Post Pandemic Selling

The Gist:

  • The pandemic that changed how we sold for the last year is coming to its inevitable end.
  • There will not be a new normal, even if it winds down with a good bit of caution.
  • You are going to go back to face-to-face meetings if you already haven’t.

Walking up to the movie theater, the signs on the door had turned from “masks required” to “masks encouraged.” There were not many people at the theater, but those who were there all donned their masks. The next day, at the breakfast restaurant, the mask signs had all been removed. The big chain grocery store had removed their mask signs, though many still wore their masks, unsure of what they should do after more than a year of the pandemic.

When you are in the middle of a crisis, it isn’t easy to imagine that, at some point, the situation will end. The pessimists tend to win the days during a crisis, suggesting that there will be a “new normal” and that things will never return to the way they were. Yet, winter ends, and spring returns, a pattern that has repeated itself forever. The pessimist serves to remind us of what’s at stake, what we value, and the things that matter most to us.

For centuries, human beings have endured the worst that nature has dished out, as well as finding our way through the wars, the self-inflicted recessions, and the crisis that we create for ourselves. Our current crisis is another chapter that is now reaching its end. In the coming weeks, we are going to start the long march back to “normal,” not a “new normal.”

Meeting Your Clients Where They Live

For hundreds of years, salespeople have visited their clients and customers where they live. We’ve gone to them, and occasionally, they’ve come to see us. Your presence is an investment in your relationship with your clients. It proves that you believe your clients are worth the effort, that learning about their business is vital to taking care of them, and that it is necessary to meet the people you will be helping with better results.

Relationships require investments of time and energy, and when you have to travel, money. As awful as it was, the pandemic was impotent when it comes to changing the nature of our relationships. If it did anything, it increased our desire to spend time with each other. It is always a bad idea to reject or refuse to make investments in important relationships of any kind, even though some will surely try.

Last Mover Disadvantage

At the height of the pandemic, no less than four senior sales leaders shared with me that they were pulling their field sales reps out of the field forever. They found that their field reps effectively used video conferencing and phone calls to sell their solutions. Two of the four suggested that their teams will all be inside sales reps, with senior and junior roles.

The two others shared with me that they would start figuring out what to do with their travel budget now that their clients are used to working with them over video.

All four of these leaders will change their minds in the future, even if they have to learn what Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, learned by asking their lost clients why they left. The single answer was that his sales force didn’t go to see them, and their competitors showed up–even in a pandemic.

No one will ever praise a senior sales leader for saving the travel budget, let alone do so when they missed their goals. For every company that decides not to travel, some competitors will. One way to lose deals is to refuse to do something that your competitors will do. Some will have to suffer several losses before they change their mind about how they will engage with their clients.

You Might Be Wearing a Mask

The “mask” thing has been a source of controversy from the very start of the pandemic. My personal opinion has been that if other people are afraid of getting the virus, the polite thing is to help them feel safe. This is especially true around vulnerable populations.

Some companies are going to extend the pandemic measures to protect their employees and their customers. The most conservative and cautious companies may still require a mask, a temperature test and ask you to use some alcohol-based hand sanitizer before entering their building. Having followed these protocols for more than a year, it’s worth following them now if it allows you to see your clients and your prospective clients.

Good News Largely Goes Unreported

For more than a year, ninety percent of all news reported in the United States around the Coronavirus has been negative. In Europe, the information has been fifty percent negative and fifty percent positive. Recently, you may have noticed a shift from the virus to vaccines as the primary topic of news stories.

The good news is that things will return to normal, as they are wont to do. You will go back to selling in a better way for your clients, better for you, and better for your results–and your client’s results. You are going to take your clients out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some virtual selling will still be used, and your clients will now expect it for short conversations.

Post Pandemic Selling

Your post-pandemic selling is going to look a lot like your pre-pandemic selling. The pandemic was an anomaly and not the coming of a new normal. The world is still being pulled in two, with one center of gravity pulling everything transactional into value delivered over the internet and the opposite center of gravity requiring ever-greater value creation. One model removes negative friction; the other creates positive friction.

Those who believe that “all friction” should be removed will suffer from that belief.

Do Good Work:

  • Start to make investments in your relationships as soon as possible.
  • Look backward in time to understand the things that don’t tend to change to determine how to move forward.
  • Recognize the fact that your new normal is going to look a lot like your old normal.

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