Apr 20, 2020 • Podcast

How do I manage and lead in uncertain times?

Paul shares eight ideas to help you effectively manage and lead your team through these tough times.

Show Notes: 

If salespeople report to you, your number one job is to coach them, lead them, and manage them. “Now is the time to further develop your team. Role-play with them, work on their phone skills, and lift them up.”

Pressure rolls downhill. “Don’t apply pressure to your team to hit their numbers! The pressure you apply to your team is the same pressure they apply to your customers.”

Over the next few weeks, your team needs support not pressure.

Find a reason to celebrate. Any success—big or small—is a reason to celebrate!

Check out this article. Gallup has studied leadership through a crisis for a long time. During this crisis, your team needs these four things…

Click here for Gallup article!

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Check out this episode!

How do I manage and lead in uncertain times?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s show, we’re going to switch gears. Usually, we are answering the most pressing questions that are facing today’s sales professional. Right now, that means we’ve been focusing on selling in uncertain times: how do we do it, tips, advice. We’re going to offer some tips and advice for sales managers.

Recently, I conducted a webinar for a sales organization. It was all about selling in tough times. Afterwards, the management team and I got together. They asked about what they should be doing during these tough and uncertain times. So, that’s what we’re going to focus on in today’s [podcast].

Just a quick shout-out to our sponsor, The Creative Impostor Studios. They are a boutique production company offering consulting, launch and editing services, to help you craft a quality podcast. I’ve worked with Andrea and her team for a number of months, and they do an absolutely wonderful job. I remember when we first started the podcast, I was crystal clear on the mission, and that was, “We want to help salespeople and answer the most pressing questions they have.” Andrea helped clarify with me, consult with me, and she also helped put together a platform. If you’re interested in starting a podcast, or if you’re interested in connecting with your customers even at a deeper level, give her a call. In fact, Andrea has put together a complimentary consultation for listeners of The Q and A Sales Podcast. We’re going to have a link to that on the episode page. It’s TheCreativeImpostor.com/QandA. So, check that out. We’re going to have that available to you.

Let’s get into that question: How do we manage and lead during these tough times? I’ve been reading a ton about this on leading and managing. One of the best articles I’ve seen on this actually was on Gallup’s website. I’m going to put a link to the actual article on the [podcast] page so you can have it available.

This article is all about leading during this crisis. Here are the takeaways I gathered. Gallup actually surveyed employees and found out that there are four things that employees need right now. The first is trust. That means as a sales leader—a sales manager—you have to be open and honest with what’s going on. It’s important that you’re transparent with your salespeople, and you’re honest with them. Don’t be afraid to deliver the bad news; don’t be afraid to deliver good news as well. The key is, you need to continue to build that foundation of trust and honesty. That comes from what you say, but also, from what you do. When you make your salespeople a promise and you say, “I’m going to touch base with you on a weekly basis just to see how everything’s going,” or maybe you do it daily, whatever it might be, follow up on the promises that you make. That’s going to help build trust.

Also, compassion is going to be important. It’s important as a sales leader, as a manager, right now, that you understand what your salespeople are going through, and what their minds are running wild with. All the scenarios that they’re playing out. It’s important that we show a little compassion. So, I would encourage sales leaders to focus more on just guiding their people during this tough time, and not really grading them on their performance, and reminding them of their number, and the targets that they have to hit. Let’s be real. With what’s going on, the numbers that you had for them—those targets—are likely going to change. It’s important that we show a little compassion.

Stability is also going to be important. People want stability during uncertainty. If you can maintain that level of stability where you’re reaching out to your team, where you set a schedule with them. If you lead by example, maybe share your schedule with them, so they can see the stability in what’s going on. If you have good news that shows the stability of your company right now, it’s important to share that information with your team. They want to feel safe, and feel as though their future is certain with your company. Show them signs of stability. Find a way. Look through your company. Look for examples of your business continuity plan you can share with them.

The final thing here… People want hope. It’s interesting that hope was on this list of the top four things because it’s the same thing that your customers want as well. It’s important that you also share messages of hope with your sales team. If you’ll notice from previous podcasts, I’m really big on being a merchant of hope. It’s important that salespeople go out there and are that positive beacon of light in the midst of all this uncertainly. You, as the leader, need to be hopeful as well. You need to share that hope with your team. You need to share good news with them. You need to remind them. Give them some sense of motivation and give them something to be hopeful for.

