Updated: Jul 22, 2020
I have had many people asking me lately, in these tough times of isolation because of COVID-19 how they can pivot their direction and use Agile Sales concepts to sell remotely. I know that so many of us have been through a lot of change, but I think too that in times of challenge, opportunities present themselves. We know that in the buying cycle, customers buy in two phases: when they're in growth, and also when they're looking to overcome challenges. And there's both happening right now. I believe that five elements can help you to really take advantage of this unique opportunity with the significant change in the market.
In this article, I will cover the first element, and that is focus. Specifically I will cover:
Focus through a strong purpose
Focus on yourself
Focus through removing waste
Focus on the right customers
Focus through creating a game plan
Future articles will concentrate on three further elements of elevating yourself, process and teamwork.
Focus with a strong purpose
I will begin with an example of a team from about 20 years ago. This was a young team who existed before the technological boom (aka the internet) exploded into our lives. The team were mainly dealing with fax messages (do any of us actually remember how to use a fax?) and phone calls. Quite remarkably, the team was growing at over 100% year on year in terms of their sales performance. They really shone by having a strong purpose to focus their attention upon. Their purpose was actually to "destroy the competition", which is pretty aggressive, but they did it well. This team were dealing with automation equipment, software, hardware, and consumables. They sold the entire spectrum of items you would ever to be asked to sell. And it was all done remotely with highly profitable results.
Display your purpose
A strong purpose can be visualised, and have actions attributed to it. I actually display our business purpose on a strategic chart in my office. This also details our short term vision, current objectives, critical success factors and critical lead measures. This forms the basis for the other visual charts that we use to track our progress, but that is a different topic! Let me know if you would like this information in a future blog.
Focus on yourself
When you're in a crisis, you and your team are feeling the stress and strain of chaos and your customers are also under a lot of pressure. People need focus now, more than ever before. Without focus, we divert onto many different tangents. Consider also that before COVID even came along, studies proved that our productivity at work is only about 10 to 15%. Only 10-15% of our day is actually spent creating value. And this is actually five times worse than it was back in the 1950s. Can you believe that with all the technology we've now got, we are five times less productive at creating value than we were back in the 1950s?
Limit or eliminate distractions
I believe a lot of this lack of focus is a result of distractions. Distractions from the barrage of emails, and social media notifications and strike interruptions. To be focussed, humans need to be able to find quiet time, normally 15 mins of uninterrupted time, to be able to really focus on what they're doing.
See if you can get an hour, one and a half hours, or perhaps even two hours of clear focussed time (spent on key value-add activities). Then take a 15 minutes break to catch up on critical communications and take a walk around the house. Most importantly is to eliminate, or at the very least, significantly minimise the distractions.
It’s important also to run a normal morning routine but consider substituting your drive/commute time for exercising. Personally, I still wake at 4am, take a long walk through the bush around my house while listening to nature, and then to an educational podcast. This morning walk gives me the energy to be able to focus for the day ahead, and I have learned a new thing or two to think about. When I return home then I stretch out my back, shoulders and neck and perhaps do a round of weights. I know that if I miss that exercise now, and sleep in instead, I have a much worse day. It is vital to me. Another game changer for me has been to get a stand up desk. I can use it sitting down as well, and this just allows me to change my position of my body as I can tend to be a bit less social when working from home.
There are plenty of other tips for keeping yourself focused including dressing for success, keeping well hydrated and eating healthy home cooked food, taking a break every hour, developing your concentration, and many, many more out there. I suggest trying a strategy or two and seeing what you respond best to.
Focus through removing waste
Agile Sales requires us to ask, "How do I eliminate the waste, or at the very least, minimise it?" This is a lean concept that was originally applied in a production environment. I use it for life in general. There is so much waste that happens in our regular day, and we should really strive to find it, and eliminate it to reclaim our valuable time. My wife and I have decided not to waste time watching TV every night, surfing the web, checking social media too often and love that working from home reduces travel, which is a total waste.
