How Has Sales Changed in 2022?
Do you remember when the world closed its doors 2 and a half years ago? The ice coffee TikToks and Gal Gadot’s attempt to sing the world back to its graces? Well, I remember almost nothing else.
Well, except for all the zoom meetings!
Whilst for the most part we’re now living in what seems to look like ‘old-normal’, meetings are still conducted online. Even if we’ve been doing this for 2 and a half years now, you can’t change the fact that it’s still hard to read people’s energies when you’re virtual. You have to be more switched on and dialed into how they're acting and reacting to the things that you say.
TIL attention spans have apparently dropped to eight seconds. Context: A goldfish's attention span is apparently nine seconds.
Imagine being on a virtual business call, and you’re doing your pitch, you’re dialed in, you’re reading the virtual room, and you start to notice their attention drifting. You realise they’ve stopped paying you any attention and they’re probably doing some online shopping, looking at a thousand tabs or, responding to the endless pings of Slack, Discord, or WhatsApp... Sad times.
We’ve been doing this rodeo at Supahands since day one. We’ve rarely done face-to-face meetings because the majority of our clients are overseas in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, and we’re running the operation from Malaysia.
Here are some things that I’ve observed over at Supahands, as well as during the courses I’ve taught and the training I’ve run.
Sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how easily this is overlooked.
Imagine you’re in a discovery call with 5 people and you ask an open-ended question to the group - unless you ask and say someone's specific name, there'll be a dead patch in the meeting.
No one will want to answer you because we're all busy doing something else.
Call out people's names, pull people into conversations to make the meeting engaging.
Let people know early on that your call is a two-way conversation and you're going to be asking specific questions to specific people.
When you stop to ask people questions actually say their names.
How is virtual different to In-person? In a face-to-face situation, you’d speak to somebody while looking at them, it's obvious even if it's a room full of people! You don't have that in a virtual setting because no one knows who you're looking at, you're just looking at a screen!
That's why you need to be very purposeful when you ask the question and call out a specific person's name.
The Dreaded Burnout
We all know that when you're in sales, your job is to meet with people, oftentimes face-to-face. Normally you would drive to a person's home or office and have that time in the car to prepare and get ready.
Then you'd have your one-hour meeting, followed by maybe an hour break for lunch, and then you go onto your next meeting. On a good day, you might do three meetings in a day. Nowadays, you have back-to-back-to-back meetings. Some people can do 10, 11, 12 meetings in a single day, with no breaks in between... madness!!
It’s this idea of being incredibly efficient with the meetings now that we take travel time out of the picture.
But while you can do all these efficient meetings back to back, are you really going to be effective in these meetings?
By the time you get to your 10th meeting, are you going to be as effective for the client, giving them 100% compared to how you were at your first meeting? I don't think so.
Pre-pandemic, you had travel time, you had commute time, you had headphones and music time because you're on your way somewhere. Whereas now it's like you wake up, you roll out of bed and you're straight into your day, and I think it's difficult for a salesperson to be switched on and dialed in for that length of time at work.
It's tough because as a salesperson, you have to coordinate a deal with external and internal stakeholders, dealing with client issues all the time. That’s all you do.
Coming from a person who has meetings back-to-back-to-back-to-back, I often go to bed with a fatigue headache. I'm constantly in meetings all day without quiet time or downtime and I admit it's difficult to switch off.
Because that's all I do. I have become the job! 🤯
And then I’ll sit down at my desk and if I’m not working, then I’m thinking I'm not being efficient nor am I being effective with my time.
I’m going to be very honest with you, I struggle with this and I need constant reminders because I easily get sucked back into 'work mode'.
A couple of changes...
Recently, I’ve been saying 'No' more often to 'non-critical' meetings just to get back a bit of control and yet I still feel guilty for not 'giving back' since I know people often need help. I also regularly evaluate my calendar the day before to make sure that the meetings on my agenda are relevant to the important things I need to get done.
To give you an idea. We've recently had a new product launch, so I question...
"Do the meetings I have coming up today tie in with that product launch?"
"Are they urgent, important and/or, Critical?"
"Is there an immediate need here for me to do these meetings?"
"Can it be pushed for another time and still have the same impact?"
Right now everyone's got this level of urgency and everyone's clawing for your time to get shit done. So you have to be more mindful of your own time because otherwise it will get filled with other people's urgencies rather than the ones that matter most.
It’s a work in progress.
