It's Time To Get Back To The Basics
Are your sales teams acting like glorified order-takers? You're not alone. For the last three years, the pandemic has shifted the landscape, making it easy to ignore traditional sales skills. Now, as the economy shifts again, many are finding themselves out of tune with the art (and science) of selling. If this sounds like you or your team, don't worry; I've got some actionable advice that will recalibrate your sales mojo.
The Pandemic Effect: Order Takers, Not Salespeople
During the pandemic, some industries experienced a surge in demand. Products were flying off the shelves faster than you could say "supply chain disruption." Salespeople in these sectors had it easy. They didn't have to sell; they just had to fulfill orders. But here's the rub: those order-taking skills are not going to help you in a competitive market.
The Disappearance of Face-to-Face Interaction
For nearly two years, we were stuck behind screens. No networking events, no client lunches, no face-to-face pitches. Sellers adapted to the 'new normal' by mastering email. But let's get real—email does not create a strategic partnership. Building relationships are the key to sales and face-to-face conversations are necessary (even if it’s on a webcam). Showing up with energy, reading body language, asking great questions, actively listening, and addressing objections in real time—these are irreplaceable skills that many have forgotten. Or never learned because…
…It's a New Workforce. Pandemic-Born Sellers
The average turnover rate for sales positions is shockingly high—some studies show rates as high as 34%. Many sellers on your team might have started their careers during the pandemic. These folks have never known anything but the world of selling remotely and during a pandemic. It's not their fault, but it’s a blind spot that needs addressing.
Advice for the Way Forward
So, how do we get back on track? Here are some actionable tips to reignite those core sales skills.
1. Go Beyond Email Challenge your team to look at email as a small piece of their job. Encourage and recognize picking up the phone! Track phone calls and face-to-face meetings where possible. And speaking of email, did you know that email traffic has exploded over the past few years? According to a study from Pathwire, more than half (55%) of email senders increased their email volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, 49% of email customers are contacted more frequently. According to Radicati's Email Statistics Report,
the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day exceeded 319 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to over 376 billion by 2025.
That's a lot of emails, and it's easy to get lost in that sea (and deleted altogether) if you're not sharpening and consistently using your other sales prospecting tools.
2. Mentorship Programs Pair up your pandemic-born sellers with seasoned vets. This is an excellent way for newbies to adjust to the ever-changing supply/demand metrics. And your veterans just might pick up a thing or two from the newbies (like getting comfortable texting your prospects for example).
3. Deliberate Role-Practice Implement regular meetings to discuss not just numbers, but skill development. Ask your team to self-assess their sales conversations and identify areas for improvement. Then create role-practice scenarios to give them the confidence and the practice. Role-practicing exercises that simulate different sales scenarios allow your team to hone their messaging and differentiation, handle objections, and navigate complex sales situations in a safe environment. Note: At Butler Street, we practice like this every Thursday afternoon. And, in addition to human-to-human role-practice, we’ve included ChatGPT as our role-practice partner and feedback loop to keep us sharp.
4. Stay In Your Prospects/Clients Operating Reality In a post-pandemic world, the buyer’s journey has also changed. Keep up with industry news, shifts in buyer behavior, and competitive landscapes to remain agile and relatable.
5. Reinvest in Training If your team has been riding the wave of easy sales, now's the time to reinvest in skill development. Courses on prospecting, objection handling, and relationship-building can make a world of difference.
6. Give them an Assistant No, I don’t mean hire more support people, I mean, get them an AI assistant. We are partial to ChatGPT and the power it brings to the salesperson for productivity. Check out our workshops – we can get your team up to speed on how to utilize Generative AI, get them unstuck from doing things their old ways, and have them proactively selling faster than ever!
7. Plan, Plan, Plan One of the most significant casualties of the pandemic era is the art of planning. When orders are flooding in, it's easy to assume your current “plan” is working. But that's a dangerous game to play. Without planning, you're operating reactively, not proactively. You're at the mercy of market forces, instead of shaping them. Top sellers, who win in all economies, are planners. They have a proactive prospecting touch plan, they plan every sales call, they have actionable account plans, and they have a personal strategic plan to achieve their goals.
The pandemic may have put us in a sales skill slumber, but it’s high time to wake up. The market is unforgiving, and those who don't adapt will get left behind. So, roll up those sleeves and get back to the basics. Your revenue numbers will thank you.