Mar 30, 2020 • Podcast

Part III – How do I sell during uncertain times?

Paul shares the characteristics of tough timers and how they respond to adversity. Customers also have three additional concerns during this coronavirus crisis. 

Show Notes:

“When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent. ” ~Meng Tzu Chinese Philosopher

These tough times are readying us for something far greater!

Customers have three additional concerns during these uncertain times. 

“One of their primary concerns is their ability to take care of their own customers. Ask yourself this question to create more value…”

“There are some customers who are looking to invest now and better position themselves long term”

Tough timers have an unwavering belief that things will get better. “Try this exercise to strengthen your belief…”

Tough timers control their time, schedule, and attitude. Perceived control makes us healthier and happier. 

“Tough timers laugh through the struggle, not at the struggle.”

***

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Check out this episode!

Part III – How do I sell during uncertain times?

(Transcribed from podcast)

We’re going to continue the theme of the past few episodes and talk about uncertain times. In fact, this is part three of, I would say our three-part series, but I have a feeling we’re going to need to talk about uncertain times for the near future.

In spite of that, we know that there are going to be good things that happen. This will pass. I wanted to share some inspiring words today. These are some words that were especially useful to me when I was going through a tough and uncertain time:

When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent. ~ Meng Tzu, Chinese philosopher

I was going through a tough time. Some crazy things were happening. My dad sent me these words and it really gave me some perspective. As we hear those words, we need to remind ourselves that maybe what is going on right now is a way to test us, to strengthen us where we are weak, so that we can become even stronger as a result of these tough times.

In that spirit, we’re going to talk about uncertain times. We’re going to talk about our buyers’ concerns again, because there are a few more that we need to address. Then we’re going to talk about the characteristics of salespeople, top achievers that are able to manage these tough and uncertain times.

Let’s talk about our buyers’ concerns. In Value-Added Selling, empathy is extremely important. Empathy is about putting yourself in the position of another person, helping them, understanding how they define value, understanding their problems and what they’re facing. That’s why we begin each one of these episodes by focusing on what our customers are really concerned about at this point in time.

First of all, when you think about your customer, one of the things that they’re concerned about right now is their ability to take care of their own customers. You’ve got to remember that many of the things your customers need from you is to help them better take care of their own customers. Right now, during this crisis when sometimes it’s hard to get supplied materials, sometimes they’re having trouble with service levels, your customers are concerned about their ability to serve their customers better. As a salesperson during these uncertain times, think about how you can help your customers better take care of their customers. By doing that, you’re going to create a lot of personal value. That’s one tip right off the bat. Spend a few moments and go through the list of your top twenty customers and ask yourself, “How can I help these customers better take care of their customers?”

Another concern that customers have right now is employment. Unemployment could get as high as 20 percent. That’s what some of the estimates are that you read in the Wall Street Journal and other news sources. We know that millions of people have already filed for unemployment. So, right now, business leaders within your customers’ organizations are concerned about layoffs, they’re concerned about their employees, about the welfare of the people that mean the most to their organization. We need to be sensitive to that. We need to be aware of that as we’re communicating with our customers.

One recommendation I would make is to get your company’s high-level decision makers in touch with your customers’ high-level decision makers. I’m sure many of you are doing that already. Let’s say you’re working for a mid-size organization, and you could have the owner of your company or some senior-level people talk to your customers via Skype, Zoom, webinar. Make sure you’re getting them together. High-level decision makers think alike, so the higher-level people at your organization are thinking like your customers are thinking. Good things can happen when you get those people together at this point.

Another thing that some of your customers are going to be concerned about are missed opportunities. I know many of the subscribers to this podcast are selling capital equipment, machine tools. They’re selling half-a-million or million-dollar pieces of equipment. During these uncertain times, these high-level decision makers realize that this is an opportune moment to invest in their business; to get prepared to come out of this even stronger than before. There are a certain percentage of customers out there that are going to look to take advantage of this buying opportunity in the market. They’re going to view this as an opportunity to gain a leg up on the competition. Because, if all of their competitors are hitting pause and they press on, they’re going to be better positioned to come out of this uncertain time than any of their competitors. Keep in mind that there are some customers out there looking for those opportunities.

We’re going to switch gears. We talked about buyers’ concerns. Again, many are concerned about taking care of their own customers. They’re concerned about layoffs and unemployment. They’re also concerned about missing opportunities. Let’s talk about some of the characteristics that, as a salesperson, you can embrace that are going to help you manage these tough times and also address some of your customers concerns.

The first thing we’ve got to remember about tough timers (tough timers are those people that are able to manage uncertainty and almost thrive in the face of adversity). Tough timers have an unwavering belief that they are going to be successful. This is going to pass and they’re going to be stronger and better because of it. During a crisis, many people will hit pause. They’re going to avoid making mistakes, so they try to tighten their grip on the status quo. They’re going to stick with what they know; they’re going to stick with the techniques that they’re familiar with because they are too afraid to take a risk and take a chance. During these uncertain times, tough timers have a belief in themselves. They believe in switching up—taking a few chances—because they know, by doing that, by stepping outside of their comfort zone, they’re going to grow and become a little bit better.

