I have a message of optimism today, because despite all the problems we have faced over the past year, opportunity abounds for sales professionals. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. If you play your cards right, 2021 can be an outstanding year for you. That’s not Pollyanna stuff; it’s the truth.
That was how I started the 2021 Sales Kickoff webinar I delivered yesterday to several hundred attendees who wanted ideas on maximizing their success during these historic times. The light is shining at the end of the tunnel, and while we still have challenges, sales professionals need to ramp up their efforts now to cash in on the ongoing recovery and post-pandemic marketplace.
Here are some reasons for optimism:
Pent-Up Demand – It appears a substantial portion of the population will be vaccinated against the coronavirus by summer. As fewer people are hospitalized, business activity will heat up especially in those industries that were particularly hard-hit by the virus. Travel, hospitality and entertainment come to mind.
Flood of Stimulus Money – We may pay a steep price for it down the road in terms of public debt and higher taxes, but for now, the jaw-dropping amounts of stimulus money that have been injected into the economy (with apparently more to come) should goose the marketplace. Increased money in the hands of consumers eventually works its way into the hands of B2B sellers. Remember, the economy is ultimately driven by consumerism.
Politics – Whether you’re pleased or disappointed by the current U.S. political situation, there’s now clarity as to who’s in charge in Washington and what they believe. After a contentious election year and much political uncertainty, you at least know what to plan for. When buyers and sellers know that the ground underneath them is not shaking, it’s easier to focus on business.
Underlying Economic Conditions – The economy prior to the pandemic was extremely strong. The only reason we had a downturn was because of a rare event. Therefore, just getting back to where we were before the pandemic means we are experiencing extreme economic growth. There is a ton of money in the marketplace. Also, keep in mind that demand in many industries remained high or even grew during the pandemic.
Of course, concerns and challenges remain, and we shouldn’t gloss over them. The events of the last year – natural, political, economic and cultural – have shaken the foundation of society and its institutions. That, in turn, has lessened the trust that exists among groups of people. That could translate into an under-the-surface distrust of you, your company and your offering, thereby creating a hesitancy to make buying decisions.
Additionally, the damned virus will remain an unfortunate part of our reality until an adequate number of people are immune.
So, we are at a strange point in history in which sales professionals must balance unprecedented growth opportunity with some very palpable and legitimate lingering fears. Here are some best practices to help you thrive during this peculiar time:
Attitude and Outlook – It’s not a cliché though it might sound like one. This is a time to live and work with intentionality. At the beginning of the pandemic, I said, “The only way you’re going to get through this crisis, is to sell your way out of this crisis.” In 2021, I’m saying, “The only way you’ll thrive in the recovery to sell your way through it.”
Goals – Be intentional and diligent in the way you manage your company and personal goals this year. Integrate your goals into your daily work. Consider your 2021 goals to be a living, breathing document.
Recommit to Consultative Selling – 2021 calls for a renewed focus on consultative selling which means that relationships and trust are of utmost importance. Practice client-centric selling instead of product-centric selling.
Proactive Prospecting – In good times and bad, the one thing that most significantly separates the top 20 percent of producers from everyone else is prospecting. Make an obsessive commitment to it. Crush call reluctance and pick up the phone (still the most effective prospecting tool in most industries). Sharpen your client-centric prospecting messages and do NOT approach new prospects with features-and-benefits language written by your marketing department.
Embrace Virtual Selling – After the pandemic ends, virtual meetings will still be a part of the sales world. As a whole, the sales profession needs to get better selling on virtual platforms. The biggest deficiency I see is lack of emotion. Remember that even in complex B2B transactions, emotion is always a factor. Just because you’re meeting with people over Zoom doesn’t mean that you still don’t discover the prospect’s emotion and use it to your benefit.
Yes, you can have a banner year in 2021, and if you’re a competitive person, you should EXPECT it. While challenges remain, we may experience the type of growth you typically see after a war ends.
In order to maximize your success during this unusual time, manage your self doubt. If you’re normal, you deal with self doubt from time to time. But don’t let it creep up on you and hold you back. The opportunity in front of you is practically unprecedented.