Sales and selling as we know and do it might be dead in a not quite post apocalyptic world
Wouldn’t you agree that after this pandemic, there is an increased likelihood that many in the world will experience Post Traumatic Stress (previously referred to as PTSD)?
By that I mean, many will find it difficult to relax, it will take very little to trigger anxiety and flashbacks and they will have intrusive memories and nightmares of what they have observed or personally gone through.
I know something about the subject having written Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for Dummies and having been a practicing psychiatrist for more than forty years.
I might be wrong about this, but the Covid-19 has acted like an unwanted pushy invader into our collective lives and psyches, taking away our freedom and peace of mind and bedside manner.
After the pandemic has passed any energy coming our way that feels either unwanted, pushy or invasive will threaten to trigger us and re-traumatize us.
And my point?
Prior to the pandemic, sales as a profession, already had a reputation as being pushy, intrusive and manipulative. Even when salespeople had taken sales or negotiation training courses with euphemistic names including “consultative, customer centered, relational selling or story centered selling,” customers would still pick up the salesperson’s pushing for a close (apologies to those special sales people whose customers truly see them as serving them and who demonstrate what the sales profession could and should be).
That’s because a close equals a sale and that’s how a salesperson’s performance, compensation and promotions are determined. Even in the smoothest of sales spiels, it was clear that the sales person was more interested in making the sale than what really was in the best interest of the customer.
However, prior to the pandemic, customers would accept the above as just part of “business as usual.” It’s okay if you sell me, because I’m selling someone else.
Once again, I could be wrong, but I’m getting a sense that after the pandemic – which BTW isn’t even the “big one” with the lethality of a world-wide Ebola pandemic, the trauma from this one is about how amazingly unprepared the world is – it’s going to take a long time before people relax their guards and stop being on edge.
Along with that, people may be overly sensitive to being “sold” or even pitched. We’re already picking up how declasse and a turnoff, trying to sell anyone on anything – even when offered at a greatly reduced price – now before the pandemic has even peaked comes across.
What then are salespeople to do? Because after the pandemic, they’re still going to need to make their sales and make their quotas.
What we propose will need to be different is that post pandemic sales people go through the following steps:
- Target market to customers who have a high likelihood of urgently needing your product or service. As my good friend Bruce Wright is fond of saying, “If you’re going to drag a horse to water, it greatly helps to have thirsty horses.”
- Vet them closely, because once they’re in front of you, it doesn’t serve them or you for them to be overly skittish or to not be the one with decision making authority. When that happens, your frustration as a salesperson at having wasted your time will be difficult to contain. One way to do this, but you’ll need to become comfortable with it is to communicate to the your customer ahead of time, “Hello ____, As I’m preparing for our call/email exchange/etc. I’ve discovered that it goes better and is much more productive if ahead of time you have a clear idea of what pleases or even wows your boss as opposed to disappointing or frustrating him or her about purchases you make. That’s because if you decide to buy from us, I want to make sure it is the former and not the latter. During our call, in the interest of making it a better than usual call, I’ll be happy to share with you my answers to those questions regarding my boss. After all, we both report to someone else.”
- Open them up more deeply to get to their real and urgent underlying needs that are often several levels below the usual sales conversation. Two resources to help you do that are one of our books, Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain without Giving In, co-authored with John Ullmen and “The Secret to Closing More Sales: Never Answer a Question in the First Conversation.”
- After you uncover their most important, critical and urgent needs (what will get them a raise vs. what will get them fired) take care of and serve those, even if it means referring them to someone or somewhere else (which will help feed your mutually referring network) that could help them more and cause them to not buy from you now. Doing this will build trust and cause them to accept a call in the future when what you have is what they most importantly, critically and urgently need.
- Never, never, never hurt or take advantage of them. After the pandemic, this will be the most important advice to follow, because as mentioned before, their having been ripped apart and traumatized by the pandemic is going to leave a wound in them that is very deep, raw and ultra-sensitive.
BTW you don’t have to sit back now and wait for your chance to be your “new” kinder more caring sales person.
What we’re recommending to everyone in sales, business and beyond is to imagine it’s a year from now and the pandemic has passed (hopefully). From that point in time, imagine looking back at who and what the people you’re most grateful to in retrospect did for you during this crisis. Now, as in beginning right now, start doing those things for others so that a year from now, you’re the one they are most grateful to.