Beyond fight, flight, or freeze, commercial leadership now focuses on attention
The outbreak of Corona and the restrictive measures have abruptly heralded a new era with major consequences. Not being able to meet relationships face-to-face. Only being able to manage team members virtually. Supply chains where parts or products are not available. Customers who are suddenly in financial distress. Companies that must stop their business activities immediately. The Corona crisis affects everyone.
How can you as a commercial executive make a difference now?
Your first instinct, out of fear or uncertainty, may have been a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Nothing human is strange to you. And no one has the answer to how long this period will last or what the world and the economy will look like afterward. But as we gradually get used to the restrictive measures, space opens up for real leadership. You don't have to be a superhero for this. You just need to elevate one basic attribute to a superpower.
Leadership in this crisis is not about strategy, vision, or motivation. The real difference is made by strengthening relationships. The basis of a good relationship is attention. Attention to the person, the situation, the needs, and the opportunities.
In these times, you should pay above-average attention to each individual in your team. People are now more emotional. The social pressure is high, due to fear, uncertainty, and financial stress, for example. Take the time to speak to all team members personally. Encourage them. Listen to their concerns. See how you can help them. What they want and can contribute in this situation. Where they see opportunities. The connectedness that arises from this generates the energy and courage to move (new) mountains.
Attention to the mutual connectedness in the sales team is also important. Restrictive measures can lead to a shift in balance. How can everyone in the team help each other? Who has skills that another can use? Who is a driving force and who keeps going when others are struggling? The distribution may now be different. Singles have more time than team members who are giving homeschooling to children or are caregivers. Pay attention to this shift, make it discussable, and give everyone the confidence that they now and in the future fit into the team.
In addition, physical distancing requires a different form of contact. In addition to team meetings about work, plan a fixed moment each day to share experiences, exercise together in front of the webcam, or create the ultimate work playlist together, for instance. You could also organize a virtual Friday afternoon drink. Stay socially connected, even at a distance.
Customers are just as uncertain. Their world is turned upside down too. Therefore, now is the time to make contact without a commercial purpose. Be personal. Check how they are doing. Send a card or flowers to support them. Take the time to approach customers and prospects who may have been overlooked again. Let them know that you are there and that you are willing to help where possible.
Everyone is in the same boat. Your competitors too. This is not the time to fight each other. It's time for connection. Look at the industry-wide initiative for all restaurants in the Netherlands: ‘Samen uit, samen thuis’ (Together out, together at home), the campaign that encourages people to order food from their favorite restaurants for home delivery. Or the applause advertisement for healthcare heroes from arch-rivals Ajax and Feyenoord. Make contact within the industry and try to join forces where possible.
Don't forget to take a moment for yourself. Take time for reflection. Where are you, and where would you like to be? Does your role still suit who you are? Do you want to sharpen certain points about yourself? It's a good time to improve knowledge or skills. Or to start (online) coaching. Show leadership, but don't forget yourself in the process.
Aristotle says: ‘Everything you give attention to grows’. By giving extra attention now, relationships within your team, with your customers, and in the industry will grow. Sales are the result of a relationship. The strengthened relationships make the world more beautiful now and will ensure a solid foundation when the world is ready for sales again.
Do you want more tools for leading your team in these special times? Then read the Whitepaper Bend or Break: The Necessity of Modern Selling.
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