Time to read: 3.5 minutes
I have a hypothesis. I believe most business leaders are in a place similar to where they were when the pandemic started.
The pandemic was a macro event that touched all aspects of business and life. Since then, more macro events have started to pop up, almost like an unwinnable game of Whack-a-mole!
We’re currently facing the highest inflation rate in four decades, a labor shortage fueled by the “Great Resignation”, a broken supply chain, serious disruption in the agriculture and energy industries (caused by the war in Ukraine)—and all the while—uncertainty around Covid still lingers in the background.
Any one of these events would be difficult to manage on its own, but since they’re all happening simultaneously, sales leaders are feeling like they were two years ago: isolated, unsure of what to do and how to direct their teams. Those emotions usually usher in a sense of helplessness, which is followed by tremendous fatigue.
I know this all sounds bleak but bear with me. There is hope.
What if we can take all of these negative macro events, and somehow turn them into a positive? What if salespeople who currently want to run and hide out of fear of having to deliver bad news instead knew how to uncover the opportunity lying before them?
It’s not just a fantastic thought, but one that I believe any business can do. The best part is you already know how to do it! Just return to your 2020 playbook.
Like many businesses, The Brooks Group had a serious problem when the lockdowns began. 98% of our revenue came from live, in-person training. That dried up almost overnight which made us stop to really evaluate how we could be of service to our customers (whether we could charge for it or not).
We took inventory of the resources we already had. We have a lot of incredibly smart people on our team, two of whom, Michelle Richardson and Russ Sharer, are exceptional at analyzing data, spotting trends, and developing training material to fill needs. If you’re a reader, they recently co-authored a book called Agile & Resilient: Sales Leadership for the New Normal where they explain how sales leaders can help their discouraged teams overcome and thrive in any business environment.
Michelle and Russ created a “sentiment survey” that was distributed weekly to sales leaders. They quickly discovered that people were feeling the loneliness of the lockdowns, and in general just didn’t know what to do.
We also had a bunch of world-class training facilitators whose in-person training had all been canceled, so we decided to put them to work facilitating short forums. Out of these forums, we discovered salespeople didn’t know how to effectively use digital tools. So, in quick two-minute Soapbox videos, they taught topics like how to set up your background for a professional Zoom call, lighting tips for virtual meetings, and best practices for conducting virtual sales presentations.
Everything they discussed was incredibly relevant because all of their topic ideas were sparked by direct audience feedback.
The weekly sentiment survey went out on Monday, Facilitator Forums were held on Wednesday, and on Thursday, we were back in the marketplace with content, messaging, and ideas that people wanted to hear.
People started asking for a deeper dive on certain topics, so we put together nine-minute long PowerPoint presentations to meet that need. We analyzed how people were interacting with our new content to give rise to entirely new paid workshops that customers were excited to buy.
When discussing this topic internally, I was asked “Gary, what if companies don’t have a research and development team or facilitators that can put together new products? What should they do?”
My answer was that they should do what they did when the company was founded. If you look at our story, you’ll realize it’s not very different from that of a start-up. Someone at your company was a visionary. They asked questions, talked to prospects, gathered and analyzed feedback, and put something out in the marketplace to solve problems being experienced by their customers.
- What is happening in your customer’s world right now?
- How are these macro events impacting their daily operations and bottom line?
- Why are they still stuck?
- What resources do you have that can help?
- How can you use those resources to benefit your customers?
- Why will your customers listen to you?
All companies have resources that can help them do this.
Figuring it out might not be easy, but it is possible. If your company successfully sold anything, that means at one point someone figured out how to make a valuable offering. You still have that infrastructure. Use it to solve the new problem and become the trusted advisor your customers desperately need you to be.