Fourth-quarter has always been a huge push for sales teams to finish strong while helping clients spend the year end budget. This 4th quarter is more critical to the success of so many businesses than we’ve ever seen. It could make or break them. Focusing your team on doing what they do best will make a difference.
Selling isn’t easy in the best of times. So, what do you do when you are selling in more challenging times? Most of us remember, not without a certain amount of cringing; the impact 2008 had on sales. It was an economic disaster that required even more, fortitude and grit than usual. Those who succeeded did so because they powered through the tough times using their natural sales strengths, traits like competitive drive, ambition, and resilience. And now, we find ourselves in 2020: new challenges, new economic stressors, both big understatements. We’ve had to adjust, quickly and often, over the last several months. We’ve found new ways of doing business and felt lucky if we could even keep doing business.
While some companies only felt a blip and a few have even done better than before this global health crisis, the truth is that most of us have experienced some serious problems. The economic downturn has severely impacted sales. For a time, finding new business was next to impossible, and holding on to existing business was a significant concern. To borrow from Dickens (sort of), it was the spring of despair, and now we are looking for an autumn of hope.
Salespeople have never had to rely on their sales strengths more than they do right now. And that means you need people with natural behaviors to do well in our new reality. Sales is a constant endeavor of finding opportunities, building a pipeline, and converting leads to sales. It takes a lot of energy. The better suited your salespeople are to the job demands, the less resistance they’ll face internally. As it is, they’ll be facing a lot of resistance externally.
Let’s talk about just what those natural sales traits are.
A high level of assertiveness is critical. On an Omnia, that’s shown as a tall column 1. It’s the single most important trait in most successful salespeople. Naturally, assertive people are win driven and me-oriented; they push for what they want, especially if doing so increases their stake. That’s why salespeople are motivated by commission. They are natural risk-takers who can drive for results that earn them the rewards of a sale.
People with a low level of assertiveness have a high degree of caution, so they are always fighting past their inhibitions when nudging people, including themselves, towards a decision.
It’s harder than ever right now to get a hold of people, and the impact of COVID provides an ideal excuse for prospects not to take or return sales calls, and of course, the face-to-face meeting has been paused for a lot of us. Nonassertive personalities might dial back their efforts to avoid upsetting people, while those with natural ambition and drive are committed to getting up and doing what they’ve always done... find new business. And if that means finding new ways to get or keep business, they are prepared to do that.
Resilience plays a close second to assertiveness. Resilience is the ability to brush off rejection and keep moving forward. Sure, no one likes rejection, that’s a given, but you want salespeople who don’t take it personally. Resilient salespeople understand that rejection is an unavoidable part of sales and that for every “no” they hear, it gets them that much closer to the next “yes.” They learn from every situation, and they don’t let obstacles, objections, or rejections keep them from performing the sales tasks needed to secure a commitment. Coupled with assertiveness, resilient people take rejection as a challenge.
Individuals who lack resilience often struggle to perform the proactive tasks needed because they want to avoid rejection. This is the salesperson who hides behind pre-call planning, documentation and account research rather than putting themselves out there. They also need a lot of time to regain their confidence after they lose a sale. Natural resilience provides the backbone to assertiveness.
Sociability opens doors but isn’t necessarily a critical trait. Social sellers are great at building personal connections with prospects and creating rapport. Analytical sellers, who are socially reserved, are great at providing consultation and solving problems. Both styles are effective, and both appeal to different types of prospects. The problem arises when you have salespeople whose sociability is stronger than their assertiveness. This creates the infamous close reluctance. We call that the networker tendency when the need to be liked is stronger than their need to win. These individuals put the relationship ahead of the sale. They build an impressive list of contacts and collect friends. When they sense hesitation, they tend to back down rather than risk losing their new buddy. People whose assertiveness is stronger than their sociability put the emphasis on the sale. They value the relationship, but they don’t let it get in the way of the deal.
Now that we know what works, what do you do with the information?
Sales Actions in the Age of COVID
As a sales leader, it’s important to tap into that natural drive of your salespeople, especially since it can be hard to feel driven right now. Let’s face it; they are getting shot down more than usual. And while that can’t be an excuse, it does require some new tactics.
Weekly Sales Huddles
Begin each week with a sales huddle to connect your team and start the week with focused goals. These are an effective tool for keeping people stoked and motivated. Sharing wins creates positive energy and a little competitive spirit. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to share ideas and tactics that are working or figure out how to improve on anything that isn’t yielding results. Set weekly goals and post progress against these goals – there’s nothing like a published dashboard to drive energy, build momentum, and fuel the competitive spirit we all have in sales.
Redefine What Winning Looks Like
Assertive salespeople crave challenges; they need ways to win and keep score. If sales are in a slump, look for other ways for them to win. Set weekly challenges and celebrate the wins at the end of each week. It’s getting the most prospects to call you back. It’s securing a demo, making the most calls, filling the pipeline with qualified leads, contacting existing accounts, or other activities relevant to your business. Speaking of existing accounts...
Take Care of Your Clients
Nurturing existing business is always important, but it might look a little different for a while. Encourage your sales team to show their clients that they care about what they are going through. Look for ways your team can support their clients and help solve problems, even if it doesn’t result in a sale at that moment. Now’s a great time to also have those year-end budget discussions with your clients as they develop their strategies for 2021. Look for ways to help them streamline, simplify, and save if you can. Many of your clients may be struggling in their businesses. Doing everything you can to support them and bring forward value could help keep your company off the chopping block when costs get cut, and competitors come calling.
Decide if Your People are Still Your People
Take a hard look at your team. If someone on your team wasn’t cut out for sales before, this environment might be close to impossible for them now. Are you going to invest your time and energy into coaching them, or is it better to release them and look for replacements who are naturally aligned to selling both in good times and bad?
As you head into 2021, it’s important to be sure you have the right people in the right roles to thrive in these challenging times. Natural assertiveness drives salespeople toward new opportunities, while resilience keeps their confidence intact. It’s a winning combination, and leaders need to be confident that their team has these traits. An Omnia assessment is a quick, effective method that quantifies these inherent traits, giving sales leaders knowledge about their salespeople and powerful insight that can drive solid decisions on how you organize your team, possibly change out some of the team, and how to can motivate your sales reps to be their very best.
As an eternal optimist, I’m grateful I’ve managed to keep my optimism through these past few months. And my optimism is always fueled by hope. So here’s to an autumn of hope. Hope for a surge in sales, a return to thriving businesses, a strong economy, a healthy global population... and new sales!