Almost 20 years ago, Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman confirmed what top sales leaders knew all along – people buy emotionally and justify intellectually. In the fast-paced world of days gone by, industry trade shows, large in-person conferences, and aggressive travel schedules punctuated this observation. The process of buying and selling is exciting.
As many businesses claw their way back from the ashes of the initial shutdown and accompanying social unrest, the American economy’s wheels are turning again, albeit slowly. With a long road ahead and uncertainty lingering, commerce’s chore has taken on a notably muted tone.
The propensity to buy on emotion is still as true as it ever was, but excitement is no longer the currency of influence. The “stronger together” signs that hang in windows of small businesses all across the country hint at the subtle but profound shift to the emotion that people are buying. Excitement has been replaced by meaningful, heart-level connection.
Covid-19 has given rise to the great pause – a moment to step back and reevaluate if the life we’ve built is the life we really want – there’s a growing sense that collectively we value connection. For the savvy salesperson, there’s an ethical opportunity to build longterm loyalty with prospective buyers.
Here are three ways that you can strengthen your connections, and thus your influence even in this disjointed reality of socially distanced society.
There is a strong temptation to filter when we’re only connecting virtually. Locking ourselves away in quiet offices with carefully arranged backgrounds make it look like, while the world is burning down, we’ve got it all together. Even worse are Zoom and others’ virtual backgrounds to make your actual environment disappear.
This temptation stretches far beyond just physical space. How many photos of professionals sitting in tie, blazer, and boxer shorts have you come across int the days following the shutdown?
Far from advocating a move towards unprofessionalism, it is worth noting that the work from home culture is markedly different from office culture in that there’s a warm, familiar feeling of being in your coworkers living room or meeting with a client in their home office. As is such, it’s worth showing up in those spaces like friends and sharing openly and honestly as friends do.
When you decide to show up authentically, it as if by magic, creates an invitation for others to respond in their own authenticity.
This means that sometimes we’re going to venture off our sales script and into human emotion. This is a scary proposition for many a sales rep who have worn holes in their carpet, pacing the floor practicing their sales pitch. But right now, it’s what works, and graciously allowing your prospect a place to express their own frustrations with the economy, politics, family life, or really anything else will go miles to creating psychological safety and a deep sense of connection with you.
Office culture is known for scheduling too many meetings, and part of that is that meetings are a welcome distraction from your office cube’s daily scenery. These days taking meetings feels more personal in that to meet with you, I have to let you into my space. And that is not always a welcomed proposition. This is particularly true of sales meetings.
By simply being present in your prospect’s life – via email, social, and Youtube – you become familiar. Over time the familiar becomes safe and, thus, gets access. Producing content right now should be a critical part of every sales team’s strategy to nurture and engage leads.
The exact form can vary from business to business based on the needs of the individual organization. From a simple newsletter to value-first videos on LinkedIn, everything is within limits provided that it mutually serves you and your customer’s needs.
Sales have always been about meeting the customer’s needs, and right now, more than your product or service, there’s a growing consensus that real human connection is just what the doctor ordered. Deliver on that, and you’ll be much better positioned when your customer is ready to start shopping again.
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