Now is a time for empathy and vulnerability in all areas – including sales. But it’s important to recognize that these are not “tactics” or “maneuvers” to build rapport. These are what make you human. These are what facilitate a real-life connection with others. And, these are what strengthen your relationships during times of crisis.
Life for your prospects and clients has just been rocked to the core. School has been canceled, non-essential businesses have been asked to close their doors, most everyone is working from home and adapting to a whole new way to work. The office line is being forwarded to a cell phone and the screaming baby in the background is keeping them from immediately picking it up. With all that, do you think asking for “the person in charge of technology” is going to be welcomed with open arms? Would that cause you to drop everything you have going on to fulfill the request?
The truth is, uncertainty is a fact for everyone during a crisis. You must recognize that the way you reach out to people matters because it shines a light on your character. Some people leverage the heightened fear to push their sales agendas. But true sales rebels flip their service mindset into overdrive in times of great need.
And, as a special note to all the sales leaders reading this, now is the time to let your reps shine the brightest. Allow them to go above and beyond for your clients and prospects. Recognize that additional pressure on performance runs the risk of overloading them and causing them to check out entirely. They will remember the way you lead them through this. When it is all said and done, the taste you leave will linger.
It would be easy to use fear to pressure people into your point of view. It would be easy to catch people in a weak moment and take advantage of the situation at hand. But it takes courage and servitude to go the extra mile and truly serve people’s best interests. And service is the very thing we should be striving for. It is what sets us apart from the noisy world around us. How will people remember you once the winds shift?
Commit to a servant leadership mindset. Be willing to venture outside the traditional realm of “professional conversations.” Be willing to meet people where they are because you do not and cannot know what they are experiencing. Leave your assumptions and expectations at the door because the needs which can be met during a time of crisis go far beyond any business solution.
Ultimately, that means that KPIs and quotas are meaningless, and are not what will define your success in a crisis. It also means that, “How are you today?” and “Just checking in” are not how we should be talking to people.
What we should be doing right now is saying “How can I help?” When presented with conviction and honesty, there is an incredible power in a simple question like this. It gives the person on the receiving end an emotional option. It puts the ball in their court and allows them to guide the first steps of the conversation. If you give the space for people to be vulnerable and you are willing to listen intently to their needs, there is much more to gain. Right now, you are indifferent. And when you go through the motions in a time of crisis, you dig deeper into that hole.
In order to become relevant, why don’t you tell people that you understand it might be an inappropriate time to be pitching products and slinging deals. Ask them how they are doing, ask them how they are transitioning to a work-from-home-model, tell them you have resources from DIY home-gym workouts to the best grilled cheese sandwich recipe, insights on homeschooling, board games they can play with the whole family and articles on resources for small business during this economic hardship.
In the end, the most important thing you can do in times like these is to be an ally to the person on the other side of the conversation. Show them you not only understand, but that you can also share in the emotional and mental burdens that come along with times like these. This will undoubtedly be a time of growth for those who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone and start meeting needs around them.
“How can I help?”
This is the most powerful phrase during times of crisis. Back it up by wearing your heart on your sleeve, going above and beyond the call, and shedding the skin of what sales was.
It’s time to choose legendary. It’s time to change the game.