I don’t need to tell you, right now, that we are undergoing a huge upheaval in our society. I obviously don’t know where you live or what measures are being taken during the COVID-19 crisis, but I can tell you that in Kansas City, where I live, the steps have been positively draconian. Bars and restaurants closed, and public gatherings of more than 10 people banned.
As I scroll through my LinkedIn feed, I see basically three types of posts. The first is outright panic. No need to elaborate; you see enough of that already. The second are posts on good health practices and common-sense adaptations during the COVID-19 issue. It’s the third type of post that bothers me – and, to be perfectly honest, it’s a type of post I considered and then rejected.
I see a lot of opportunistic posts attempting to capitalize on the panic by offering ‘quick fix’ services. And – again, full disclosure – I thought, very briefly, about offering some sort of “teleselling during COVID-19” online program. And then I rejected it for several reasons.
First, I find that kind of opportunism crass. It’s only a slightly more palatable version of the guy who filled a U-Haul with hand sanitizer and attempted to gouge the pricing.
Second, and more importantly, it goes against my philosophy that selling isn’t a quick transaction; it’s a long game. And the long game for this thing is – back to normal. The epidemic has already “nosed over” in China and South Korea, its point of origin. In 60 days, COVID-19 will be over. Perhaps 30. And when it does, the money spent on those quick panic fixes will be wasted. Honestly, even if I offered such a program, it would be at least two weeks before I could put it on. Figure, best case scenario, someone books me 3-4 weeks from now. By the time they implemented, COVID-19 would be essentially nosed over, and we are getting back to normal.
Don’t get me wrong; I love working with my clients. I’m coaching two this week. We’ll spend some time, of course, on the short-term effects, but as usual, we will be working the long game, because that’s where the big wins happen. But I won’t be offering any “Virus specials,” or the like (admittedly, if this is still going on in 60 days, I might change my tune, but I don’t believe it will based on the numbers and evidence that I have seen).
So, I’m not an epidemiologist, a doctor, or a health professional. Nor am I an emergency services worker. I’m a participant in the economy, in the area that drives the economy. So, the best I can do is to keep doing my best. And in that vein, I’ll dispense some sales advice.
Do your jobs as best you can. On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, I made a sale – because I was the only salesman from my industry that showed up to the customer. I didn’t do it to be crass; I offered the customer the chance to reschedule if he found the sales call offensive. But, I explained, since I’m not a law enforcement or emergency worker, the best thing I could do was to help keep the economy moving – and so there I was. He agreed, and we signed the deal. It wasn’t a huge one, but it was a very important one to me.
If you can continue to make sales calls (if your customer is fine with it and you are fine with it), do so. If you’d rather make them by Skype, do that. And if you can’t make a sale, focus on offering your customer value DURING THE CALL. Find a way to help make your customer’s life easier. Find a way to make your machines last just a little longer, work a little better, etc., and pass it along. Your customer will remember it.
If you’re making your sales calls live and in person, observe all the normal good hygiene procedures. Wash your hands well (do I really have to say that?). Carry sanitizer in your briefcase if you can, and offer it to your customer. Don’t shake hands if you’d rather not. A speaker once gave me this advice to avoid getting sick when I speak: “Shake everyone’s hand that wants to after you speak. Then, treat that hand as if it is radioactive until you can get to the bathroom and wash it thoroughly.” I’ve observed that advice for ten years and it works.
But DO YOUR JOB. This might seem overly dramatic, but as salespeople, we are economic soldiers right now, and anything we can do to help keep the economy moving, and people working, is a service to our country.
If you can (I can’t because of the aforementioned rules), be brave and eat lunch out. Tip the servers – in fact, over-tip them. They’re doing their jobs and struggling, too. If not, maybe get take-out and tip whoever brings your food to the counter.
We will all get through this. We all just need to do our part – and as salespeople, our job is to do business. There’s nothing wrong with that. Certainly, if you have loved ones that are especially at-risk, take all the extra precautions.
And no, I won’t be offering any specific services to capitalize on the panic (I’m not hoarding toilet paper, either – what the heck is up with that?). Instead, I’ll be doing MY job. If conventions are held that want me to speak, I’ll speak (with the aforementioned radioactive hand). I’ll train salespeople – not to sell in the short term, but to build quality relationships and produce long term growth. I’ll help companies hire salespeople. I’ll perform the sales audits for my clients. And I’ll continue to coach business owners and sales managers for long term profitability and growth. And, if we all do it well, we can weather this storm and continue to prosper far more than any “MAKE SALES DURING COVID-19” seminar could ever do.
We’ve got this.