March 9, 2020

Sales and Sales Management Focus Amidst Coronavirus Craziness

I had planned to write today challenging you with highlights from my new keynote, “How the Best Get Better” and to share about my powerful experience in Maui for a wonderful client’s President’s Club trip. But sometimes a current event becomes so loud, all-consuming, and attention-capturing that you can’t not address it. So, my tips and takeaways from this talk and my week with top producers will have to wait. Let’s instead tackle the Topic of the Day, Coronavirus.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, researcher, or politician. I don’t offer medical advice and I know practically nothing about infectious diseases. And I also touch my face about once every minute so I may be infected by the time you finish reading this.

I gathered a few thoughts on the long flight home Friday that may be helpful as you face selling, or leading a sales team, into the headwinds of what I’ve termed Coronavirus Craziness.

Focus over Fear: In both good times and bad, those who focus on the task at hand outperform those caught up in fear. Fear, for the most part, is an unproductive emotion. You face a choice. You can fret about what may happen or you can focus on doing your job. For all the things that many of us dislike about legendary New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, I absolutely love his well-known mantra: “Do Your Job.” Right now, that’s a message we ALL need to embrace!

Does it appear that the life of a salesperson, sales leader, or traveling sales speaker/trainer is going to be much harder the next few months? No doubt. Are you and I both questioning how we are going to hit our stretch goals in light of this new and uncertain situation we face? Absolutely. So when faced with the choice of either fretting about the situation or focusing on the precious few things we can control (out attitude, our energy, our activity level, our effort), I am voting, and asking you to vote, to CHOOSE FOCUS over fear.

Goal Achieving Activity over Tension Relieving Activity: Last month I did an annual conference for a franchisor and made the mistake of telling their executives to “beat me like a rented goalie” (a favorite old ESPN SportsCenter expression). They took me up on the offer and filled every minute of my day – including a keynote, breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions. It was a total blast and I had fun repeatedly using a line from their energetic CEO. During a prep call, he made the statement that some of the franchisees were choosing “tension relieving activity instead of goal achieving activity” and it was hurting their growth. Think about that for a minute. How beautifully does that line capture why so many in sales don’t experience better results? We sabotage ourselves by choosing, whether intentionally or subconsciously, to placate ourselves with things that are easy, that relieve tension – scrolling news, playing on social media, over-serving clients, gossiping with coworkers, [plug in your vice or mindless low-value activity here] – instead of filling our days with the critical highest-payoff tasks (those that create, advance, and close sales opportunities). CHOOSE GOAL ACHIEVING ACTIVITY!

Be Empathetic and Understanding: That statement may be redundant, but that’s my point. Great salespeople and great leaders demonstrate empathy. The feel for their client’s or their people’s situation. So while I’m challenging you to focus on the task at hand, that doesn’t mean that we should be clueless, ignorant, or insensitive. This is a real disease. There is real fear. Real people are dying. A relative of one of my clients just died from the virus. And beyond the health risk and human casualties, there is also going to be significant business loss. Significant. From Uber drivers to shop owners in Seattle who have zero business right now, to hotel chains facing millions of room nights being canceled. The pain is real and it is going to become exponentially greater the next few weeks.

Think about how to adjust your approach and your messaging so it is not only appropriate, demonstrating understanding of your prospects/clients’ situation, but so it’s also contextualized to their new reality and needs. Even in a crisis, life and business go on. They still have needs. There are issues they’d love to address and there are outcomes they’d like to achieve. You have solutions to help them address those issues and achieve those desired outcomes. Now is a wonderful time to update and sharpen your “Sales Story” – your message – so it’s relevant and relatable. Take some time to revise your message so it’s more compelling, and more relevant, than ever. (Chapter 10 in Sales Truth is the best help I can offer you to accomplish that.) And when approaching prospects, be sensitive to the new challenges they’re facing. Be human. Be real. Be authentic. Be caring! There’s a fine line between coming off as someone who is truly empathetic or one perceived as trying to capitalize on their unfortunate circumstance.

Don’t Risk Politicizing This: You are going to hear me continually remind sellers during this presidential election year to be wise and to be apolitical. There are very few, if any, rational conversations about anything political in the US. Both political parties and the media are working every political angle regarding Coronavirus. This president makes everything about himself and even his most ardent supporters concede that he’s not exactly accurate when it comes to facts/data. On the other side, the Democrats take every opportunity to make him look incompetent. And on my cable provider, depending whether you’re watching Channel 786 or 787, the “news” paints two very different pictures. With all of that as backdrop, please hear me on this: You. Cannot. Win. Here. Do yourself a favor and avoid politicizing this. The risk is too great. Regardless of which side you’re on, if you go “political” you are likely alienating 49% of the population. That’s not smart.

Get Creative, Use Your Resources, Adapt, Improvise and Overcome: Instead of whining about the challenges you now face selling (or managing a team) into the strong headwinds and difficulty created from Coronavirus Craziness, how about putting that energy into getting creative and finding ways to succeed in spite of the curveball that’s been thrown at you? Trust me. You have competitors that will not sit on their butts waiting for this to pass. They will figure out how to sell and how to succeed. You can choose to adopt the great US Marines slogan, Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome, or you can choose to be a victim. Jim Rohn said it really well. “You are not a tree.” If you don’t like how things are then change! Take inventory of your resources. What tools or weapons do you have at your disposal that can help you win? Or, which sales weapons must you adapt or create, allowing you to improvise your sales (or management) approach?

Sales friends, join with me. I’m choosing to figure this out. I’m choosing not to be a victim. I’m choosing to overcome. Join me.

Stop now and make a list of three ways you will choose focus over fear, goal achieving over tension relieving activity, or how you’ll adapt your messaging and your approach to maximize your results during this challenging season.