sales in 2020
Sales – what sales? If you’re one of the many industries directly impacted by COVID-19 in a not-so-good way (i.e. you’re not selling hand sanitiser, toilet roll...etc.) then your current sales revenue might not resemble your pre-COVID forecasts. But if there’s anything we know about a pandemic, it’s that the goalposts are continually moving – and with that, arguably comes opportunity. Stick with us, there’s always a silver lining…even in 2020. We chat with Brad Buchanan, AFI’s Sales Director, about the preconceptions of sales as a profession, the importance of business partnerships and how to ride the seemingly never-ending storm.
1. What is your approach to sales?
Sales as a profession has, at times, been considered with contempt. Salespeople are often stereotyped as pushy, loud and ego driven – with a focus on wanting to close a deal at all costs (because it’s someone else’s job to deliver it). But sales to me is the process of listening, understanding, engaging and exchanging value. It’s about providing solutions that meet genuine needs and wants – it’s not just about making a sale. I believe that if this mutual understanding informs the foundations then solid, long-term commercial relationships will result.
2. How are you navigating 2020?
It’s certainly challenging. We were hit pretty hard by the COVID-19 lockdowns but were able to pivot fairly quickly, selling new products to new customers which has opened some new channels for us.
We are also currently undertaking a process of reviewing our capabilities, our business model and our processes to see how we can adapt to be more helpful to our customers. Part of this process is going into consultation with our customers or as we like to call them, our business partners: How can we help relieve some of their pain? How can we serve them better? How can we provide more value that will ease some of the pressure that’s on them and help them meet some of the challenges they face? In the current climate especially, there’s little value in trying to shout louder than the rest in order to scramble for sales. I believe our energy is better spent listening to our customers and trying to support them with genuine solutions. We certainly need to evolve our offering in 2020 more than ever, to stay relevant and continue to add value.
3. How do you engage your team?
I love working with sales teams. It’s one of the great joys of my life actually. I think genuine enthusiasm is an important element of engagement. In order to engage people fully, they need real clarity on what they are engaging in.
Clarity on individual roles has never been more important. When faced with challenging circumstances, it’s easy to panic or adopt a scattergun approach. I encourage my team to ask - ‘what am I focusing on?’ ‘what am I expected to do, contribute and achieve?’ ‘how will that be measured?’ I’m a big believer in individual KPIs that go beyond sales results.
What motivates a person can be very different – and at the moment, sales shouldn’t be the only measure of a good day, week or month. Of course, sales keep us all in jobs but whilst many businesses are in a conservative stage of watching and waiting, what conversations can we have? What insights can we gain? How can we support each other through this?
We also need clarity in understanding where our individual roles fit into the team. Our sales team has a daily Zoom huddle and many other check-points throughout the day and week – from team training to 1:1s. It’s important that we exchange our experiences, mindsets, challenges and wins. It brings a sense of camaraderie and that we’re not navigating this alone.
4. What do you think the key is to a successful B2B sales strategy is?
There’s no doubt that B2B sales are dependent on person-to-person relationships. People buy from people. These relationships are not necessarily interpersonal friendships; they are commercial relationships built on mutual respect and genuine concern for each other.
A good strategy should prioritise these relationships – whether that’s establishing new or nurturing existing relationships. Ideally a mix of both! These relationships are often forged and developed through the exchange of insights, ideas and opportunities to solve challenging and complex problems together. So a strategy needs to create opportunities for this to happen.
Several writers and business commentators have used the term “Trusted Advisor” which I think really captures the role a great salesperson can fill within a strategic roll-out. A successful strategy for B2B sales involves a Trusted Advisor being given space to connect, engage and bring ideas and insights into the mix as required. One measure of success for me, is if a business contact is excited to take your call, even if they’re not in a purchasing stage because they genuinely value your interaction. That’s a great feeling!
Connect with Brad here.