The Journal of International Sales Transformation, reached out to Dr Mark Hollyoake, to give his views on “Selling in a Pandemic” in their latest Special Report on “Emerging from the Pandemic”.
The Journal was keen to know what’s top of mind as we begin to emerge from the pandemic?
To read the full issue – click here
Dr Mark Hollyoake’s overview
The last 18 months have created circumstances that many would never have imagined. It has required leaders to make decisions that challenged their agility and decision-making ability. As many leaders navigate their way out of the changes the pandemic imposed on the organisation, the focus appears to be on: “what’s rights for our people” – not only in the way we reorientate work but also for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
This has led to the lens being swivelled and focused internally, more than may have been the case in the last few years. This introspection has been compounded as businesses try and “knit fog” to plan and understand the full implications of Brexit.
Selling in a Pandemic
While this has been going on, your customer management, sales and customer service functions have been dealing with the customer interface. Many have been coping with virtual interaction, while at the same time juggling working from home. So, now as we start to renavigate the way we interact with our customers, what will this look like? Will your customers be happy with you coming to the office for a monthly meeting? They may have become used to short yet frequent virtual interactions: do they need to change?
Ask your customers
We suggest the first step in the process would be to ask what your customers’ needs are and how they are accommodating new ways of working. Once you are armed with this information you can replan your contact strategy accordingly.
However, it is worth considering a couple of factors:
- How has the customer faired through the last two years and how is their business holding up going forward?
- Where is the relationship at the moment? Is it in the early stages, where we are still trying to get to know one another or do we operate like old friends across numerous contacts and touch points against a shared plan or way of working?
Both of these will have a bearing on your customer and contact strategy as we move out to reorientate our relationships, in order to meet new requirements and ways of working. So, what could you do?
If you have a relatively new relationship or an established relationship with new people in place, then the focus needs to be on rekindling the emotional elements of relationship development. Approximately, 70% of the time you spend should be focused on social interaction in order to get to know one another: face-to-face meetings, meeting up at trade events or conferences, doing something social. Keep up the virtual interactions, but make time for the informal and social. Don’t forget the rational elements: approximately 30% of time allocated to virtual or face-to-face business review or planning meetings, coming together to collaborate or co-create, focused on sense-making a way forward out of the current uncertainty or “peeking through the fog”.
If you have long-established relationships where most of the key contacts know each other quite well, you need to try to rekindle the social side of the relationship to catch up on the personal ups and downs that have taken place over the last two years. Allocate around 30% of time on the development of opportunities to capture “what we did well” and “how we overcame adversity” – these are our relationship “war stories”. They build and embed trust.
Then, about 70% of efforts are focused on baselining and evaluating “where we are” or re-setting after the last couple of years of turbulence. Come together, preferably face to face, to collaborate on making sense of the way forward and what lies ahead in the next three, six and nine months – using this as a platform to co-create mutual value for the relationship going forward.
Our suggestion would be the development of a short-term agile relationship plan that you come together to steer and develop, so that going forward the customer management teams have a sense of what they can do to kick-start new relationships and rekindle established bonds, while ensuring a more hybrid approach is developed that takes account of the last 18 months.