Applying the Six Habits during these Historically Weird Times
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
These are historically strange times for our country, our profession, our world. We’re all working from home, as are most of our customers. Schools are closed. Kids are home from college. We are in uncharted waters, and although we may find ourselves succumbing to fear and doubt at times, it’s also an opportunity to rise above and be leaders in our homes, our communities and our organizations.
This week I’ve found myself thinking what more can I do for this community? How else can I help? People are being thrust into new working situations, new environments. What can I offer that will help people through this period of change and uncertainty?
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks – The Six Habits! As many of you know, I published a book last year called The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers. (Incidentally, it has been received incredibly well by the community, and for that I’m grateful.)
There’s NO better time to leverage the Six Habits than now. In fact, it may very well be more important now, than ever before, to adopt and develop these habits. To that end, allow me to share some of my perspectives on what we can and should be doing now to improve our situation and that of our customers and organizations.
Habit #1 is to partner with your sales counterparts.
Sales is a Team Sport. We need work hard to develop these relationships. Probably now more than ever. They – our sales counterparts – are going through this too. They have fears and uncertainties, just like us. In fact, they may even feel more threatened than we do. This is the perfect time to take a proactive stance and work on building these relationships. Pick up the phone and give them a call. “How are you doing? I mean really – how are YOU doing? Are there any customers or deals you are particularly concerned about? What can I do to help?”
ASLAN Sales Training talks about Others-Centered Selling. I’m taking that just a half step further here and suggesting others-centered collaboration with your sales teams. By the way, this also applies to your customers and other colleagues. What customers can you call to check in on? Don’t sit back. Reach out. Show concern for others during this time.
Habit #2 is to probe into customer inquiries and engagements.
This is the habit of effective discovery. For the foreseeable future we will be doing this over the phone and over the web. How does that change our approach? What techniques should we employ to ensure effective engagement? What if discovery requires ‘whiteboarding’?
Just like our sales counterparts, our customers are going through a range of emotions and difficulties too. We need to begin by being patient with them and their process. Their priorities and agenda have likely changed. Certainly, the way they operate has. Now, more than ever is the time to be a trusted adviser. Discovery needs to focus on THEM. What are their needs now? How have they changed since the outbreak? Customers need to believe that the discovery process is for THEIR best interest.
Incidentally, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that video calls and conferencing seems to be a bit of a polarizing aspect culturally within organizations. I’ve noticed that some organizations almost ALWAYS have video on when they do web meetings. For other organizations, they almost NEVER do. This rule also seems to apply to individuals – some people seem to prefer video, and some despise it. This has become something that I look for during discovery in preparation for an important web presentation and demo. Will the people joining expect to be in video mode or is that counterculture in this organization? Will they expect to SEE me, or will that make them uncomfortable? Don’t make assumptions here. Ask and then you can plan accordingly.
Habit #3 is to prepare with both efficiency and effectiveness in mind.
We may all find ourselves with some extra time or some downtime during this period. We need to do our best to stay focused on the right things and NOT make the mistakes of over-preparing, over-engineering. Is this a good time to build some of the demo assets that we’ve not otherwise had the time to build? Absolutely! But make sure it’s with a purpose in mind. Make sure they are reusable assets, and not just a “science project” to keep yourself busy. Now more than ever we need to balance activity and productivity. We are all a little nervous right now, unsettled. Which means we all probably have some nervous energy to burn. Work hard to channel that in the right direction.
Habit #4 is simply to practice.
During this time of limited travel and upended operations, this is the ideal time to work on our craft. Whether that’s running through some new demo scenarios or stories, practicing on a new version of the platform or hosting a series of practice runs with colleagues. Take advantage of this opportunity to practice your presentations and demos. Record yourself online and share it with a colleague or your sales counterpart. Start a practice group and present to one another. Take that training that you’ve been putting off. Learn an aspect of the solution that you’re not otherwise familiar with. Come out of this strange period smarter, sharper and better equipped to perform than ever before.
That leads right into Habit #5, which is to perform.
As I always say, “at some point the spotlight is on us, and it is then that we need to take the stage and perform.” Not only does that hold true during this period of altered operations, but the “stage” is going to be a screen share and a web camera. If you are not comfortable with video conferencing and video calls, now is the time to get there. For starters, the technology should become second nature to you. The inability to set up and launch meetings, share content correctly, manage the platform, etc. is simply inexcusable now. Make sure you are a master of whatever platform you use. Have your video technology set up correctly. Have proper lighting. Have a decent camera – set to eye-level and have a good microphone – be that a blue tooth device or headset.
In addition, we need to work that much harder to effectively capture and retain our audiences’ attention over the web and engage effectively with them. We need to go slower. Call on them more frequently to seek feedback to make sure they are following along. Refer to individuals by name to make it more personal. If your presentation or demo isn’t interesting and compelling, you’re that much more likely to lose their attention. Therefore, we need to work that much harder to capture and impress. There are many more techniques we can discuss here, but these are a few at the top of the list.
The brings us to Habit #6 which is to perfect our presentations and demonstrations.
This is the habit of constant and continuous improvement. All platforms and software tools have their weaknesses and flaws. As a sales engineer there are always questions asked that we can’t answer. Requirements or requests that make us cringe. In many cases, those scenarios require some sort of work-around, configuration, customization, etc. Sometimes they are built. But in many cases, we talk about them, conceptualize them – for years, but never actually build out the necessary example to show a prospect how we would do what has been asked. I refer to these as the elephant in the room. Those big challenges or flaws that everyone knows about but never seems to have the time to address. Well NOW is the perfect time to address the elephants in the room and develop those workarounds.
Incidentally, note that I am using the word perfect as a verb, as in per-FECT. I am not suggesting that you strive to build the “perfect demo”. I don’t believe there is such a thing. Some engineers make the mistake of letting the pursuit of perfection become the enemy of good enough. This goes back to Habit #3 preparing with both efficiency and effectiveness in mind. How we manage our time as sales engineers is infinitely important. What I am saying is that now is the ideal time to address some of those challenges or flaws in the solution that go unchecked because we never seem to have the time.
Are these scary, unfamiliar, uncertain times we are living in right now? Yes, they are. Is it all bad? No, it is not. We can leverage The Six Habits to not only help us through these new, uncharted waters. We can use this time to develop and apply the habits to draw some good out of what, in moments of despair, may seem like desperate times. To that end, I’m offering a bit of a stimulus package of my own. I’ve reduced the price of the printed book. I’ve slashed the prices on all my online training programs, and I’m offering a free assessment of your online demo. Go to www.demodoctor.com to sign up for one of my programs or request your free demo assessment.
Together we will lift one another up. Stay healthy. Hug your loved ones. And take advantage of this opportunity to develop better habits at home and in your professional lives.
Chris White is the Author of 'The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers' and the Managing Director of Demo Doctor.