I’m going to post this article on the website. That way you guys can take a look at it. Again, very insightful. I would definitely check it out.

Let’s get into a couple more tips on how we can lead and manage in these uncertain times.

One thing you’ve got to remember, if salespeople report to you, your number-one job is to coach them. Develop them and help them be more effective. Think about the great coaches you’ve had in your career and what they’ve done for you. Go back and think about those things. In fact, go back to the previous recession and think about all the things that your leaders did for you that made you feel like a priority, that made you feel safe and hopeful. Think about those things and how you can incorporate that into your style.

What you’ve got to remember… great coaches are still talking to the players. I know the NHL is suspended, the NBA, Major League baseball, all that. I guarantee you that those coaches are still in constant communication with their players. It’s important that we continuously communicate with our people during these tough times. Whether it’s a Zoom call, a weekly review—whatever it might be. You need to make sure that you’re continuing that communication level.

Also, development is important right now. I just spoke to a sales leader who mentioned, “During these tough times, we know that our people are at home more.” They know that they’re going to have more time on their hands, so they’re coordinating product training, and sales training. Their idea was that with all this extra time, “We want to use this to help develop our team.”

Another thing that I would encourage you to do is to role-play. Role-play with your team. Your team is having to use new technology whether it’s doing a Zoom call, a webinar, a virtual call, you name it. They’re using new technology, or they’re using old technology they’re not as familiar with—a lot of phone time. It might sound crazy, but there are some salespeople who are just not comfortable using the phone (or not as comfortable with it as they should be). During these times, practice with them; role-play with them. By doing that, you’re going to develop them. You’re going to give them a sense of accomplishment as well, and that’s also important during these tough times.

Continuing with that point—that you still need to communicate with your people… You can still go on joint calls with them. If you want to have a joint call with some of your top customers and your salesperson, make sure that you offer that to your people. They might take you up on it. It also gives you a stronger sense of what’s going on out there. It will give you the unfiltered version from the customer’s mouth.

Again, as you’re interacting with your team, they need guidance right now. They don’t need someone to grade them, so I wouldn’t throw the numbers in their face and apply too much pressure to go out and hit that old number. The reason why is simple. Think about the added stress that is going to place on them. And not only that, the added stress by focusing on the number is going to force your salesperson to go out there and sell to the customer based on that number versus on their customer’s actual needs. The more pressure you put on them, the more pressure they’re going to put on your customers. That’s not how you want to sell right now.

Next thing… think motivation. Every time you have your team on a call, you have one mission, and that is to lift them up. Begin the call with a motivational note, a motivational story that you’ve heard. Something that has inspired you. If you’re not comfortable doing that, get comfortable doing it. Because, during these tough times, you need to lift your team up. Begin your calls with something motivational. In the middle of your calls, have something motivational. And, when you end that call, make sure you lift them up.

Going hand-in-hand with that—celebrate any success you can. Even in the midst of all of this uncertainty—of all these tough times, and the shut down, and the pause that is happening—there are still small successes, little things that are happening, and we need celebrate that. If one of your salespeople was able to save an order, that’s a success. Celebrate it. If one of your salespeople was able to schedule a phone meeting with a decision maker, that is a success. If one of your salespeople has a good idea on how to connect with a customer, that is a success. Whatever it is, you’ve got to celebrate that. It helps motivate your team.

And the last thing… Focus your energy and effort on helping your team achieve small wins. Small wins are concrete outcomes of moderate importance. By itself, one small win does not mean all that much. But, when you combine a bunch of small wins, it’s going to lead to a greater success. I’m sure many of your people were on the cusp of closing some great deals right before this coronavirus stuff happened. Let’s think about the success that was almost going to happen, and ask yourself, “What are some small wins that I can help them focus on to manage through these tough times—to keep that deal alive through these tough times?” It could just be staying present with that opportunity, occasionally reaching out to them, being a merchant of hope for that customer. Help your salespeople identify the small wins that will keep them moving forward, even in the midst of all this uncertainty. Focus on achieving small wins. Help your team and celebrate those successes.

Also remember that great coaches are still talking to their players. It’s important that we meet with them. We can go on joint calls with them; we can practice their phone skills; we can role-play with them. The key is, we have to be there for the team. And, remember, according to that Gallup poll, the four things that your people want during these tough times: Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope. Make sure that you give them all of those things.

Make it a big day!

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