Imagine if you and your friends watched a movie recapping the year 2020 and didn’t know it was a true story. At least one person would probably say, "Wow, wouldn't that be something if that really happened?"
Well, 2020 is happening and the pandemic, recession and cantankerous election season are creating a lot of stress for people, including salespeople. The world quickly turned upside down for many of them when this all began in mid-March, when the pandemic was declared.
Field salespeople that had invested years in honing their face-to-face prospecting and selling skills were stuck at the bottom of the learning curve, staring into a video camera, wishing for the good old days to quickly return.
Inside salespeople that started the year with full sales pipelines started hearing excuses such as, “Budgets are on hold. We are laying off people, so this is not the right time to make a change.” Soon their sales pipelines resembled someone on a Keto diet.
A salesperson under stress or not managing it experiences nasty, unproductive side effects. Under stress, the body reacts by releasing cortisol, a hormone that raises blood pressure and creates anxiety, which affects sleep, mindset and productivity. You become a real grump.
Has anyone made their best and most creative decisions when they are tired? Depressed? Overwhelmed?
Of course not.
It’s time to implement “stress-less” selling techniques. Your sales organization can have the greatest sales playbook in the world and sell products that prospects actually need. But if you or your team are too overwhelmed to deal with this thing called life, it means working with half the usual energy and intellect needed to win business.
Implement these “stress-less” selling tools. (And pick-up my book Emotional Intelligence For Sales Leadership. Three chapters devoted to these topics.)
1. Be aware of and manage negative thinking. Stress and anxiety start with negative thoughts, which create an emotional response and anxiety, such as, “I’m not going to achieve quota, no one is buying, everyone is waiting out the pandemic.”
Thoughts affect the actions a salesperson will take or not take, resulting in either consistent sales activity or inconsistent sales activity.
Remember, thinking negatively is a choice. So make a different choice, one to think positively. “Someone, somewhere needs my services. I am really good at finding qualified prospects and customers. My current clients love to give me introductions.”
Change the thought and you will change emotions and actions.
2. Accept the reality. I see many salespeople that are resisting the current environment, wishing things would change. All their energy and thoughts are invested in wanting things to return to normal. As a result, they give a half-hearted effort to learn the new skills required in virtual selling.
- They kind of work at getting good at using video as a medium for communication. But most of their time is invested in wishing the days of sitting in a customer’s office would return.
- They kind of work at becoming more effective in refining and raising their prospecting skills. But their thoughts are focused on the good old days networking, and attending conferences and trade shows, would come back.
Salespeople often confuse acceptance with giving up or doing nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the fact is that if you spend all your time and energy resisting, you have no time or energy to invest on improving your current reality.
3. Get focused. Truth alert: Many salespeople don’t have as much time to prospect, sell and serve their clients. What?? Yes, they have creatures in their house called small children, who are engaged in home schooling. Mom and Dad are now wearing another hat besides sales:
How can sales professionals possibly find the time for both roles?
Here’s the good news. Research shows that most people can execute highly thoughtful work for about four to six hours. Then the brain starts suffering from fatigue and decision depletion. Get really focused and accomplish more in less time. Apply proven principles of productivity.
- Calendar-block your entire week. Build in white space for unexpected interruptions or requests that you know will happen.
- Stop flitting around from email to working on a proposal, then back to email, then staring outside and wondering who’s going to get the snow and ice off of your car. Research shows that it takes human beings as long as 20 minutes to get back on track once they’ve been derailed from a task.
- Eliminate distractions. Your office shouldn’t look and sound like a command and control center with electronics dinging, emails popping up or smartphones blowing up with texts. If it does, then it increases the amount of time needed to do your work.
Get focused and you can get your work done.
And if your kids start driving you crazy, do the unthinkable. Assign them chores to do until your focus time is done. Yes, mean parents actually did this many years ago and none of their children ended up on therapy -- at least not years of it.
I am not Pollyanna, but I am convinced that we can handle this unusual time in history with less stress. Manage your thoughts, accept the reality and get focused. Give the movie a happy ending.