Episode TwoHundredSix

How to Sell in “Unprecedented Times”

Guest: Amy Volas, Founder and CEO at Avenue Talent Partners and Samantha McKenna, Founder at #samsales Consulting

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About This Episode

If you see the phrase “unprecedented times” one more time, you’re probably going to hurl.

Or here’s another good one: I hope this response finds you well.

Those are 2 examples of how not to do sales during the pandemic.

I had a wonderful and truly wise conversation with Amy Volas, Founder and CEO at Avenue Talent Partners, and Samantha McKenna, Founder at #samsales Consulting.

“The thing that makes my heart beat every day is making a positive impact,” Sam said.

“I’m passionate about using my voice to help the community get better through all of my lessons and experiences,” Amy said.

Sam and Amy shared with me their dos and don’ts for navigating sales during the pandemic.

Let’s dive right in!

Don’t be reactive, do be human

Social is skyrocketing during the pandemic. The thing is that people don’t always think about how they use their words.

You might close your email with this: Do you have 15 to 20 minutes to talk today?

But you’d actually speak these words to a human: Do you have some time to chat over the next week or so?

“You need to be a person, and you need to be human,” Sam said.

It only takes a little bit of thought to be both polished and personable.

Amy said, “Forget about me, how are you doing?” to someone on a call. 

He almost died. Four people in his family died in the last 2 weeks.

“We don’t know what people are going through, even without a pandemic,” Amy said. “These are one to one relationships, and even though they might be approached digitally, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a person on the other side of that thread.”

Let’s all remember before writing or saying anything that our words are powerful and can be used for good or for ill. Let’s all be human to the other humans we encounter.

“The way you sell now is the way you should have sold all along,” Sam said.

Sam added that you shouldn’t close an email hoping someone’s family is well.

What if they’re single? What if their parents are gone? Don’t mention family unless you actually know.

Don’t focus on metrics, do focus on outcome

Some of us are so afraid for our jobs that we feel the pressure of activity metrics is hanging over our heads.

“Instead of thinking about the outcome, they’re thinking about the metric — and there’s a very big mindset difference there,” Amy said.

Someone who’s still trying to adhere to old KPIs is doing it wrong.

“This is a good call to action for sales leaders,” Sam said. “If you haven’t shifted your strategy, if you’re still measuring an AE by 50 calls, my God, let’s have a different conversation.”

Focusing on just booking meetings without actually analyzing the whole KPI system is fruitless right now.

“Leaders have to change our expectations,” Sam pointed out.

Focusing on metrics is a don’t.

Instead, think about how you’re going to market in a different way.

Sam launched #givefirst, a campaign to search for ways to give away her time and expertise for free.

The goal was to give away an hour of time to support someone — with LinkedIn training or information about supply chains or any other type of expertise consulting.

For Sam, it meant she got an hour to prove her value to someone and to get them excited about working together.

“You’ll actually be more efficient in the time that you spend to net these deals than you were before,” Sam explained. “You just employ a little generosity.”

Don’t innovate, do get back to the basics

Cutting corners, chasing growth at any cost, and focusing on shortcuts and hacking…

Not a good plan.

“What I truly hope that happens out of all this hard stuff is a back to basics mentality,” Amy said.

Have you seen this phrase around?

Retention is the new growth.

Uh, there’s nothing new about it. “It’s always been the new growth, it will always be the new growth,” Amy said.

Holding a picture of the entire journey in her mind gives Sam valuable perspective on the importance of the basics. “I came from the old school of doing all of the jobs myself, and that made me a better seller, a better entrepreneur, and it makes me better for my business today,” she said.

The most fundamental “basics” that we need to get back to?

  • Build long-term relationships. People will remember if you treat them like humans.
  • Develop your outbound strategy. You need to know how to build a pipeline.
  • Meet your peers. Learn who is in your industry, form a community, and start to refer business to each other.

Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of referrals.

Sam knows that when Amy introduces her to someone, it’s going to be a valuable connection — because she trusts Amy for recommendations and vice versa.

“That person that you are introduced to is a relationship that has been cultivated for years,” Amy added “It takes time to do this.”

If things don’t work out, though, don’t stomp off in a huff.

“Be gracious when somebody doesn’t make a referral for you or when you don’t close the deal,” Sam said. “Be gracious and generous with your time and your gratitude for being involved.”

Amy’s 3 takeaways

  1. Think before you take action
  2. Have an outcome focus versus an activity focus
  3. Less “I,” more “them”

Sam’s 3 takeaways

(It’s actually just one big takeaway.)

  1. Get back to the basics.
    1. Do you know the foundations of sales?
    2. Do you know how to have a great discovery call?
    3. How to outbound?
    4. Map enterprise accounts?
    5. Nurture?

These are all foundational aspects that you have to master.

In these unprecedented times, basics matter.

Connect with Amy and Sam on LinkedIn.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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