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About This Episode
Some things never change. Optimism is still the only free stimulus. Tuning out the news improves your mental health. And if you focus on your customer, you’ll be fine.
Bill served as the CEO of SAP for 17 years. Today, he’s repeating his incredible success of those years at ServiceNow. Bill also authored Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office, which was one of the earliest books I read on sales.
COVID vs every other economic downturn
The economic blows of 9-11 and 2008 both hit really hard, but they didn’t strike quite the same way COVID did. While they made a serious impact on the global economy, everything just seemed to freeze up.
During COVID, however, the world is still doing business. With collaborative tools such as Zoom, Teams, or WebEx, the business environment continues to work. People want to do business. They want the conversation because they know that digital transformation is the biggest transformation of our generation.
So this is not what 9-11 or 2008 were.
That doesn’t mean COVID won’t go on for a long time. We’ll probably still be talking about COVID well into next year even if there is a vaccine. But business, digital transformation, and the kinds of things that we do to move markets are all still in flight.
That said, if you keep your focus on your customer, you’ll be fine.
What never changed and what changed permanently
Some things don’t change. Others have changed permanently.
People are working from anywhere and everywhere, and this is not going to change.
“Last week, I was on a business council call,” Bill said, “where one third of the workers would be working from home for an extended period of time — possibly permanently — and another one third would work in a hybrid setting.”
This kind of change has revealed that 20th-century architectures or systems of record cannot keep up with the 21st-century demands of a digital world. As value chains split apart, they are reforming into new workflows, which could be as simple as signing a contract or as complex as rethinking your core business processes.
It’s easier to sell in this environment to your current customers because they’re going to be happy to join you in an executive briefing session on Zoom. If you have a big idea that can help them achieve their goals digitally, then you can connect.
But the hard part for the sellers is going to be acquiring new customers. The key here is to keep the customers you already have super happy and loyal and to upsell them while at the same time open up in different geographies in different industries with different personas.
Then you have to also think about the network effect. Who else has a stated interest in the goals of that consumer that could team up with you? Consider those processes very carefully and initiate those workflows for scale.
Stay connected to your hustle spirit
“Some men see things as they are,” Bill said in his book, “and say ‘Why?’ I dream things that never work and say, ‘Why not?”
Keep your eye on the prize. Don’t get distracted.
Stop just short of completely tuning out the news because it can really crush you to talk about pandemics, fires, floods, hurricanes, social injustice, and literally fights in the street by the day. This can really weigh on people, especially when they’re working from home and caring for older people or children.
Collaborative digital tools are very nice, but do it for 10 hours straight and your mind grows numb. So take care of your mind, body, and spirit.
Yes, great sales professionals keep grinding, but sometimes you have to step back and make sure you’re in good shape before you get back in the ring and take off the gloves.
Expanding your market
How do you grow your market? The unchanging characteristics still get results: Have empathy. Connect to customers. Serve employees.
How do you manage to balance these emotional temperaments with business growth strategies, especially in a pandemic?
“When COVID really hit in March,” Bill said, “I was going into a blue sky strategy session with my management team. We were going to talk about reinventing the world, and 10 minutes into the meeting, I said, ‘This is going nowhere. Because if we don’t help the world solve COVID, we’re not the company we were destined to be.”
ServiceNow brought out an emergency response set of applications in three days and launched globally in seven.
One step beyond.
We’re not in a track-and-trace world. We’re in a suite of applications because we have to make sure mentally and physically, people are ready to come back to work. We have to make sure every office in every company around the world has testing protocols. And we have to hook up with testing companies and a whole ecosystem to make sure that that workflow gets handled.
And then we have to look inside at every building, every department, every floor, to make sure social distancing and high hygiene protocols are all there. Finally, ServiceNow plans to turn its new product into an entire emergency management system. So while we get through COVID, over the next year or so, there’ll be something else coming hot on its heels.
The big idea.
The big idea is to spot things around the corner and move on them incredibly quickly. Then, make sure the product is world class.
When Uber, for example, implemented ServiceNow’s safe return to work apps, they did it in two weeks. Big software companies, by contrast, can’t get things done for two years.
It’s not enough to have a good idea or build a great product. You also have to make sure that it’s easy to use, simple to consume, and implementable in record time.