From Selling with Empathy to Compassionate Urgency: Sales Leader Focus Areas This Week

Matt Heinz

For three weeks, the idea of “selling with empathy” dominated discussions in sales management circles.  That may have shifted late last week, as some sales executives in our new Sales Leader Cocktail Talks series started encouraging their prospects to organize, decide and act to save (even grow) their businesses amidst the current economic shutdown.

In other words, despite the health conditions which we largely do not control, it’s time for businesses to decide how they are going to move forward.  How they are going to pivot and execute out of this situation.  And most importantly, how to prepare for the rebound and return of normal(ish) business conditions.

It's a message and approach that requires a consultative approach, whether you’re a Challenger fan or a Gap Seller or just a fan of leading with value as a trusted advisor.  It requires, in some cases, pushing your prospect out of their comfort zone (even if that comfort zone currently is to hunker down).

So if yours is an essential business, if what you offer is key to helping your prospects and customers rebound quickly and successfully, how are you taking that approach to market?  Like, right now?

As referenced above, last week was the first of a new series of Sales Leader Cocktail Talks we’re producing with the help of 6sense and Outreach.  In addition to the concept of driving “compassionate urgency”, a number of other topics were addressed in the two sessions (register here if you want to join us moving forward):

  • Improving forecasting accuracy:  Many sales organizations are adding a quantifiable “COVID risk factors” column to their forecasts in an attempt to handicap closed-won likelihood with the coronavirus as a potential barrier.  Others are assuming a more conservative opportunity-to-close conversion rate to ensure they aren’t presenting overly ambitious forecasts to their management team and boards.
  • Helping (and/or allowing) sales reps to provide more accurate forecast guidance:  Sales leaders were also working harder to ensure their sales reps felt safe in reducing forecast confidence for Q2 deals if the coronavirus was having a material impact.  This didn’t reduce the focus on building compassionate urgency, and instead was more about ensuring “wishful thinking” from the field didn’t overly inflate reality in the short term.
  • Proactively developing solutions for common short-term objections:  One attending VP of Sales explained advice from his investors to their portfolio companies: Develop an explicit list of barriers to sale right now, then rapidly create a set of programs to minimize or eliminate those prospect-facing risks.  Lite versions of the product?  More creative payment terms?  Helping the prospect model post-COVID business opportunities and risks more clearly?
  • “Control what you can control”:  Good advice in any selling condition, even more important now.  Create value, quantify value, follow your sales plays, increase your outreach volume, be empathetically proactive.
  • Coaching people for the rebound: Externally, that means helping your customers and prospects see the light at the end of the tunnel and to be proactive at accelerating into it.  Internally, it means putting time into Q3 second-half pipelines.  Even if Q2 is going to be tight, don’t be flat-footed at the start of the next quarter if conditions have improved and your excuses for not selling have been mitigated.
  • Amidst ambiguity, people want clarity and direction:  This is an opportunity for value-driven brands to lead.  With your commercial insights, reframes of problems (general and real-time), with guidance from peer prospect organizations – give your buyers a path forward and tangible steps to get started.
  • “Small ship, big rudder”: Another gem shared by Mark Kosoglow from Outreach, difficult to execute for some organizations (especially larger, older and more traditional industry companies).  Fight to develop and execute agility in how you sell, even what you sell.  Temporary shifts how will likely require further adjustments into Q3.  Leverage that agility to your advantage.
  • What will your 2020 success story be?:  When we’re out of this, when we look back at this difficult time, how will we describe the way we persevered?  How we acted?  How we supported ourselves and others through it? 
  • Encourage your sales team to prioritize balance and off-time:  Or as one Sales VP put it, “I want 120 percent of them when they’re able to work, and zero percent when they’re off.”

If you’d like to join the Sales Leader Cocktail Talks live this week (or any Thursday afternoon for the next few weeks), you can register and get hands-free calendar invites here.

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