Every sales professional is being impacted in some way by the global pandemic of the Coronavirus. The full extent of its impact on the global economy will not be understood for some time. In the meantime, there are some important lessons we can learn from what is happening.
- The perception of value is always in a state of flux. The Coronavirus is an example of how an external force can strike an industry and immediately shift the perception of value. In this case, industries like the airlines and hotels suffer from a reduced perception of value. On the other hand, industries like video conferencing and grocery delivery enjoy a sudden and dramatic increase in the perception of value. Most organizations see their value as fixed. The truth is all value is fluid because all value is based upon perception. Dramatic forces like pandemics, wars, terrorist attacks and natural catastrophes are always threatening havoc. Other forces work in the background at a slower pace, but over time, their impact is no less dramatic. In nature, there is the dramatic impact of an avalanche, but there is also the slow, steady and transformative effect of the glacier.
The real value of a sales professional is to be constantly looking out into the future at the external forces at work on the customer’s industry in order to anticipate how the perception of value may shift over time. Having done this, to the work with the customer, collaboratively, to help them understand how the future might unfold, how the perception of value might be impacted, and potential ways to strategically navigate an uncertain future.
- The power of the story. We do not see with our eyes, we see with our stories! All the information that comes in to our brain through our eyes must be interpreted for our brain to make sense of it. We relate everything we see to the stories we tell ourselves. This reveals the power of the storytellers. In every society, it is the storytellers who shape the perception of reality. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve seen multiple videos of consumers engaged in panic buying. On the surface, their behaviour seems irrational. However, when viewed in the context of the constant and relentless doomsday narratives from the news media, their behaviour is understandable. As the modern day storyteller and interpreter of reality, the media would do well to provide a balanced and responsible narrative. Very rarely does one hear of the amount of people who recover from this virus, and the amount of people who contract it without ever showing symptoms. For the sales professional, it is instructive to observe the direct correlation between behaviour and perception, and the correlation between perception and the storyteller.
- Putting things in perspective. Most sales professionals are highly motivated Type A personalities. Repeated success further fuels their motivation. It’s easy for them to get swept up in the pursuit of success and in the process lose touch with what really matters. When asked, most sales professionals will say they work hard for their family. Yet, when observed, they spend very little quality time with their family. A sudden pandemic outbreak, like the Coronavirus, with the subsequent travel and meeting restrictions, while economically unfortunate, provides a silver lining. That silver lining is more time with family and more time to reflect on what really matters. As your people cope with the fall-out or the wind-fall of this virus, seize the opportunity to remind them of the bigger picture of why we work and the impact we can all have on those closest to us. It’s also a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your personal concern for those who are on your team!
- Stay safe!