One thing I would like you to do. Often, in uncertain times, we tell people “Look forward. Look past the tough time.” I’m going to ask you to do something different. Instead, I want you to look back at a tough time in your life. Either personally, something that you made it through, or professionally a defining moment. Maybe you were let go. Maybe you experienced a very public failure. I want you to think of the tough times that you’ve been through and I want to ask you this question, how did you make it through? What were the things that you did? What are the small actions that you took to help you progress forward? Think of those previous setbacks and how you became stronger as you went through them. By reflecting on some of these tough times, you’re going to do a couple of things. Maybe you’ll remember a few tips that helped you cope with the uncertainty that you were experiencing. But, you’re also going to remind yourself, “Hey! I’ve been through tough times before. I’m going to make it through again and I’m probably going to be a little bit stronger as a result of it.” Again, the first characteristic of tough timers—they have an unwavering belief that they’re going to make it through this and are going to be a little bit stronger because of it.

Let’s talk about control. Perceived control is critical. During these uncertain times, there are things we can control and things we can’t control. On our previous podcast, I asked you to make a list of the things that you can control. I want to build on that list just a little bit. We can control our time. No one has any more control over our time than we do. Many of you are going to have more time than you’ve had before, so, during this time of uncertainty, make sure that you’re building a schedule. That’s going to give you a perceived sense of control. By controlling your schedule, it’s going to make you aware of other things that you control. You control your attitude. Nobody has any more control over your attitude than you do. Every single day you can choose whether you are going to accept this new reality and find a way to press on, or whether you’re going to sit around and complain about it and do nothing. Instead, embrace this time to gain a stronger sense of control over your life. It’s only going to make you stronger as we move forward. You can control whether you’re going for excellence, or whether you’re just trying to go through this.

I’ll give you an example. The other day, I was listening to a great podcast: Jon Gordon’s podcast on positivity. I highly recommend it. He was interviewing Kurt Warner, the famous quarterback who helped bring the old St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl victory. Kurt Warner was talking about the low points in his life, when he was stocking grocery shelves at a store in Iowa. One of the things he talked about was his acceptance of his new reality. He said, “You know, I did have control though. At one point I remember stocking shelves in my aisle. I was assigned to this one aisle.” He continued, “I wanted to make sure that my aisle looked the very best. I wanted to make sure that this was my best work.” He said nobody might have ever noticed that he put in the extra effort, but he noticed. He started to establish a habit of excellence in even the smallest things. He said, “I had control over that.”

We need that during these uncertain times. We need that sense of control. And focusing on those little things like how you spend your time, your attitude, that will help you gain a perceived sense of control.

The final characteristic we’re going to talk about today is humor. During these uncertain times, it’s okay to laugh. We’re not laughing at the coronavirus; we’re not laughing at the misery of people. No, that’s not what this is about. I’ll be the first to tell you, this is not a virus or situation that we want to laugh about. It’s not funny that people are suffering and dying. I’m not saying let’s laugh at the struggle. No. Let’s laugh through the struggle. Let’s use humor to help us get by.

I’ll give you an example of this. I was talking to a group of sales leaders who are facing tough times in their industry. I said to them right at the beginning of the call, “Look guys. I know your sales team. I worked with you on multiple occasions, and I’m here to tell you…I don’t think this new stay-at-home mandate is going to affect their productivity all that much. The reason why is simple. Half of your sales team doesn’t work anyway!” And after a few moments of pause, they erupted in laughter.

Laughter is the best medicine. It’s one of those things that can help us manage through some of these uncertain times. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spoken to several business leaders and there is one thing I noticed on each one of the calls…No matter how serious or dire the call was going, at some point, we all had a laugh. Whether it was a quick joke, or just laughing in the situation, we were able to laugh just a little bit. Laughter releases endorphins. It makes us feel better. It makes us happier. So, don’t hold back if you have those moments. Again, laughter can help us make it through some of these uncertain and tough times.

I’m reminded of a good friend of mine. A few years ago, his house was struck by lightning. Thankfully, no one was in the house, but when it was struck, the house caught on fire and eventually burned down to the ground. A lot of the damage that happens during those fires is actually from water when they’re trying to extinguish the flames. They were able to actually salvage about 10 percent of what was lost in that fire—some of the pictures, some of the family memories—the things you just can’t replace with money. A few months after, they were getting all of this stuff restored and trying to rebuild their lives. On the news, they noticed that a salvage and restoration facility burned to the ground. It happened to be the same facility that was holding all of their remaining family memories.

Think about that. How could that happen twice. I remember asking, “What did you do?”

“I just laughed.”

Sometimes, when we face these uncertain times, people feel the need to be upset, to commiserate and feel like they need to bring themselves down. Lift yourself up. Use laughter as a way to do that.

Just a quick summary of today’s podcast. We talked about some of the buyers’ concerns. Many of them are looking for ways to better serve their customers, or just try to serve their customers, so ask yourself this question, “How can I help my customers better serve their customers?” The high-level decision makers you’re interacting with are concerned about layoffs. One thing I would l recommend, get your high-level decision makers in touch with your customers’ high-level decision makers. Keep in mind that there are some customers out there looking at this time as an opportune time to make investments, to better position themselves in the marketplace. When we talk about the characteristics of tough timers and those top-achieving salespeople, they maintain that unwavering belief that they’re going to succeed; that this is going to be an event that is going to make them stronger. They also build in a perceived sense of control, and they’re not afraid to laugh either.

Make it a big day!

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