I don’t know about you, but this coronavirus crisis has lost its novelty for me. This is the longest time I’ve not been on an airplane in 30 years. And, as much as I’d like to be heading somewhere next week—a goal my wife would also approve of—I think it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon.

There is a little light at the end of the tunnel, as we start to see the number of cases decline and discussions from our leaders about when and how the country will re-open. But let’s be honest. Things are going to open slowly. Some markets will come back quickly, others will take longer. We’re going to be in a recession for a while, something a huge percentage of our sellers, and even some sales leaders, have never experienced. So much will change in the near-term. Can you imagine football without crowds? Wearing masks for months? It’s a “new normal,” all right. And it’s weird.

Over the next few weeks, you will start to have some business opportunities. We call it The Pivot. And, using the next few weeks to prepare for The Pivot is critical.

Here are some of the things we believe sales leaders should be doing at this time…

  • Spend time identifying which AE skills will be needed in the longer term ‘new normal,’ and the shorter term selling during a recession.
  • Create a plan to evaluate and coach each member of the team on them.
  • We think some of those skills and abilities must be:
    • The ability to create and sell diagnosis-based solutions. Customer-focused. The opposite of package sellers. This is a time to train again and again on how to prepare for effective diagnosis calls. There will be a new set of diagnosis questions required to help our AE’s determine how aggressive someone is ready to be. That’s what our JDA team is working on right now. Asking the same questions in June that you would have asked in February won’t get you where you need to be in the coming months and year.
    • The ability to have Business Discussions not advertising discussions with owners and decision-makers. There are a whole host of skill sets and confidence items baked in here to assess and coach.
    • Empathy. It will be more important than ever to be an empathetic listener, especially in the first few months as this ‘new normal’ switches in. AE’s will need empathy in communicating with current advertisers, past advertisers, and prospects. It will help them identify where advertisers are in the hunker down, pivot/transition or drive share, continuum… as they determine where to best spend their finite time now and in the new normal.

Unfortunately, there will be some of your AE’s who either don’t have the skills to make this transition or won’t engage in acquiring or growing them. Leaders have to be totally honest about that, and either try to fix them quickly or determine how they fit going forward.

We believe it’s safe to predict we’ll see an even further erosion in transactional business and revenue, which continues to make new revenue generation even more important. That means SELLING. Are you ready? Are your people ready? Have you identified the needed skill sets and thought about how you’ll ensure your AE’s are ready?

Can you see where I’m headed with this? I believe we have about 5 weeks to get ready for the beginning of the transition. And, just like we’d coach our clients, the time to prepare is now.

As the great business philosopher, Meat Loaf, sang, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” This means that as leaders, we’ll need to adapt our leadership to an entirely new game. Again, another statement that’s easy to write, harder to do.

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We’re having lots of conversations with senior leaders about subjects like this. If we can be a sounding board for you or your company during this time, please reach out. jim@jimdoyle.com and angela@jimdoyle.com

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