Sales guru and bestselling author Weldon Long took to Facebook Live to dispense timely advice for contracting companies during the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A faculty member at the Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA), Long is the author of The Power of Consistency: Prosperity Mindset Training for Sales and Business Professionals.
In the webinar, Long emphasized that business owners should exercise caution—and not give in to panic.
“Be smart and be practical,” he says. “Don’t lose your head. Keep your cool. The economic impact stands to be way worse than the health impact—especially if we let it.”
Long says employees will be looking to the boss to lead the way.
“Whatever tone the leader sets is the tone that people will follow,” he says. “Be honest and be direct—but you cannot lose your cool. A leader takes inventory of the situation and decides how to respond to it.”
Also, be sure that everyone in your business is armed with the right talking points. Customers need to know that their safety is your top priority. Be sure that all customer-facing teams know what is being done to keep homes safe when your employees are coming for a visit. And reassure customers that you won’t let sick employees into their homes.
Bottom line: External factors should not determine your success. They do, however, influence how hard you have to work. Know that you may have to work harder right now just to tread water. Temporarily, Long says, you may have to do more to hold onto what you have.
Here are 5 ways Long says you can weather the storm brought on by the Coronavirus:
1. Remember that cash is king.
The most important thing you can do is take stock of how much cash the company has on hand. If necessary, secure additional lines of credit now. Be thoughtful about cash: Your top priority should be taking care of payroll and payroll taxes.
Cash flow is one of the basic components of your business. You can’t afford to lose good people, and your entire team will lose faith if you can’t make just one payroll.
Don’t be afraid to have conversations with suppliers and landlords if you have to postpone payment or need to come to an alternative payment arrangement to ensure cash flow. Be transparent and have these conversations ASAP.
“Yes, that can be a tough conversation to have with suppliers,” Long says. “Your suppliers don’t want to be your bank—but they definitely don’t want you to go bankrupt. They’re not going to like it, but they’ll like it better than if you just don’t say anything.”
When you do make payments, make sure the first expenses you cover are payments that could impact your credit, such as vehicle and credit card payments.
2. Immediately measure and evaluate your labor supply.
Ask your labor force now if they anticipate needing time off. Yes, it’s a viable issue if employees have children and the schools are closed. Especially when young children are involved who are in need of supervision.
Childcare issues, though, shouldn’t be a surprise to management. As a manager, Long says, you have to take inventory of who may have these kinds of issues. “If you have five installers and two have to stay home next week to watch the kids, you have to know that up front,” he says. “Yes, it’s OK, but you should know ahead of time.”
3. Don’t ever stop training.
When dire circumstances occur, one thing that happens in the industry is that people are inclined to stop training. If anything, Long says, the opposite should be true. This is an opportune time to boost people’s knowledge levels.
“Don’t stop training—instead, increase training,” he says. “I’m going into the office right now and training service techs, sales people, lead generators. I’m training everybody. Because guess what? You’re going to have fewer opportunities in the next couple months. You’ll have fewer leads and fewer service calls.”
That means you have to capitalize on every opportunity. Businesses can’t afford to have low close rates, low conversion rates or a low average ticket on service calls.
“When the phone rings and you get a sales or service call, that’s gold,” Long says. “That means your people have to be dialed in to capitalize on every opportunity.”
You can’t afford the luxury of low close rates, so Long advocates training on the PIES acronym, which stands for:
P-Problem: Find what is wrong.
I-Impact: Determine how the problem affects the homeowner.
E-Emotion: Ask how that impact makes the potential customer feel.
S-Solve: Offer a solution that ties to the emotion.
4. Focus on what you can control.
“Winners focus on what they can control; whiners focus on what they can’t control,” Long says. “And where you focus goes, your energy flows.”
You can control: your level of preparedness, attitude, energy and your ability to be great.
You can’t control: the economy, the coronavirus, the news, weather and other outside factors.
“As long as I don’t panic or let my people panic, then I will drive my business because I’m focusing on what I can change, not what I can’t change,” Long says.
5. Perfect your rehash process.
Everybody brags about their close rate, but sometimes you have to think about your lose rate and consider what type of followup you’re doing on lost sales. The best companies, Long says, have a Rehash Department that follows up on every lead.
A person devoted to being the Rehash Department is an expense, and your salespeople won’t always like the practice.
“But you have to do it,” Long says. “The company owns the lead. If your sales professional has a followup, then they’re still working that deal. But if the sales person isn’t driving the sale then the company leader has to make sure somebody is.”
If you can recover 20 percent of lost leads, he adds, that’s a significant amount of sales. Let other companies sit at home and wait for the phone to ring, Long says, while you invest in following up.
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