The Salespersons Dilemma,Covid -19


I would like to caveat before entering this piece, that the pressures of IT professionals clearly pale in comparison to those of many others in this time. This article is merely an exploration into the changing struggles of our industry whilst also keeping me busy enough to hopefully keep my visits to the fridge in single figures for the day!

It won’t take me highlighting it here again for you to all know that these are truly unprecedented times for all of us. Whilst we have reference points throughout history in the form of other pandemics, the needs of businesses have never been more complex, and a huge part of that complexity comes around IT. Regardless of a business’s size, industry or function, IT plays a crucial role in achievement of a business’s day to day, short, medium and long term goals. This reliance on IT has only been amplified by recent events, and as such IT vendors, resellers and service providers are in a somewhat unique position. With this clear increase in demand comes a dilemma, how do we approach those businesses and individuals we believe would benefit from what we offer without being labeled with the dreaded ‘ambulance chaser’ title. Another concern, as for all businesses, is that we as providers need to generate business in order to remain viable and stable through this time, and with a huge amount of project work being delayed/cancelled due to the circumstances, the only way to achieve this, is to generate new business. As we all know, new business, and especially ‘new logo’ business is a tough enough task at the best of times, we as salespeople are taught to be persistent, to not take no for an answer, to keep knocking on the door till we get our chance to tangibly demonstrate our value. We’ve all had the ‘stats’ for how hard prospecting is drilled into us from the first day we took the step into our first business generating roles,

• “It’ll take you on average 25 calls to speak to the person you’re trying to reach”
• “Did you know that under 1% of sales emails are actually read?”
• “You’ll get less than a 1% response rate to your voicemails”

Believe me, I could go on for a page or two with these, but I’m sure you get the picture….
We know we can bring tangible value to businesses during these tough times and we know we need to generate revenues for both ourselves and for our businesses to survive these tough times. The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that we as salespeople seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place at present, push too hard, be labelled an ambulance chaser, looking to profiteer of the opportunity that Covid-19 has created and damage our brand/reputation, but do too little, and risk losing customers and deals that are more crucial than ever whilst also missing what is probably our biggest ever opportunity to solve real world problems and provide a real world ROI to new customers.

The need for new business sales is clear to those within the channel, not just for growth of sales for the provider looking for business, but for the whole channel, competition ensures service levels remain high, pricing remains fair and ultimately leads to a better experience for customers. But what about during a global pandemic? Well, the overwhelming message seems to be, it’s tough, very tough. New suppliers, new relationships, new technologies, all represent an element of risk, and all require an investment of time and effort to use safely. We cannot blame businesses for not wanting to entertain this potential risk at this time, we can however make ourselves, and our resource as readily available as possible for immediate and future requirements. How we handle ourselves now will surely have a lasting impact on our reputations when life returns to normal, it’s up to us to define whether that impact will be positive or negative.

 

As IT, or indeed any salesperson will know, our earnings are directly linked to our performance more than with 99% of other professions. Under normal circumstances an increase in demand and surge in business and opportunities is the dream scenario, however more than one individual I discussed this with mentioned feelings, almost of guilt when dealing with such a high demand (that’s right, salespeople have conciseness too!) in all seriousness though, the last thing anyone wants is to be seen to be profiteering on the uncertain times we face. With customers faced with an unprecedented scenario many are under pressure not just to enable home working, but to secure and monitor these new environments in very time sensitive time periods. This surge could have led to a great swathe of panic buys around technologies such as multi/two factor authentication, VPNs and alike.

However, from what I have seen in the industry, and what is glaringly apparent when you browse LinkedIn/CRN etc, is the mass of resellers, vendors and providers who have made great efforts to avoid the need for huge capital expenditure on technology at this time. These efforts have ranged from offering free consultation, to free use of services/software’s, deferred/flexible payments, the list goes on. The IT channel is, by nature, an incredibly competitive place, however these recent efforts to put collaboration, assistance and flexibility at the forefront of what we do have been incredible to see.
On the question of ‘guilt’ that I raised earlier on, it’s an interesting point that I think none of us salespeople will ever have really encountered before in our work. No matter what we do in this situation there will be those that criticise salespeople regardless of our approach, to those people I would say this, there are so many out there with a genuine desire to help, to provide a good service, often free of charge to help in these tough times. We face our own set of pressures and concerns just like you, and on the whole, are an industry just looking to do our own little part in this much larger effort.

A cursory glance at my word count has made me realise two things, one, I really can waffle on, and two, I haven’t eaten anything in over an hour now! To avoid this developing into a novel I will try and summarise a few points more succinctly below.

We’re all concerned about the future, both professionally and personally. Heaping pressure on ourselves and others will do nothing but damage, accept that things will most likely be slow for a while
• Take this chance to develop yourself, ( and by this I don’t mean book 6 months in Thailand, although it may be tempting when this is all over!) sit on the webinar you never usually have time for, read the articles you’d normally file away for another day. There’s so much great content out there ready to be absorbed!
• Take a softer approach. This was echoed by everyone I spoke to, and in my opinion by no means sit and wait for the phone to ring but appreciate the pressures our customers, partners and colleagues are facing. Whether we are prospecting or managing realizing the gravity of the bigger picture and that this will cause delays is something I myself will certainly have to be conscious of, we as salespeople are typically inherently impatient!

I could definitely ramble on for a few more pages here, but I would not want to inflict that on those of you who have made it this far!
I guess my biggest take away from this will be that, no matter our role in the industry, we are all facing uncertainty, all we can do is our best to contribute in whatever way we can. For me, I’ll continue to reach out and try and spread valuable messages as I’m sure many more will do. For those of you on the other end of our outreaches, please understand we face pressures just the same as you, a huge majority of us would love an opportunity to help, even if the only thing to come of it is a feeling that we have somehow contributed to making someone else’s life easier in this mad old situation we find ourselves in.
For my fellow professionals, and indeed everyone out there I would say, don’t be hard on yourself, take care of what you can control, try not to worry about what you cannot.
At the risk of sounding incredibly cliché I’d like to finish with a quote that I am unsure of the original roots of but has always struck accord with me personally.
“However hard things get, remember, this too shall pass.”
Thank you so much for sticking with me, I sincerely hope in my ramblings you found some degree of interest, I am open to feedback/discussion on anything and everything, please feel free to reach out!
Lastly, thank you so much to all who took some time to contribute their thoughts, it is greatly appreciated.
Stay safe, here’s to happier times very soon!
Josh