Dear Sales Heroes,
I’ve been struggling with what to write. How could I possibly provide guidance or inspiration at this time? The second wave of Covid-19 is about to hit us hard. I feel like I’m a surfer watching the big wave coming from a distance. My anxiety is mounting. Everything is tensing up. Will what’s coming swallow me up and drown me?
What can we do?
The surfer isn’t a perfect analogy, but I do know that fighting or worrying about what we can’t control seems futile and not particularly helpful. We shouldn’t let fear get in the way or divert us from the important work that needs to be done and the people who need our help.
Make a counterintuitive shift
Many of us have been feeling the pressure to sell or close quickly by convincing our prospect to move or taking more control of the decision-making process. But we need to be doing the opposite.
- Slow down and spend more time with fewer people.
- Bring your calm, heroic and empathic self to every prospect interaction.
- Focus on your next step with that person that can generate an advance.
- Take one step at a time.
Check your intentions
Slowing down can help us reconnect with our real intentions with your prospect. Are you there to “sell” or to help? What does a successful outcome look like for your prospect, whether or not they decide to move?
Keep in mind that your prospects can sense your true intentions by hearing you speak or seeing your face. Studies show that people read intention, not from what you say but the tone of your voice and your facial expressions. Struggling to say the “right thing” is not as important as being honest, authentic and open with your words, your eyes and your tone. If you connect with your sales intention, I promise you won’t struggle so much with trying to say the right thing. Use empathy in every interaction starting by asking to hear your prospect’s story before you tell them yours or your community’s.
Example: “This is really hard for all of us right now. Indeed, for the whole world. I don’t really know what to say to you. I can’t imagine what you must be going through.” Take a pause… “What is it like for you right now?”
Calm your fears
Even though it is natural to feel fear or anxiety, especially during a pandemic, it’s not very helpful. When you feel anxious and pressured, your brain goes into panic mode. This part of your brain, the lizard brain, will cause you to get defensive. You’ll stop listening and start talking at your prospect, not with them. You’ll hurry up to tell them all about Covid protocols in your community before they even ask, and this may come off as defensive.
You might start talking a lot and not really ask good questions (your amygdala is getting fired up!). Most critically, you may be transmitting a message of wanting to get through the conversation as quickly as possible once they resist your pitch, which they likely will. You move on to the next lead because panic causes you to speed up and flail aorund looking for safe ground (a ready prospect, new leads, etc.) instead of working with those leads who say they “aren’t ready”.
Get on the same page with your “boss”
If you’re feeling anxiety over your team’s sales, chances are your boss is really feeling it too. They will naturally start questioning and examining your numbers. It is understandable, but again, not particularly helpful to your sales success. You may start using your lead base to “satisfy the numbers”. When this happens, your effectiveness will get worse. That’s because of the impact of speeding up will have on your prospects, on your motivation and mindset. In our conversations with our boss (or anyone else on our team), we need to focus on the what the actual source of move-ins are: the deep knowledge your existing prospects have, their story, their motivations and fears regarding moving. That is all you need to look for in your interactions with them.
Hack your panic brain before you call
Take 30 seconds before you pick up the phone. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Connect with the belief that you have the power to make a big difference in their life.
Ask yourself, “How am I different than the other salesperson at the competition in the way I approach the prospect? How can I learn something about this person’s life? How can I make them feel like I am really present and caring about them?” This will immediately get you out of your panic brain, and tap into your real intention for the call.
Picture the prospect and their families. They are not unlike your own. They are full of feelings of fear, but they’re also resilient and adapting. Connect with the belief that you have the power to make a big difference in their life. And importantly, how can you make yourself vulnerable and ask them for their help or guidance? You can start by asking the prospect how they/their parents dealt with situations like this before. How did they get through it? What had they learned?
Prospects are not looking to connect with someone who just want to sell them. They’re looking for someone who wants to help them understand and clarify what they want in the future, to examine just what a difference a change could make. This will happen when you ask questions that encourage them to say, out loud, what their motivation and fears are.
Example: Why wouldn’t you just stay home? What worries you the most about making a change now?
Maintain space for people’s emotions
I’m going to mention empathy again. It’s really simple; seek to understand, and when they start telling you about their fears and vulnerabilities, don’t try to fix it! This is what I mean by “maintain space”. Listen, and then let them know that you heard them, and you hold that space for them to talk.
What are sales leaders saying?
Here’s an excellent post by Jacqueline Omstead, Director Operations & Sales for PARC Retirement Living. It highlights what we can do to maintain momentum and continue to make better connections during the pandemic.
I also want to mention a wonderful email we got from Greg Joyce, CEO of Legacy Retirement Communities. His insight and focus on bolstering the sales team and focusing working their leads is remarkable:
“Thus far, we’ve found that Covid seems to be a new layer in the ‘I’m not ready yet’ armor, but that when you dig deeper and get more curious about their day-to-day reality, Covid is almost as much as a motivator to make a change as it is an excuse to wait.
“Many who were isolated and lonely pre-Covid are ever more so now. Folks that were lively, independent and socially engaged are suddenly feeling isolated. While our communities certainly look different than they did pre-Covid, they are still lively and social.
“I was especially surprised to see the impact it has had on our sales team, a team that has a lot of history, camaraderie, confidence and success.
“To an extent it’s created a bit of an ‘identity crisis’. It’s blurred their vision a bit and robbed them of confidence and ‘mojo’. We’re working hard with the team to restore that.
“You don’t know how critical culture is until you’re in a critical situation. Everyone has stepped up and our team will be stronger than ever for having worked through this together.“
– Greg Joyce, CEO, Legacy Retirement Communities
In summary, focus on one prospect at a time and do so with depth, focus and empathy.
Together, we will get through this stronger than ever!
Stay healthy and, as always, heroic.