So what’s the problem?
Well, first and foremost, these big hitters can’t go to their client’s offices because no-one is there…. and many businesses have indicated that no-one is returning to the workplace anytime soon. There’s a vertical drop in high quality conversations with a common theme when of ‘when things get back to normal, I’ll be back in their offices’ from the sales teams, combined with a ‘we’ll reconnect once things have calmed down’ from the clients, and a general ‘we’re keeping in touch via email’, and ‘it’s all fine’ theme to the overall perspective on the situation.
If this was your sales organisation, would you worry?
My hand goes straight up and I am particularly worried about how we can support sales teams such as the one I’ve just described to be able to build their relationships if they are not physically and regularly present with their clients. How can we find out what’s going on through planned and ad hoc interactions? How do we gauge the mood, be spontaneous, smooth ruffled feathers, make connections, ask great questions, gather powerful client intelligence and identify possible future opportunities……….. if we’re not there in person?
Just talk to the client I hear you say.
The client is busy, distracted and challenged on a number of fronts, so the first stumbling block is getting their attention, securing their willingness to commit time to a conversation and then showing up as planned. After that we just need to ensure it is useful for them (not just us), and create momentum to keep talking.
You see? Not easy. And by the way, this challenge is one for any and all of us who need to influence others in order to get things done.
This is without question a rich, expansive topic, so for starters, let’s ensure that:
- We recognise that relationships don’t get built without planning. This means identifying SMART goals to inch forward progress in the quality of the connections we have. The quality of our relationships with others is represented by their willingness to make time to talk us, sharing useful information, and being willing to connect us with others inside or outside of their organisation.
- We do our homework to identify how a conversation might appeal to them. Brainstorm ideas with colleagues, talk to people in their team who are easier to get on the phone, think about sources of value for our audience that we could offer (and no I don’t mean bribe them!)
- We sell the value of having a meeting…for them – not us, and avoid the trap which sales professionals all to easily fall into of talking about their propositions. It’s too soon!
- We plan our questions. All too often we don’t; and then waste time flailing about. What we want to know can be discovered; what we need to do is plan to ask about it.
- Deliver a valuable conversation to build trust and credibility in the eyes of our audience.