How Do You Transform Your “Sales Force” Post COVID-19?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

Even when you Google that question, there are only 129,000 results – not the millions upon millions we’re used to seeing when we ask Google anything.

As we all have found out, SEO is important. But, as we are finding out now, even Google doesn’t have ALL the answers.

Ask the Luxury Institute

One of the most recent white papers that emerged on this topic is from Luxury Institute. Called How To Build An Elite Client Relationship Team Post Pandemic, the five page paper outlines five steps to transform a “sales force” into a humanistic, high-performance “relationship building team” post pandemic. While the content is aimed at the “luxury” clients of the world, the steps it outlines apply across the board to ANY client.

For example, the paper states: “Luxury brands must go beyond the ‘customer-centric’ rhetoric and focus on identifying and serving the client’s absolute best interests.”

But that has always been the case in B2B consultative selling, hasn’t it?

In “Why Doesn’t a Sales Force Follow Up on Leads,” Jim Nowakowski put forth four reasons (excuses) that sales people usually give on follow up of leads. The fifth one – “COVID-19” – is just one more excuse.

But follow up, while a culprit, isn’t the only one.

To Trust or Not to Trust is Still the Question

The Luxury Institute stated the main culprit (trust) nicely: “Trustworthiness is about actively proving to another that their best interests are most important. It’s about learning how to actively, verbally and non-verbally, earn trust, prove trust, maintain trust, or even regain trust. Generosity is simply the act of being kind, in grand and minute ways. It’s not about loyalty points or discounts, but the act of going out of the way to make another human being feel special.”

But this is nothing new either, is it?

Elmer G. Leterman’s writing in his great decades-old- book “The Sale Begins When the Customer Says No” said,

“The confidence in yourself that comes from self-esteem but that must be balanced by a willingness to learn and a realization of how little you know, the science of convincing others of the benefits of your thinking can be learned.”

Leterman recognized this important point: “A salesman must carry the discussion into the channels and paths that he desires, but in doing so he must allow the prospective buyer to feel that he is actually leading the talks. In short, the salesman is creating the emotional fabric in which belief can take place for the product to be sold.”

That “emotional fabric” is the fabric of trust – something that is the basis for EVERY relationship, not just sales.

TOTO, the largest plumbing manufacturer in the world, produces an annual report, which lists their basic beliefs upfront and center. The first one states: “Kindness must always come first.”

We all know that talk is cheap, but this company believes and practices that tenant. The remaining statements in their annual report bear reading and careful study:

  • Bring the concept of service to your work.
  • Your goal should to be to provide good products and satisfy the customer.
  • Accomplish that, and profit and compensation will follow.
  • Many in this world chase after the shadow of profit.
  • But in the end, they never capture the real thing.

In our past, we all remember a high-power executive who basically expressing the same thing: “Take care of the customer and profits will take care of themselves.”

Unfortunately, that sentiment was and is far and few in between then — and now.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is reshaping sales. But, a virus can’t reshape trust. You either have it, or you don’t. You will either gain it, or you will lose it. HOW you do that may change, but trust, regardless of how you earn it, is still trust.

There’s never been a middle ground (how do you trust 85%).

So, What HAS Changed?

That’s simple: human contact.  There’s just something about real human contact that helps establish trust – something a zoom or go-to-meetings can’t duplicate. And while you can use zoom-like tools and tactics to continue a trust relationship, establishing trust has and always will require real human contact.

One marketing company just landed a new client, and the client requested an in-person meeting.

“Tell me the day and I’ll be there. I’m not afraid of any virus,” said the marketing company President.

“I am,” the client responded.

“Then I’ll wear three masks,” the marketing company said. The marketing company said they purchased an electronic thermometer to take their own temperature as they walked into the new client’s offices.

Personal contact today will require taking a temperature, so they were pro-active. “Besides, if I’m 98.6 or better, I’ll immediately gain a degree of trust instantly” the President said.

Stay focused.

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