Monthly Archives: April 2020

Goldilocks and the Three Empathies (a COVID-19 tale)

Tired of being confined to her cottage during the COVID-19 crisis, Goldilocks decided to take a walk through the Enchanted Forest and gather ingredients for dinner.  She came upon a market, considered by the king to be an essential service, where local farmers were still permitted to sell their produce.

She approached the first vendor at a socially-safe distance.  When asked how her day was going, she said how frustrated she was with this lockdown.  Vendor #1 then commented: “You shouldn’t feel that way, Goldilocks.  This will all be fine and over before you know it.  And, by the way, I’m running a special on strawberries today.”

Goldilocks walked away thinking to herself, “That empathy was too cold.  I “shouldn’t feel” the way I feel?  And how does he know that it will all be fine and over soon?  That felt icky, just like his strawberries probably were. And I’m allergic to strawberries anyway.”

As she visited vendor #2, who greeted her and asked about her day, Goldilocks again expressed her cottage-quarantine frustration.  In response, vendor #2 remarked: “Oh me too.  I’m so frustrated.  My business is down.  I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent.  I haven’t been sleeping well because I’m so stressed out!  I can’t take this much longer…”

The vendor continued talking as Goldilocks wandered away.  This time, she thought: “That empathy was too hot.   He was not listening and did not care about me. He totally hijacked my story and talked about himself the whole time I was there.  I feel even more stressed out than I did before. Yuck.  What was he selling again?”

Getting even more frustrated and still with an empty basket, she moved on to vendor #3 who, again, said hello and inquired about her day.  This time, when Goldilocks shared her frustrations the vendor said, “Oh Goldilocks, I’m so sorry that you’re feeling frustrated.  Sounds like you’re having a difficult time.  How are you managing through it?”  As Goldilocks talked, the vendor listened with compassion and curiosity.  Then he helped her choose fruits and vegetables for her evening’s feast.  She gladly paid for them, filled her basket and skipped happily home.

On her way, Goldilocks thought to herself: “That empathy was just right.  It felt good to be heard and supported.  Vendor #3 was really nice and helpful.  I will definitely go back to him.  In fact, I will give him a killer Yelp review, and Face-time Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin right now to refer them to that nice man, with his beautiful produce and helpful advice!”

The moral of the story: especially during this unusual time, remember to stay close to and connect with your clients, prospects and centers of influence; and, when you do, ask high-mileage questions, and listen with sincere interest and compassion.  They will appreciate you for it.

Do your salespeople most resemble Vendor 1, 2 or 3 in managing through this difficult time? I care and I’m here to support you.


Low Tide at Revenue Beach

One of the most interesting things about going to the beach is the change in scenery at high and low tide.  High tide is about abundance.  Low tide, on the other hand, reveals all sorts of unusual things: shells, starfish, sea glass, tires, shovels and rocks.

For growing your business, the last ten years have been high tide.  There was so much growth and opportunity, were there points that you were unable to find enough sales talent to keep up with it?

The COVID-19 health crisis has been a difficult period for people on so many levels.  It’s also created a low tide in the financial markets and in many industries.  And as revenue and pipeline opportunities flowed out over the last several weeks, what’s been revealed on your beach?  The common theme in the conversations I’ve had during this period with CEO’s, Managing Partners and PE investors is that there is a now-visible gap between what they need, and what they’ve got, in their sales organization.  These gaps might include some or all of the following:

  • Hunters
  • Legitimate pipeline opportunities
  • True account managers, to both retain and expand relationships
  • Managers who drive accountability
  • Ownership
  • Agility

Whether your current focus is on getting through the current crisis or preparing for what follows, two things — dispassionate data and objective insights — will give you the confidence to make the right calls during this difficult period.  When the time is right, I can help you with cutting-edge tools that will change the way you move forward.

The #1 Action Your Salespeople Should be Taking Today (and why 95% of them will probably not do it)

As a business leader, are these extraordinary times re-stacking your daily priorities and decisions?  Does your sales organization feel paralyzed — with activity and results way off, and a pipeline that seems to have vanished?

No doubt, this is a difficult time to be selling.  The pandemic impacts people, companies, industries, markets and the economy.  And with social distancing, the meeting calendar might have been wiped out.

So, what’s the #1 action your sales team should be taking right now, today?  The answer, while perhaps uncomfortable, is not as tough as it may seem: gaining virtual appointments and conducting what I call “re-discovery” calls with pipeline prospects.  This goes beyond simply checking in.  A re-discovery call takes intention and preparation, and includes the following:

-Leveraging the access your people have earned,

-Conducting fresh discovery with customers on how recent events are impacting their goals, challenges, priorities and decision making,

-Finding (new and maybe different) ways to help.

Why are 95% of your people unlikely to do this?  The data on salespeople suggests that all but 5% of them lack the mindset and skill. Surprising?  Here is a link to a recent post on the importance of value selling by Dave Kurlan from Objective Management Group that highlights some illuminating data from their bank of over 1.9 million sales professionals, across 130 countries and 200 industries.

How much stronger are the top 5% of salespeople compared to the bottom 50% in several critical areas right now?

-Sales DNA: 10,000%

-Consultative selling: 2,000%

-Selling value:  900%

What does this huge gap mean? The data suggests that, even in normal times, poor mindset and ineffective selling skills prevent most biz dev people from having critical and timely conversations.

How do your salespeople’s mindset and skills compare to the averages above? What should you do as a leader to address this – to navigate the current storm and properly position for the rebound?  Let’s talk.