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About This Episode
It may be the understatement of the century, but COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic has completely altered the sales industry, likely forever. There is no longer such a thing as “business as usual.”
And being a sales leader comes with an added set of challenges. You’re going through all of the same emotions, and feeling a lot of the same impact as everyone else, but you’ve got a team to lead. People that depend on you. So how should your strategy shift as you accommodate this “new normal?” What are you dealing with now that would’ve been unheard of 6 months ago? How have you had to grow yourself as a leader?
On this special Unleash Summit episode of the Sales Engagement podcast, we sat down with LaKendra Davis, who is the Assistant Vice President of Government Solutions at AT&T. We talked all about (among other things) how the sales leadership role has changed, shifting strategies, and how she keeps morale up in the midst of a pandemic.
Let’s face it. There is no “normal” anymore.
Where we once got dressed up for sales calls, now we’re at home on Zoom calls, and it’s not uncommon to see hats, t-shirts, or hoodies on the other end of the webcam. Or the occasional kid or pet pop into the background.
And while a year ago the thought might have been, “Wow this person should’ve been so much more prepared for this call,” now we’re just glad that person is on the call, even if they are going through the line at the grocery store. Flexibility has become key.
LaKendra and her team do business with a lot of smaller businesses. Think restaurants, bars, stores, mom & pop shops, etc. So things are naturally taking a lot longer than they were before. And in the past, there typically hasn’t been a lot of reflecting on wins.
But in these COVID times, it’s more important than ever to take a step back and look at your wins and celebrate those small victories. Maybe it means redefining what a “win” actually is. Or maybe it’s taking a closer look into the market and pivoting from being transactional to strategic.
Learning is key as well.
LaKendra and her team took this time to double down on learning. To really dive into the education side of the work and facilitate more discussions with SMEs. Particularly on solutions that are mission critical right now (think cybersecurity.)
Leading Is Hard
COVID has really separated the adults from the kids, so to speak. The burden of being a sales leader has gotten even heavier over the last 8 months or so. Living in the reality that “business as usual” is gone, you’ve got to pivot. Pivot in how you define success. Pivot in identifying “wins.”
One of the ways LaKendra did that was by shifting focus to EFFORT, not just impact.
In the past, the standard measure was the impact. Is the impact there? If not, then you work backwards and try to figure out if maybe the effort was lacking. But now, things have changed.
No longer are we starting with impact. We’re starting to look and ask questions like, “Are you executing the activities required to be successful? Are you making the calls, sending the emails, and uncovering the opportunities? What is your plan to accelerate when we get to the other side of this?
Because we will get to the other side of this.
Managing with Humanity
As a leader, you set the tone of your team. You set the morale. Energy will not trickle down if it doesn’t come from you. So yes, you’re allowed to have emotions and feelings. You’re human.
But as leaders, we carry the extra burden of setting that tone. Of being able to tell your team that you’re not asking them to do anything that you’re not first doing yourself.
On LaKendra’s team, it’s as simple as a weekly afternoon meeting with beverages in hand. It’s light hearted, it’s casual, and it ends with her requiring the team to log off after the meeting.
The expectation is that when the meeting ends at 4:30, laptops get closed. That people take a break. Go for a walk. Make dinner. Whatever it is that needs to be done, because the emails will be there later.
The work still needs to be done, but just like you’re supposed to secure your own oxygen mask on an airplane before helping others, you’ve got to take care of yourself in order to be of service to others.
The most important thing?
As a leader, it’s crucial to maintain and demonstrate appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to continue to lead people. It’s a burden, but it’s also a huge blessing.
Even on the worst days, there’s something to appreciate.