There is clearly a limited supply of raw materials and finished goods around the world at the moment. We have a glut of “hand sanitizer,” “Masks,” and not enough of the other stuff like lids for plastics or raw materials for products or even microchips for cars.
Also, the labor market is in a weird spot and managers are dealing with staffing challenges causing delivery delays even in service businesses. There are a lot of C players earning a stay of execution since they are at least good at handling customer complaints (or so they think) or at least a warm body to fulfill orders. In real estate and many other industries, as a consumer or buyer it can feel like a seller’s market.
From personal experience, I attempted to buy another car and the shortage of new vehicles has caused a surge in used-vehicle pricing and new cars being sold above MSRP. Could you have even imagined this two years ago? It has created unprecedented challenges for salespeople and sales managers who are trying to sell with empty warehouses or delivery delays. Some are handling it well, and others not so much. Where sales could be way up, they are often down, and there is more “apologizing and excuse-making” than anyone can handle.
Now is the best time to be real, honest, and positive with your clients and prospects. The situation will eventually improve, and the customers will choose the folks they can trust now and in the future. It’s a perfect time to build loyalty and relationships through expert communication and sales processes. It requires solid listening skills like asking questions, listening for the real issues, and affirming what you’ve heard. You must be a part of the solution, not the problem.
It’s a complicated situation and complete transparency seems to help… a lot! Be straight with your buyers; give them options even if they are unpopular or unprofitable. This may seem hard, but it will create loyalty and bond that can last beyond the current crisis. The opposite is trying to fit every request into a box that no longer exists, leaving the buyer feeling frustrated and confused. Misleading the buyer or leaving their problem unresolved will ultimately destroy the trust, which is the foundation of future business and referrals.
Talk about their needs, budget, and timeline. Most reasonable clients know that the sales rep isn’t the one stopping the delivery. Once you can move past their initial disappointment, you can begin to work on solutions and opportunities they have not considered yet.
It is also important for organizations to adjust their expectations with salespeople. Leaders can adjust compensation plans to match key behaviors despite the lack of inventory to sell. They can work with their teams and Sandler coaches to identify critical leading indicators that drive customer retention and fill the funnel for future business. If your organization or department hasn’t done this yet, it is crucial to keep your sales team focused on the key leading behaviors that drive results and their energy focused on the controllable. You don’t want your sales team giving up and wait for the supply chain to fix itself before they start prospecting and selling again.
Finally, leaders can use any spare downtime to work with teams on the upskilling and reskilling necessary for continued growth. You could have the sales team work with a Sandler coach to practice critical conversations. You can have the delivery teams work on their customer service skills or upselling conversations. You could use the time to improve processes, fix bottlenecks, and uncover blind spots in all areas of the business so that you are ready to hit the ground running when things open up.
Certainly, things will change, and this too will pass. Your clients will remember who solved their problems, who listened, and who built trust through their communication. Your employees will remember who invested in them, supported them, and built their confidence. The flip side is also true for both groups, so now is the time to make the most of these unprecedented opportunities.