We are sitting at the amber traffic light of lockdown, getting ready to go, waiting for the green light which is inevitable to show. Sales plans should be taking shape right now. If you haven't had conversations to help you to plan, then this might help. Below is my list of five things to do to plan for lockdown release. I hope you find them useful;
- Assess the damage. Understand how much business you lost based on how much business you would have had according to your pipeline. You have to be honest with yourself about this. The more you say you lost, the more you have to rebuild. This is the part where you can put yourself in your manager's shoes and challenge yourself on whether you have got that business if we weren't in lockdown. So don't automatically put everything that was in your pipeline down as a loss. I would go for everything you had that had over 75% chance of closing (you would be wise to use quantitative measures as well as your instinct to determine). This way, you can be a little more lenient and realistic about your recovery. To help you to determine the amount of business truly lost you would be right to have conversations with those customers and ask them directly, if would they have closed had we not been faced with Coronavirus. That is a fair question and a great one to ask to help you to really get to grips with what your shortfall really is. Once you know how much additional business you need to find, you can start to map out your milestones to recovery.
- Identify your value. While you discuss the lost business with your customers, ask them what their plans are and what their priorities might be. The world of business has changed, so don't be disillusioned into thinking that you will be going back to what was. We are moving forward, and there's no looking back. All your customers will have a plan which could reform the way they conducted their business before the lockdown. So you ought to set out to understand it. You need to find out if and how you have to change to still be of value to them. You have to plan a new and more relevant approach for each business, where you can still show your worth to them. You may need to set reformed objectives and demonstrate that you can change with them and be flexible enough to support them through into the new unknown future. Ask the question: "What will you do differently as a business going forward, and where can I add value to that?"
- Prioritise your plan. It is inevitable that lockdown will be eased in stages and hence you can guess that you will have limited time to travel if at all to see customers. So make sure that you know where your quick wins are and where your longer lead times need to start. Once you have asked the questions in point 1 and 2 amongst others, you can start to cherry-pick the people you must see as a priority. This is not to say that these are the most important customers. These are the ones that are most likely to convert business for you in the shortest time. Also, identify the ones where the lead time is longer, but the value is larger so you can map them into your long- term plan, but you must start to work on now following points 1 and 2 so that you don't end up wasting your time.
- Review the plan. Don't rely on your first plan to be foolproof. Remember, this is a first for everyone, and even your customers will be reviewing their plan almost daily. There will be desperation for everyone to recover in the most efficient way possible, and reducing costs will be a priority. Reducing costs does not mean they won't buy anything; it means they will only buy what they see real value and a great return in. So you must be open to keep asking your customer if you are still adding value and if not, why not. Remember there are other chomping at your business. The larger your share of any business, the more threats there are to yours. So do not sit back and rely on your first changes. Keep reviewing, changing and adapting. Perhaps ask customers and prospects this; this; "has anyone else offered something valuable that you and I haven't yet discussed?" This is like learning and growing from scratch. No matter how much you thought, you knew your customers before this crisis, think again.
- Self-development. Leave room in your plan for this because as you know, the market place changes fast and even faster when everyone's exposed to different ways of working and hence thinking. Experiences are learnings, and the lockdown has given plenty of opportunity for lots of minds to think outside of the box. You will find that you will have to take time out to learn about new approaches and advancements in technology to work effectively and efficiently. I have written about this in my article 'tomorrows salesperson'. You may find that time you put to keeping informed could put you at an advantage over your competition. Finally, remember that you have been through a journey and have a story about an experience that is shared by your prospects and customers. So be sure to work on your story and make work in helping you to strengthen your relationships further.
"And do you know what is the most-often missing ingredient in a sales message? It's the sales message that doesn't tell an interesting story. Storytelling . . . good storytelling . . . is a vital component of a marketing campaign."
--Gary Halbert, author, marketing practitioner, copywriter
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