March 31, 2020

As We Enter Q2 Amidst the Chaos, Salespeople and Sales Leaders Need to Fly. The. Airplane.

After several weeks offering encouragement and a heavy dose of positivity, I’m sensing the need to drop some blunt truth and strong reminders. And after all the articles, posts, Instagram live sessions, online meetings, webinars, and videos we’ve all seen the past few weeks, I’m pretty confident that what you don’t need right now is another piece on “How to Sell During This Crisis!”

So without even using the “C-word” today, let me help you focus and prepare to win in Q2 by simply asking this one critical question:

What would you do to improve your (or your team’s) sales heading into the second quarter (if you were not distracted/diverted/derailed by the current chaotic environment)?

Don’t blow by this question. I am as serious as I’ve even been with you because the stakes are higher than they’ve been in the ten years I’ve been writing for the sales community. What the heck should you be focused on to drive more sales as we wrap up March and head into Q2?

The short answer: The very same things I’d be screaming at you (encouraging you 🙂 ) to focus on if things were normal!

Whenever I’m with a sales team or salesperson or sales manager or executive who is confused or struggling, the first thing I do is sketch out a simple, proven framework and help them refocus on the basics – the fundamentals.

So that is exactly what we are going to do to sharpen your sales or sales management sword. Let’s revisit the basics, shore up your foundation, and increase your confidence as you sell (or lead a team) against these strong headwinds. 

In my next several posts, we are going to review the few precious fundamentals we absolutely must have nailed to drive sales and sales management success – in good times, normal times, and certainly during challenging times like we’re in now. 

I don’t want to leave you hanging, so let me prime the pump with these critical questions to get sellers started, and we’ll unpack these in greater detail in subsequent pieces, videos, web sessions, etc. 

SALESPEOPLE:

  • Where is your finite, strategic list of TARGET ACCOUNTS that you are committed to proactively pursing right now? How does that list need to be refined based on the current environment? Which existing accounts are worth more time and attention? Which prospective accounts should move to the top of your list because they’re likely even more open to a conversation right now?
  • Have you freshened your messaging, your “sales story?” Are you confident that you are leading with relevant issues your prospects and clients are facing today, or are you leading with self-focused garbage about your company history and your offerings? Is your “story” about the outcomes you’re creating or more about how great your company/solution is? (I cannot wait to help you with this – it’s my single favorite sales topic!)
  • How well are you deploying that “story” in outbound communications and on social channels? How crisp are your prospecting weapons? What must happen for you to significantly increase your effectiveness at securing meetings with target accounts?
  • Speaking of effectiveness, how effectively are you structuring and conducting early stage sales calls/discovery meetings? How have you adapted your sales call structure and approach for the virtual environment? Are your probing skills and questions helping you learn what you need to create a real opportunity and then advance that opportunity through the funnel? How well are you fleshing out objections and defining and gaining commitment for next steps?
  • How tightly are you managing your calendar and what percentage of your sales week is being dedicated to proactively pursuing New Sales? Are you sitting around feeling sorry for yourself? Are you over-serving your favorite customers because it makes you feel good and provides a really convenient excuse not to go after your more challenging accounts and prospects? Are you in action or sitting on your ass waiting for a lead? Is your activity level what it needs to be to create and advance enough opportunities to keep your pipeline full so you make your number?

I could keep going (and I will in future posts) but you’ve gotten my point. Watching CNN or Trump press conferences or Rex Chapman Twitter videos will not fill your pipeline, help your customers solve their business challenges, or get you to your Q2 sales goal. And neither will panicking nor whining.

The situation that salespeople and sales leaders are in reminds me what my flight instructor taught me years ago when I was taking flying lessons and about to do my first solo cross country (50 mile) flight. He told me that above all else, “fly the airplane!” He said it ten times and made me repeat it back. “If you get in trouble, fly the airplane; watch your airspeed and altitude. Other things like navigating and communicating can wait. Fly. The. Airplane.”

My instructor was so strong, so serious, and so blunt because he knew how easily distracted we can get, especially when things go wrong. He wanted to be darn certain that if the crap the fan, I’d know where to focus.

Sales friends, that’s my message to you today. The crap has hit the fan and we’re navigating through an absolute mess. Turn off the noise. Refocus on the basics – the tried and true fundamentals. Ponder those questions I provided above, and I’ll be back to offer more clarity and coaching on mastering the basics. Fly. The. Airplane.