In many ways, running is similar to selling. Both involve preparation, patience, diligence, sweat and a lot of “failure”.
Great coaches tell their athletes to prepare for next year’s race, or the year after. Building the foundation for success takes a long time. You shouldn’t expect to do it in one season or in one quarter. The work you’re doing now will pay off down the road, way down the road.
Yet we expect our sellers to come up to speed quickly….and the quicker the better. We measure “Time to First Revenue” as a key indicator of new hire performance and of onboarding program effectiveness. What we’re probably measuring, instead, is the persistence of a pre-existing deal in the territory, or perhaps a sales manager who’s closing deals for her new reps.
And we expect immediate results each time the organization pivots, whether it’s due to a new product introduction, or a strategic shift in sales priorities, or the sudden WFH status of much of the sales organization and customer base. It’s like telling a mile specialist that next week he’s competing in the marathon, or a marathoner that she’ll be competing in an Iron Man triathlon with its multiple disciplines.
Sometimes those pivots are unavoidable. Reps are now selling 100% by phone or video conference, with no expectation that they will be able to resume face to face selling any time soon.
But here’s the thing. Selling remotely is different than selling face to face. And buying is different today. Buyers are behaving differently. Sure, many still have projects to complete (or to start). They still have project plans and milestones and MBOs. But their reality is quite different today than it was in January of this year.
Their organizational challenges have shifted, perhaps dramatically. Some of their customers, partners and consumers are out of business or out of work. Their personal challenges have increased — remote working and management, loss of traditional support systems and day care, drop in household income, sick family members, the anxiety of the unknown.
So lets take a step back, take this opportunity to pose the question — “what serves our customers, our organization now?” How can we use this time to (re)build a strong foundation — relationships with our customers and prospects, deeper set of selling and relationship management skills.
With no races on the calendar, professional coaches point out that this year presents a unique opportunity for athletes, normally in a pre-race training cycle, to focus on building a strong fitness foundation, one that will serve the athlete for years to come, to improve their results several years out.
Similarly, the enforced WFH and dramatically different selling environment presents a unique opportunity for sales people to focus on relationship development, account research and preparation, and, importantly, their emotional intelligence.
How will you ensure that your sales teams both build a foundation for future success and keep the lights on this quarter?