Like it or not, the global pandemic we have experienced over the last many months has transformed the nature of B2B business, and the after-effects for businesses and salespeople are not going away any time soon! Much like when the twin towers came crashing down on that fateful September morning in New York City, our sense of what ‘normal‘ is has likely changed forever.
If you recall, the initial reaction to the 9/11 tragedy was to shut everything down. Flights were grounded, businesses and schools closed, events canceled, and daily life as we knew it came to a grinding halt. However, once we began to come to grips with our new reality, people came up out of their proverbial bunkers to reclaim some semblance of normalcy. Nonetheless, the world had changed forever and many of the new security protocols that were implemented back then remain in place today.
The pandemic has had a similar effect on businesses and sales organizations. Having endured the shock of the initial shutdown phase, businesses are subsequently reopening and innovators are actively looking for ways to adjust, adapt, and modify their approaches to what many are calling “the new normal.”
I have no doubt we will overcome the Coronavirus, with therapeutics to treat the disease, and a vaccine to eradicate it altogether. But from a sales perspective, many of the traditional approaches for creating new prospect new opportunities, competing in your respective markets, and protecting your margins has changed forever.
While the basic objectives of the sales process are still relevant, from qualifying to identifying needs, positioning your solutions, and closing, it has become clear that to succeed in this new normal, sellers must evolve and adjust in order to execute on these objectives.
Gone are the days when sellers can rely on ‘wine-ing and dining’ potential buyers in order to create new business relationships or fend off the competition. Likewise, buyers and sellers alike are realizing they can often accomplish more in a 45-minute Zoom Video conference, as opposed to all the time, effort, and expense that would otherwise need to be invested over the course of the typical sales process.
There’s a familiar adage that says, “Out of adversity, comes opportunity.” Selling in the midst of a pandemic certainly qualifies as adversity, however, selling under these circumstances is NOT how salespeople have been trained over the last 30+ years. Thus, the proverbial bandaid has been ripped off exposing a skills gap where engaging new prospect opportunities has become even more difficult. Furthermore, just because a salesperson initiates a bunch of cold calls or asks lots of questions doesn’t mean potential buyers are open to sharing information with someone they don’t yet know and trust.
Going forward, it’s unlikely that traditional sales practices will move the needle or enable sellers to thrive within this new normal. Consequently, now that businesses can no longer rely on their previous experiences for future success, infusing sales teams with engagement skills, conversational techniques, positioning strategies, and navigational tools has become critically important.
Ironically, superior navigational skills, engagement techniques, and positioning strategies have always separated top-performing salespeople from the rest of the pack. But, knowing “how” to execute more effectively throughout the sales process has unfortunately been the least talked about topic in traditional sales training. That’s why I created Question Based Selling!
—Thomas A. Freese, President, QBS Research, Inc.