Sell Away Your Problems
It’s as if you were in a coma, isn’t it? There you were cruising along and the next thing you know your book of business is a pamphlet. You can rub your eyes and pinch yourself all you want. Nothing is going to change. Thanks to COVID-19, your sales life is in crisis. You are somewhere on the spectrum of grief:
Denial: It won’t be that bad. It can’t be that bad. Well, at least it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Sure, it got worse, but that’s it … right?
Anger: It took years to build these clients, and weeks for it all to end. Bulletproof relationships, gone instantly. This is ridiculous. It’s not fair. How could this be happening?
Bargaining: OK, this is a unique period in history and there is really no one to blame. A reduction in business was inevitable, given the circumstances, but the feeling of being powerless to do anything about it is overwhelming and seemingly endless. Isn’t there something that can be done to reverse the flow of business?
Depression: Day after day it’s the same thing. Not only has business disappeared, but there is no customer contact whatsoever. This is a new low. Motivation is gone. Orders don’t come in, but the bills don’t stop. This is futile. Why bother?
And finally, Acceptance: This is the new normal. This is the way things are and the way things will be for the foreseeable future. Some aspects are controllable while others aren’t. But nothing will change without some form of intervention …
… And that’s where sales comes in!
Question for Established Reps
“Am I doing my job?” If you are a veteran/legacy sales rep, the answer to this question was already a given. Of course you are doing your job. The numbers speak for themselves, don’t they? A certain level of expectation (read: sales quota) was set and either met or exceeded. Month after month, year after year, you “did your job.”
But what about since the world shut down? Did you answer that question using the same criteria? Probably. More likely you didn’t even think to ask the question in the first place. You were frozen and working your way through the five stages of grief.
You are 368 words into this depressing column. Are you ready for the good news? Here it comes: You can sell away your problems.
Your Book of Business
Look over that book of business for the moment. Consider each account and try to remember how you got that business. Was it handed to you? Did another rep leave the company and you took over the account? Or was it was gained through hard work? Maybe you banged on the door until your knuckles hurt. Or was it a long-term, consultative sale—one where you solved a problem with a print solution?
The point is, you are so focused on what you have lost that you have forgotten what it took to get there in the first place. That’s where your attention needs to be. Sales effort and activity are completely and 100% within your control. You have two choices:
- Do it again, or
- Roll over and die.
No one knows what to expect next. It’s not like there is some post-pandemic playbook that can be removed from the shelf, dusted off, and followed. This is all new and for, at minimum, the remainder of 2020 your new answer to the old question, “Am I doing my job?” must be answered based on action, not results. For many, this is a new concept.
But then again, maybe not. Think back: Have you ever gone on vacation and had a record month? Work came in while you were gone and your boss teased you saying, “Maybe you should go on vacation every month!” Did you do your job that month?
Well, yes … and no. Your sales volume exceeded your sales quota so, based on that, sure. But a very small number of calls were made because you were either preparing for a break from your job, on a beach, or recovering from the trip—so no.
At the end of every sales day, starting today, make it your goal to feel good about the sales activities you undertook. Believe if you do “X,” “Y” will happen. X is making quality sales calls on the right kinds of accounts. Y is sales volume that comes from those accounts.
A Fundamental Consideration
Get the right combination of words, process, and effort, and the business will follow. Great, but where’s the best place to start? Which accounts should you be calling on? While those are two good questions, there is another far more fundamental question to ask first: Where should you be spending your sales time?
Back up a second and think about the different categories of sales actions that make up your job. You’ve got that aforementioned book of business to manage. There are repeat orders and client relationships to keep you busy. But you know you must also find new business, both from within those accounts and from new ones. That’s a second category.
Next, consider your scope of business. Are there some markets where you are particularly knowledgeable and effective, such as banks, colleges, hospitals, etc.? Verticals could be a third category for you.
And what about geography? Could you focus your selling activities on a certain area on the map? That’s four.
Next, think about your mix of business in terms of products and services. Do you sell a lot of digital? Wide-format? Print and mail? Such focus could be a fifth sales category.
Before you embark on any sales rebuilding journey, rethink everything. As much as this is a problem, it’s an opportunity for you to rebrand and reposition yourself. Where are the emerging markets? What might you sell that has less of a competitive landscape?
This critical action comes first and it involves two office supplies: a pen and a pad of paper. Only after you have come up with no more than a handful of these “Sales Silos” should you proceed to the next step, The Plan.
Wait, did you feel that? Did something inside of you just reawaken? Was there a flutter in your stomach? Optimism, a sense of purpose, whatever it was, recognize that just as the five steps of grief bring you down, doing something about it brings you back and provides the wind beneath your wings. Okay, back to The Plan.
Your next step would be to create a sales activity plan for each of the silos you have determined to be your best use of time. What actions will you take for each? Be specific and think short-term. Come up with a list of specific tasks you will accomplish over the next seven days. Yeah, that specific. Write it down and then engage.
As it turns out, what got you here can get you back, as well. Just like going to the movies, or walking into a supermarket without waiting, or attending a church service and greeting friends with a handshake, we’ve all taken a lot for granted. Sales, too.
But you’ve woken from the coma and the nightmare is over. It’s time for you to do your job. Your problems are solvable.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.