I have written more than a thousand articles in my career, but a year ago today, I wrote one of my most important ones. It was titled, “How Can You Sell Your Way Out of This Crisis?” Here’s a passage:
The way you do your work now will have a direct impact on your success later this year.
Buyers are scared, so they’re sitting on their hands and putting off decisions. Because of the market uncertainty, they are not interested in engaging with sales pros like us.
That leads to a second problem – sales pros start feeling disheartened and then adopt a defeatist mentality toward their work. Why should I bother calling anyone when nobody is willing to make a decision?!!? If you succumb to such fatalistic feelings, you’re in trouble.
This is a time to push forward. Be active and assertive. This is the time you should be doing something special for clients, thinking about new ways to serve clients and developing new messages to engage people who aren’t yet working with you. If you take advantage of this time, you will have a clear advantage once things settle down.
During times of crisis, the most successful people double down, work even harder and are even more determined.
At one point in last year’s article, I unknowingly wrote what would turn out to be a “money line:”
The only way you get out of this crisis is to sell your way out of it!
That simple line became my mantra for the year 2020. I posted a printed version of it on my bulletin board. I repeated that line countess times to thousands of clients. Believing in and following that line was a big reason why my business ended up having a good year in 2020.
Looking back at the past 12 months, I’m convinced that those sales reps, entrepreneurs and business leaders who adopted such a mentality ended up doing well, or at least they survived (many businesses and jobs did not).
So how were people supposed to “sell their way out of this crisis” last year?
- Stay in front of clients and provide a lot of value. Talk to them. Listen to them. Bring them new ideas. Make the conversations about them and not you or your offering.
- See yourself as a coach and teacher, not just a sales pro. A coach or teacher makes “students” more successful. A sales pro operating in a coaching role gets clients to see things from a different perspective and challenges their thinking when they’re suffering from fear-induced decision paralysis.
- Focus on steps in the process instead of the ultimate end. When clients are riddled with fear, they want to move more slowly. Just getting a mini commitment out of them (convincing them to take one more step in the process) can be a victory during these times). Even if prospects are taking only baby steps, they’re at least still moving forward.
- Work on yourself. It’s always important to sharpen your skills and stay on the cutting edge of your industry. It’s even more important now. Elite professionals are always “training forward.” That means they study, prepare and get themselves ready for the next opportunity.
- If you have a little extra time during this crisis, invest in yourself and become stronger for the good times coming in the not-too-distant-future. During a down market, lazy sales reps always fall further behind the proactive ones!
In order to be successful in the present and future, it’s always wise to gain perspective from the past.
During the 1920’s, Ford was selling 10 vehicles for every one sold by Chevrolet. After the Great Depression, Chevy held the sales lead. Why? Marketing. Advertising. A commitment to selling. Chevy didn’t let up during the bad economy. The same thing occurred in other industries. Before the Depression, C.W. Post dominated the breakfast cereal market. By the end of the Depression, Kellogg was number one.
At the beginning of the pandemic-driven shutdown last year, I wanted to be like Chevy and Kellogg.
Though the light is shining brightly at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is not yet over, so we must continue selling ourselves through the crisis.
But do you want to know something interesting?
The success techniques used during a crisis are pretty much the same ones we use in good times too. In some ways, it’s always a crisis. As revenue generators, we must always be on high alert, because we play a highly competitive, fast-paced game. One of the things the pandemic/shutdown taught us is to expect the unexpected and power through the challenges.