Will You Answer the Bell When It Rings?

In boxing, when a boxer has had enough, they stay seated on their stool when the bell rings. They quit by staying seated, ignoring the bell, refusing to answer its call to reengage in the fight. When you don’t answer the bell, you lose the fight.

The bell is about to ring, letting you know that it is time to stand up, walk to the center of the ring and get after it. You are going to required to answer the call.

The last few months have been a long, difficult slog. For many, maybe even most, it’s been traumatic. It has been well over a hundred years since the last pandemic, and just over a decade since the last recession. This is the first time we have had an epidemic that caused our elected officials to shut down a large part of the economy, accepting the most significant economic downturn in our history in an attempt to save lives.

At the time of this writing, there are 20,000,000 people on unemployment, businesses that have been shuttered forever, unable to survive being closed, and many companies closed, creating a domino effect of as yet unknown negative consequences, some which may reverberate through the next couple years. While the health care workers and scientists address the health crisis, doing everything they can and more, only those of us in B2B sales can address the economic crisis by engaging in the fight to recover the economy.

Recovering Your Client’s Business

One way to think about this is that recovering your business is only possible by helping other people recover theirs. If you believe your role in sales requires you to help your clients when times are good, it is even more true—and more critical—that you do so when they are in deep trouble.

The first battle is internal. The shock of this crisis may have paralyzed you, and it may have had you struggling to decide what to do, what is even permissible, and how to engage with your clients and prospects, many of whom were (and are) fearful, anxious, and uncertain, many believing they should wait it out. With both you, your clients, and your prospects locked in place, nothing good can happen for either of you.

Someone has to have the courage to go first, deciding to take the first step towards the center of the ring, and preparing to engage in the battle.

The second challenge is helping the contacts you are determined to help to feel confident enough to step forward with you, setting aside their fears, and looking towards the future. The near future may still make them worry about making mistakes, but the not-too-distant future, when things are starting to move towards normal, maybe far enough away that you can help them look at it without having to commit to anything today.

By not engaging with your clients and waiting for things to get better, you provide your client with no signal that it’s time to start picking up the pieces and rebuilding.

To answer the bell, you are going to have to call your clients, past clients, and prospects and ask them to meet with you to discuss their recovery. You are going to have to do this even if you don’t believe you should, and even if it makes you uncomfortable, and with the full knowledge that you are going to be calling some anxious people, stressed, and even grouchier than usual.

The crisis is not going to be an ending. It’s going to be a weird reset, where all of us in business are going to taken back in time and asked to rebuild what we had already built and have now lost. It’s like being at the twenty-yard line and about to score and to have to start over from mid-field.

Your Responsibilities

Your sense of duty to your clients requires you to go first, imaging their future, and sharing your best ideas. Your obligation means that you have to show up, even if you are slightly ahead of your client in putting the pieces in place for their recovery. If you have ever described yourself as consultative or aspired to be a trusted advisor, then you have to live those ideas, refusing to wait for the storm to pass.

Without overstating the case, and without understating the case, you are now needed more than ever. No one can say for sure when there will be an answer to this pandemic. Still, there is much we can do to address the economic crisis by doing our very best work, leading, being resourceful, creating solutions, and help reduce the number of people on unemployment, lessen the amount of business that go out of business, and helping the people and companies we serve to find their way back.

Each of us has to do our part. Will you answer the bell when it rings?

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