In the early days of the pandemic, our internal sales conversations probably looked a lot like yours. Meetings revolved around the welfare of our families, our team, and our customers. Once we had controlled the controllables, the dialogue shifted toward the vitality of our company.
How would COVID impact our target market’s discretionary spending? Would our sales cycle grow longer? Would our pipeline dry up? Was this the beginning of the end? Everyone in sales is familiar with the adage “people buy from people they trust.” Would this stressful time change the nature of our relationships to the detriment of our business?
The short answer? No. Far from it.
While it certainly helps that our product—a digital communications tool—is relevant in the current climate, I credit much of the success we’ve found to the fact that relationships with our customers and prospects have actually gotten stronger.
Since the early days of lockdown, I have made a point to activate my own camera on every sales call I lead. I’ll admit this was a bit awkward at first. People acknowledged that my video was on but were reluctant to turn on their own. And I don’t blame them. It’s a peculiar thing, letting a stranger into your home.
There was plenty of pretext: “Believe me, I’m doing you a favor by not turning on my camera.” But the longer lockdown lasted, the faster those walls came down. As a result, selling—and being sold to—has become more fun and more meaningful.
Your new puppy is barking in the background? Put him on camera! You’re baking a cake for your daughter’s first birthday? Of course you can pause the call to take it out of the oven. Is that a rock climbing wall in your house? I didn’t even know that was a thing.
But now I do.
And I also know that you’re guiding five kids through remote learning at home, that you’ll be out of the office tomorrow morning to get a COVID test, and that you’re moving your entire house with only the help of your partner because you don’t feel comfortable using a moving company just yet.
An involuntary response to COVID is that we’re giving ourselves and each other permission to be human, and we’re connecting about things that matter to us as people—not just professionals. We’re all in the same frustrating, overwhelming, awkward situations, and we’re all doing our best.
The bottom line is that the ability to better understand and empathize with each other engenders a level of comfort and trust that better serves both sellers and buyers.
So, yeah. Maybe discretionary spending is a little lower, and as a result perhaps our sales cycle is a little longer. And maybe this really is the end. The end of transactional, impersonal selling, and the beginning of a type of sales where we lean into our humanity and understand each other a whole lot better.