I focus instead on the value-add activities that create value for customers. E.g, if you are in sales, typically the only moments that customers perceive as being valuable is when you're in touch with them. This would include when you're on the phone or a video conference with them, or when they are reading/viewing high value content from you.
These are the only moments that we create value for customers. Everything else is waste. Writing the content is necessary waste; we have to write, but it's wasteful.
Focus on the right customers
The next aspect of focus is really focusing on the right customers. Your target customers may have changed recently, and I know quite a few of my client’s customers have. I know that some customers are in a world of pain. They're not doing anything special to change things at the moment, which is hurting them even more. But I know of others who have sought help through coaching and training, are doing the extra work in making changes in their business and are actually growing.
The concept of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule can really help a team discover who are the customers that they can deliver the most value to (the top 20%). These customers will more than likely return the most to the sales team. Let's focus our attention on these top 20%.
Typically, this doesn't happen. Normally most salespeople spend their time with the 80% (I call them rats and mice); the 80% of customers who only spend a small portion of money with them, and generally provide no return. The rats and mice are many and noisy! They demand attention! It is these you must minimise and instead focus on the top 20%. The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle is very important right now.
When you have found your top 20% of customers, it is time to deeply understand them. In my book, I discuss many techniques, but for our purposes here, there is no better than a persona map.
A persona map is a very powerful tool to help you to understand your customer, to get into their shoes and engage with them with abundant value. The persona map uncovers much; the significant value-add elements, background of the persona, and also their emotional outlook. I believe that the emotion connection during selling remotely is actually more important than ever right now. A template is available through our free resources page when you sign up. I will provide the link below.
Example: Driven Bob
Boyd Rose, a colleague of mine created a persona map for one of his main customers, nicknamed Driven Bob. Boyd analysed his bigger wins, and the customers associated with them to discover Bob. Bob is a manufacturing or operations manager and is a problem solver. I know that it has helped him get to know this persona quite intimately and form a process uniquely suited to Bob. It has allowed Boyd to really focus on who his prospects calls are made to, and to research more effectively the types of customers that he could actually be focusing on. Boyd has a printed copy of the Driven Bob persona map on his desk at all times, just to remind him of those customers that he needs to focus on. It's been invaluable for him.
Target cohort of key customers
Once you have gathered this information, you can then form a target cohort. If you're running a CRM; check for its capability to load target leads. From there, you can track each lead through the whole buying journey. You could also start to work on collaborating with marketing and operations and together, really think about how you lead that buying journey uniquely.
Focus through creating a game plan
I've created a tool that helps teams who read the book put it into action straightaway. I call it the Agile Sales Game Plan. And I pose that it is critical for sales leaders, sales teams and individual salespeople to have a game plan, because without it, their focus is scattered and even chaotic. I am reminded of the saying, "prior planning prevents piss poor performance", and I've seen it so often that I have lost count. So, create a plan! Create a plan that reaches each individual salesperson; we must all have an individual plan.
Example: Boyd Rose
Boyd, who I have mentioned already in this article, has delivered some of the biggest budgets, the biggest growth that I've have known with any salesperson throughout the years. This is to your credit mate. You have been unique in how you approach your customers, and plan. Boyd creates an individual plan by breaking down company strategy, usually presented at the start of a year, and really understanding it as a day to day process. He knows that his plan will and must flex and change with the times, especially in current times. He re-evaluates his original plan when needed and uses the new plan to move forwards with.
We have posted the Agile Sales Game Plan on our free resources page, and I will provide the link to sign up to that below. I have a whole range of other game plans for staff, so get in touch for those. We will aim to have them available soon.
To sum up, there is a real chance while working remotely to eliminate a lot of noise and waste in your job, and actually spend more valuable time prospecting outbound calls, video conferencing, and spending time with customers. If you can focus on the right industries/companies and key personas right now and really understand who you need to target, you will be in a strong position to not only survive but thrive. With laser-like precision!
Wishing you well, and please get in touch if I can be of help,