How To Deal with the Dreaded Burnout
When the pandemic hit, we realised, as leaders, we have to do more. And then we had the ability to do more because we didn't need to travel between places.
Then all of a sudden our calendars started filling up. We had a meeting from 9 to 10, from 10 to 11 to 11 to 12 allll the way through to the end of the day. People could slot in a quick 15/20 minute chat where they saw a gap in your calendar!
We did all that without really understanding that we're human beings (not Human doings!) We've got to live in between these things. We've got to switch off so we can then re-engage.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"
- a proverb from 1659 which translates to... without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.
This is where psychological safety and having open, honest conversations with your direct manager are crucial.
Can you safely tell your supervisor that you’re overwhelmed, that you have too much on and you need some time to switch off? Do you find yourself getting frustrated easily?
If you don't start haing these conversations you'll soon find yourself unable to love what you do. It feels like a chore to get out of bed in the morning and you're tired of doing the thing that you used to love doing.
Home-life becomes difficult because you're constantly thinking about work which can lead to a breakdown in communication with significant others, partners, kids, and housemates.
Being short- tempered, easily frustrated, and impatient are all clear indicators that its time to catch some downtime...
These are all signs of burnout.
Whilst I do believe that it’s a manager's responsibility to be able to identify this it has to be a two-way conversation. It can't be all on a manager to be able to recognise when you're going through burnout, they are humans too with their own challenges and own issues. Empathy is key which leads to some pretty understanding conversations
Communicating Safely, A Love Letter to Managers
I do believe that more regular one-to-one catch-ups have become more important in this digital world. They need to be the backbone of collaboration between leaders, managers, and front-liners.
There needs to be a safe space to be able to say, I'm not doing well. I'm not okay. And I need help. And that needs to be okay.
Even if it's 30 minutes, there’s no talk about pipelines or quotas. We're going into that meeting and we say, ”Hey, are you okay? Tell me what's going on?”.
A note on performance - If people are underperforming, it's not because they want to underperform. You hired them for a reason, you saw something in them that made you want to bring them on to be a part of your team. Because you thought they were good.
If they're underperforming, that's on you as a manager and you need to understand why. Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits - Habit #5 First seek to understand then seek to be understood.
No one likes underperformance, especially the person going through it.
Collaborate and solve together, and this is where goals serve a great purpose.
Goals are Paramount
I had a conversation yesterday with a new manager and he's talking about one-to-ones, how best to run them, and how best to motivate his reps.
Here’s a hot take: It's not your job as a manager to motivate your team.
Motivation comes from within.
It's your job as a manager to have an inspiring environment for people to do their best work.
In fact, the best way you can motivate people is to understand why they get up in the morning in the first place. What their goals, dreams, and objectives are.
Why do they pick up the phone and do those cold calls every day? Why do they go through the pain of rejection? It's all part of the process for them to get to the goals they want to achieve.
“Hey, last month we sat down and we spoke about your goals of wanting to buy a house in six months. But what we can see from these conversion metrics we need to change things up to help you get there”
You find that it changes the narrative from, “Hey, hit your quota” to “work with me, to help you hit your goals”.
Finding Confidence in Your Team
You lead your team by understanding what they are trying to achieve.
I'm a firm believer that you don't manage a team. You lead, guide and coach your team by understanding what their goals are and why they wanted the job with you in sales in the first place. By truly understanding what they want you can help point them in the right direction, collaboratively set milestones/ check-ins and help them stay on the right path.
Building confidence through understanding...
They joined your team for a reason.
They are working with your company for a reason.
They chose you as their leader.
They chose to develop their career with you as opposed to somebody else.
When you're leading your team, you do so based on the rep's expectations of their own goals, not based on the company’s KPIs - hitting those KPIs will follow once you've attached a bigger purpose to them I.e their goals. I believe that's how you get the most out of working together.
I think that's just how people want to be treated.
One thing you can be confident in is, No one joins a company just to fail....failing sucks!!
Everyone goes through the hiring process, the onboarding process. Everyone's been through the stresses of bringing onboard new people into a team because it is stressful! It’s stressful for the new person, stressful for the manager, stressful for the team because you truly don't know how it's going to affect everyone, but you have to remember that they were hired for a reason.
So if you find that your reps are underperforming or you don't have confidence in them, then you need to find out what's been going on, not just with them, but with you as well.
Here’s a hot take: People first, always people first...lead with empathy and you can't go wrong