Part 1: The Sales Phase Change in Access Control Accelerated by COVID-19

May 13, 2020
Written Insights

What it means right now for you and your sales team.

Stating the obvious, COVID-19 has had an immediate impact on sales. Looking past the numbers, speaking in regards to the people, and the art of sales, we have been transported to Bizarro World. Our equilibrium is completely off and we were not prepared for this. The way it feels is no different than the way my two kids now feel having to go to school via Zoom.

Like many, I have spent my career on planes/trains/automobiles, staying in hotels, and meeting people face to face. I was brought up that this was the way sales got done, and in being completely open, it became part of my identity. It is how some of you know me. It may be part of you as well. I loved traveling, I loved eating interesting food, going to interesting places, and meeting interesting people. My family even got into a rhythm with it. They too got used to me being away from home (not saying they liked it, just that they got used to it).  Some of you, from what I am hearing, unfortunately, are struggling with the realization that being away was "healthy" for you and your significant others. Some of you were probably close to retirement and some of you were just kicking off your career in sales.

Wherever you are or were, and however you got here, it is undeniable, our industry is and has been a relationship-based business. We value face to face. Sure, pre-COVID-19, there were mainstream digital disruptions impacting our industry. Whether it was online retailers, SEO, or the occasional online webinar, it did not matter. We defaulted to keeping it a face to face industry. And we liked it. We loved:

  • Taking flights to visit major projects. "I need to put my eyes on this." (in person)
  • Showing up to that prospective client's office. No matter where they were in the world. "If I get in front of their face, I will close this." (in person)
  • Driving territories. "I always show up at XYZ on Monday. ABC on Tuesday, etc etc.  I’ve been doing it for years. It is what they expect of me." (in person)
  • Office and job site meetings. That GC or Contractor won’t meet “on the phone.” They are on the job site. "I meet my customers where they are.". (in person)
  • National and local tradeshows or conferences.  The annual pilgrimage. "I hate to love it." (in person)
  • Headquarter visits to dip that customer in your companies magic or show your face so "they do not forget about me." (in person)
  • Trips and business entertainment like sporting events and dinners to build relationships.  "We break bread, then we do business". (in person)
  • Conference calls, but primarily for internal meetings. "Let me put this on mute and get to my expenses." (no video)
  • Swag. You mail it or you drop it off.  "I appreciate them and I want them to know it." (in person)

And… it is all gone. I, and a lot of people I talk to, do not think a lot of the above is going to come back. Some of it will, but even then, it will be different. And that is actually an opportunity.  More on that in part 2.

Back to the list above.  The only one left is the one we, as salespeople, really hate: "conference calls occasionally but primarily for internal meetings.” But it is so much easier, right? Because, we have tools like Zoom or Teams, right?

No… it is exhausting. Between your customer video calls and the 100 webinars a day, your time is filled with internal video calls and webinars. On top of that, life is happening all around you.  

It. Is. Hard.  

Deep breath. You are not alone. But, it is time to come to a realization. It has changed and so have you. Your expectations, your routines, the way you build trust, how you are creative, how you judge the sales team you manage, and how you close. All of it has changed and so must you.

With change, there is an opportunity. Using my conversation with my father here is some advice for those of you in the middle of the mud right now.

  • Traditional sales in the construction and building products industry is a full-contact activity and obviously, that can't happen right now.  It sucks. I get it. But time to move on.
  • Purposeful contact via video with people you usually see in person is important. Build that same routine you had as much as possible.  Find a way to create consistency.
  • You need to be creative to stand out today vs being just present and consistent. And doing webinars is not being creative anymore. Everyone is doing it. How will you stand out?
  • Teaming with non-competitive companies happened some of the time when you were doing face to face calls, but now, teaming with other manufacturers or partners is important and can be helpful.  Reach out and partner.
  • Keep in mind, it is as important to continue the relationships you had prior, but you need to work on building new ones even more now.
  • In bad times, numbers (sales) count more than ever. True bullshit walks and it will show. You need to work at it (grind) and do not procrastinate. The time is now!
  • On that note, you need to attack and do not wait for it to “get better.”
  • If you think people are hard to get to now, wait till business is back in full swing and people are busy. Take advantage of the time right now to reach out and make a difference.
  • You have a sales choice right now.  You can just participate in the down business or you can make it work for you. Make it work for you.
  • Some salespeople will come out of this very busy.  Some salespeople will wonder what happened and find something, like the virus, to blame. You need to adapt and be creative.  Get busy.

And lastly, the one that speaks to the lasting impact of how sales will get done post-COVID-19 and what we will tackle next in Part 2:

Even as states open up, salespeople will not be flying around, training around, or getting into offices. Things have changed.

Lee Odess

I've worked as an Entrepreneur and an Integrator (founded E+L+C), for a multinational billion dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry (Allegion), as an Executive of a start-up who pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry (UniKey), and as an Executive with the first cloud based physical access control manufacturer (Brivo). I put all those years together to form a Growth Studio focused on business creation in the CRETech, proptech and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control and IoT industry.

Labeled as an uber-networker by the Washington Post, Lee Odess has over 18 years starting, building and leading businesses with an exceptional track record for sales growth and marketing effectiveness.

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