the process not the person.”
In practice this means:
- Defining under what circumstances a specific sales activity (attending a trade show, holding a client entertainment event, or traveling to visit a prospect in-person) would happen including specific, observable, measurable leading indicators for success at the event like number of unique conversations and/or first appointments booked
- Communicating this process to our salespeople and given them the freedom to execute without direct approval
- Holding them accountable to following the process
- Publicly celebrating our salespeople who do stick to the process
- Using occasions when our salespeople step offside the process as coaching moments instead of “gotcha” opportunities
- Executing this process ourselves
Following those five steps makes this a process not handcuffs because we’re giving our people the tools to be successful, the trust that they will make the right choice, the permission to fail and the protection that when they do fail it will be a learning experience.
Without a process we essentially say “well, that was a weird pause of X months in how we do business, back to the old ways!” That discounts all of the benefits we’ve realized in how we can do business without being in the same physical space and leaves us open to losing out to more nimble competitors who are using process not heuristics to define how they go to market.
Until next time… go lead.