Making proactive selling decisions that takes on challenges now puts you in a position of strength, and that means you’ll have a head start once you get to the other side.

By Doug Murray
Are you a cow or a buffalo? That’s probably not the question you’re pondering at this very moment, right in the middle of the proverbial storm. But maybe you should be.

When cows and buffaloes see a storm on the horizon, they approach it in very different ways. Cows run away from the storm, while buffaloes charge directly into it. The result: Cows spend a lot more time exposed to the storm, which only prolongs their pain. Fear of the storm creates a victim mindset, and the cow is left playing catchup once the storm finally passes.

How Being Proactive Provides An Advantage

By facing the storm head on and running straight through it, buffaloes shorten their exposure and experience less pain. What’s more, making a proactive decision to take on the challenge now puts them in a position of strength, and that means they’ll have a head start once they get to the other side.

Anyone who’s operating from a position of strength will be more confident and, as a result, more creative, energized and focused on solutions. We can all learn a lot from the buffalo who instinctively know that they need to take control of the things they can control. That’s what fuels a goal-oriented mindset that will keep you continually striving and achieving, even when the clouds are pretty ominous right now.

Proactive Selling Is A Choice

So back to you and the storm you’re currently experiencing as a salesperson who’s likely just seen “business as usual” completely upended. You could look at what’s going on and decide your only option is to retreat. If you’re a medical device rep, for example, you might be thinking, I can’t go see doctors right now, so what’s the point?

Or you could be the buffalo. You could be proactive and call and see what new avenues you’ll uncover. One salesperson told me that he just decided to make some calls and see what would happen. One doctor in particular noted that she couldn’t see patients, but she did have time for a lab. “I normally wouldn’t have made the call, but I decided to and all of a sudden something good came out of it,” the salesperson said.

In other words, good things can happen when you talk to people. Depending on your industry, you’re most likely going to have to adapt your selling to accommodate the realities of the pandemic, but there’s still plenty you can do to be proactive like a buffalo so you can hit the ground running as the clouds break.

What follows are some of the tips my colleague Mike Fisher and I shared on a recent webinar exploring how top sales performers deal with a crisis.

Proactive Selling During A Pandemic: Advice For Salespeople

  • Brainstorm with your colleagues. It bears repeating, good things happen when you talk to people. That can be easy to forget when everyone’s working remotely and you’re not seeing each other face to face on a regular basis, so a best practice is to reach out to your colleagues. Collaborate by asking how they’re tackling things, sharing ideas and working through different scenarios. Two or three brains are always better than one.
  • Talk with product experts. Explore different features and benefits to understand what’s available, any new offerings, and how you might be able to provide your clients with differentiated, highly relevant value during this time.
  • Reassess your approach with unresponsive customers. Ask yourself, are you positioning the offering in a way that serves them or serves us? If you don’t appeal to them, why would you expect a response? Asking the customer How can I help you/make things easier? will change how you think about what you’re doing, shifting from the perspective of selling something to selflessly helping your customer. Remember that you have to earn their trust before you can proceed further. If you’re not getting time with customers, you need to honestly assess the value you are bringing to them.
  • Broaden your relationships: If you only have a single point of contact into a customer organization, it’s going to trip you up even in the best of times. Think about how you can engage with support staff around that person and create more internal champions.
  • Examine your self-limiting beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs can have a huge influence over what you’re able to accomplish and how much you’re able to achieve. For example, “I’m not good at relating to people over a virtual medium” is a self-limiting belief. Spend time understanding and then addressing those beliefs that will otherwise hold you back.
  • Control what you can control. Chief among the things you can control right now are your activity and effort. It helps to break down the actions to lead to goal achievement into bite-size actions so you can feel confident taking them on. Think about what the 3 things are that you have to get done today so you can sleep well tonight.

Proactive Selling During A Pandemic: Advice for Sales Leaders

  • Be a part of the team vs. above and separate from them. Your people are struggling to have productive conversations with customers. They’re probably also feeling isolated. Remind them of their unique strengths and value proposition. Bolster their confidence by pointing to their track record and past wins. You owe it to your people to make sure they keep their eye on their value.
  • Practice, share and reinforce. Work with your salespeople on how they’re leading their customer conversations, and focus on pre-call planning. They’re going to be remembered later for how they’re showing up with customers now.
  • Take the opportunity to improve. Use this time to identify weaknesses in your organization and then take the necessary steps to address them.
  • Inspire their best. Title doesn’t make you a leader; actions do. Your salespeople will raise their game to meet your belief in them. And your actions will create a pull factor that brings them along. 

Ultimately, proactive selling activity creates momentum, and momentum keeps you going. You may feel like retreating from the storm right now. But follow the buffalo’s lead and charge ahead anyway. When you commit to it, you’ll find that new possibilities will open themselves up to you. And if you’re willing to stick with it and get out of your comfort zone, with the support of a good sales coach and clear goals, you’ll come out stronger than ever before.

About the Author
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Mike Esterday

Partner and CEO

Mike Esterday first discovered his talent for sales when he ranked number one out of 6,000 sales professionals in his...
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