Lessons ‘relearned’ over the past few months

In the work we do with our business leaders and sales executives, we have a saying: “You either win or you learn.” The COVID-19 pandemic offers lessons to be learned that directly relate to your business development and selling efforts.

Qualification is essential

For health care professionals who have been caring for people impacted by recent events, it has been crucial for them to identify patients who qualify for their time and resources. In the early days of the pandemic, hospitals canceled elective procedures and asked only the most critically ill patients to come in.

In sales, especially prospecting, we should also be selective in whom we choose to invest. We have a limited amount of resources and if we try to sell everyone, we are probably wasting those precious resources on people who will never buy. Instead, we can seek clarity about what our ideal client looks like and what measurable criteria would qualify them as worthy of prioritization. For example: can we identify their pain, budget and decision-making process?

A little separation can be a good thing for your health

Physical distancing has been proven to help people avoid contaminating each other. The less you interact with unhealthy people, the better your chances of staying healthy.

There is a concept for business professionals called “I/R Separation.” In short, “I” stands for your identity or self-esteem, and “R” stands for your role as a salesperson. Negative results and feedback in your role can be infectious to your self-esteem and identity. With the amount of rejection involved in sales, it is imperative to separate who you are from what you do. Keep your identity safe by realizing that it is separate, and unrelated, to any role, task, job or function you might be performing at any given moment.

Flattening the curve removes stress from the system

The definition of “flattening the curve” has meant spreading out the resources needed to treat illness over time so that hospitals, health care professionals and first responders do not become overwhelmed.

The same lesson applies to sales. We often see salespeople who make lots of prospecting efforts, to build their pipeline, and then get busy servicing those buyers and stop filling the funnel. This frantic cycle needs flattening out; results come from doing a little bit of activity—consistently, all the time.

It is important to identify your critical behaviors for results, then block time to work on them each day, week or month. Typically, it includes prospecting for new business, servicing clients, expanding existing accounts and trying to recapture clients you may have lost. “Flattening the curve” by being consistent in your effort will lead to sustainable business growth, instead of peaks and valleys.

Negative tests are great news for everyone

Negative testing over the past several months has been a good thing. But when it comes to sales, would you say the same about disqualifying a potential sales opportunity? Shouldn’t we hope people do not need our treatment?

We sincerely hope you don’t need business development help but we also know that is not the case for everyone. The reason people trade money for products, or services, is that they require something greater. In sales, “no” is at least the second-best answer we can hear. It might even be the best.

One of our colleagues stated it well: “It is unethical to sell something to people who don’t need, but it is also unethical to not sell something people who do need.” Finding someone who doesn’t need your help means you have more time to work with people who do. Doing both is critical for providing your best service for yourself and your clients.

Success in life, and sales, often comes down to a few fundamental principles that are universal to every individual and profession. Things such as adaptability, consistency, self-confidence and proactive planning build healthy teams and organizations. Those lessons can be learned from, and applied to, countless situations. Our goal and mission are to collect those best practices and share them with you. ♦

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or jmarshall@sandler.com.

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