What is a Salesperson’s PPP in the time of COVID?
"Quality performance starts with positive attitude." – Jeffrey Gitomer
Ok, hands up if you've struggled with maintaining and sustaining a positive attitude consistently for the past 8 months.
My guess is that if you're in sales, even if you are normally the most buoyant and resilient type, you and your team may have had more than a few down days. Performance has suffered in a variety of ways because so much seems out of our control.
COVID-19 has exacted a toll on us all that was certainly unimaginable since with a few rare exceptions none of us had experienced a pandemic. The losses are in many cases tragic and can never truly be recovered. It is critical that we persevere and find ways to do the best we can to strive, survive and eventually thrive again.
On March 27th 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) became US law. In what was the largest stimulus bill in American history, the CARES act was an effort to provide financial relief for millions of Americans who have been economically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment since March 14. And the small businesses who employ so many of them have in more than a few cases sadly been decimated.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) / Small Business Association (SBA) loan program was explicitly created to help small businesses continue to make payroll at their staff's current pay rate. Any loans used for these specific purposes were eligible to be completely forgiven with no requirement to be repaid.
"Free" money will hopefully help many if not most of those businesses so adversely affected remain viable and sustainable for the long haul. But what about salespeople? Many in this field work on commission; their livelihoods tied to making a sale.
I'm not a big believer in pixie dust, and even less so in one-size-fits-all advice. That being said, as I started to ponder my overall philosophy that's driven me during the last 30 plus years in sales, an interesting new thought emerged. A sort of PPP for the sales effort and process. The things that still do, and always will, remain in each of our own control that help move us toward increased performance. Professionally / Pleasantly / Persistent.
Professional: Professionalism for me means having a high degree of preparation. Know your industry. Know your product. Know your competition. Know your prospective customer and the appropriate contacts. Ask questions…lots of them. Help differentiate between what you offer and what else is available in the marketplace. Have a repeatable process that you can measure. Most of all find the right "fit" between what you offer and what your customers need.
Pleasant: My mom quoted the old adage many times to me, "You get more with honey than you do with vinegar." Words still matter. How you answer and respond to emails and texts still matter. Don't be abrupt. We are all moving at an incredibly fast pace to try to handle a large amount of work, exacerbated by the speed and ease of technology. Don't go too fast. Take the time to show you care, and do so politely. And please don't start emails or voice mails with, "I just wanted to tell you about….." Don't send me an invitation to connect and call me by the wrong name. I still believe, that sales, even in the era of social selling and in-bound marketing, is still about people and relationships. Pay far less attention to trying to close the deal and much more about starting the relationship.
Persistence: Everyone we are trying to connect with and sell to have their very own reasons for buying. And the deal you are trying to create with them is likely one of about 417 other things that they have on their plates and to do lists. Simply put, if you are not top-of-mind, you are likely not on their mind at all. There is a fine line. I'm not promoting stalking. But without a steady stream of interest on your part, your prospect just may never consider you because of so many competing priorities. Persistence in one's efforts always ensures the certainty of positive outcomes.
It certainly appears that COVID is going to be with us for a while longer. We must work hard to keep our spirits up. Optimism is not optional. There are no guarantees except what we can control within ourselves; our choices, our attitudes and our effort.
Will this be easy? Probably not. But you might just find that if you adopt the philosophy of being Professionally-Pleasantly-Persistent in your sales efforts, you may be able to have better days, make better connections, and benefit from improved performance for yourself and your organization.
Brian Butler is the VP Business Development of The Allied Group and TAGmedica. He is also the author of two books: Find 'Em Get 'Em Keep 'Em and the recently released In Search Of...Customers!