Episode #12. B2B Sales During COVID-19 Is Possible with Mike Simmons

Episode #12. B2B Sales During COVID-19 Is Possible with Mike Simmons


The guest of the day is Mike Simmons.

Founder of Catalyst Sale and a co-chair at Revenue Collective.

Mike has more than 22 years of experience in operations, sales, and sales leadership, with 17 of which he spent selling in the EdTech space. Mike has built, led, and optimized sales organizations leveraging both direct and indirect teams.   




Catalyst Sale  — Sales Success and Enablement.

Revenue Collective a Private Membership organization for commercial growth operators.

What will you learn?

  • The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on B2B Sales;

  • How to sell your product and service during the crisis without trading its value;

  • What is next for the B2B sales after quarantine is over.


Michael:    I wanted to start off with what's happening with B2B sales right now. Talk to me. What's going on with B2B sales? I know there were industries that are more impacted by this COVID-19, but there are industries that are not. What is your opinion at what stage are we right now with B2B sales? I mean, is it really that bad, or do we need to sell right now? Do we need just to hold on for a month or two and your general impression of what are the B2B sales right now?

Mike:     My view on this is that things really haven't changed from a fundamental perspective, meaning how do we sell? What is our approach? How do we engage with customers? All of those things shouldn't change significantly just because there's a crisis that's going on, and there's something that's outside of our control that's happening. That being said, if you're selling in to — let's use airlines as an example — if you're selling into airlines and your selling airplanes into airlines, you're probably going to have some really tough times here for the foreseeable future. And there are a lot of airplanes that are on ground not going anywhere and companies that are going out of business. Now if you're selling PPE masks and protection and things that help with systems and processes in a healthcare environment to help people accelerate those processes, then your business is probably up. Like if we're talking to somebody right now, who's in B2B sales at a company like Zoom, they are probably pretty busy with inbound, even with some of the negative things that are out there related to security and whatnot, and they'll work through those things.

So my view on this stuff — I'll make a sports reference — is that we should try to be like Eli Manning. Never get too high, never get too low, just kind of be able to stay even keel. Take in the information that's available to us and then change the way that we approach things based on that information. Now, what you might find is that you work inside a B2B sales organization that sells a product that does not recover from this challenge. If that's the case, then you've got to realize that maybe that's not the right place to be, and so you can make that adjustment. The only way that we can think effectively about that though, is if we apply critical thinking, if we apply feedback loops. One of the ones that I like is the OODA loop, which is Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, and John Boyd is the one who introduced that.
He was a, I think Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. It's specifically around dogfighting, but it applies in any kind of scenario where we're at to make quick decisions. And what we should do is we should observe, figure out what's in front of us and take in the information that's available to us, orient ourselves, see where we are relative to that, make a decision and then take action and then begin the looping process again. And if we keep doing that, we can reduce the impact that emotion has on as much as we try, and reduce the impact that emotion has on the decisions that we're making and how we react to things.

Michael:    What if we are talking about industries that are more kind of broad, for example, computer software, IT, marketing. Those that were not that impacted like airlines or hospitality or travel in general, but that is being on hold just because the decision-making process has been extended. So obviously you probably experienced that. We experienced this. Many of our clients experienced that.

That's 50% of their contracts, for example, were put on hold. That said, no, sorry, we're not moving forward before this situation clears out. So is that something like a very temporary thing like that? For example, in the first month it is a shock and then this month it's going better. In general, what's your opinion on that? Do we need to withhold making any decisions for the time being, or do we need to just keep on pushing? In general, we are fast to make decisions, but I cannot say that for my customers that say we don't want to make decisions right now. We feel like we will not be able to close contracts right now just because our clients will not be ready to move forward with us just because of this.

Mike:     I think it depends. So let's say that you're in a good financial position where you've got enough financial stability, where you're going to be able to carry through over a period of time. So let's say you've got a 90-day window. Take advantage of the 90-day window. You don't make your problems with your customer's problems. Focus on them, ask good questions, get a sense of where they are, and then adjust your approach based on where they are. If the customer comes back and says, look, I'm still in the process of just trying to figure out what is happening with the business and how we stabilize things, and in fact, we just haven't been able to get all of our people productive in their operating environment inside their home offices, and our priority is getting hardware into the hands of those people so they can be productive and you are not delivering that hardware, then give them some space.

Play the long game. Expect that you're going to be in business in 90 days or in 60 days or whatever that time horizon is and operate with that mindset. If on the other hand, you're in one of those situations where you are just forced to make a critical decision, you just have to be very deliberate about the time that you're spending with individual customers. Take a breath, step back, identify those specific customers who have the problem that you solve for, who cares about that problem that you solve for, and who are not dealing with the same kind of intensity as some of these other businesses and focus time, energy, and attention on those customers. So now you go back into the middle.
So yeah, let's use that situation where now we're not selling into those that are at the far margins. We're actually selling into organizations that are kind of in the middle. They may or may not have a high level of stability. There are likely people inside those organizations who care about the problem that you solve for, and right now they're trying to figure out what to do with their time. They're tired of looking at the same four walls in their house. They're tired of constantly going on walks. They're tired of all of these things. You can actually be a welcome break for them. Just don't operate with them in a very transaction-oriented mind-set. If you operate inside a very transactional oriented mind-set, I think their radar is going to go up. They are going to be a bit more guarded on the type of information that they share. And they're going to ask the question internally, is this person here to help me or are they here to serve themselves. And if it's to serve themselves, then you're going to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to pitch and convince and compel, and rather than getting the customer to do like what you're doing on the other end, which is nodding their head and agreeing and getting engaged in a conversation. So I'll go back to that comment about playing loose, but be very deliberate about where you play, given the time horizon that you're working in.

Michael:    This is true with the kind of business standpoint. What if we go down to an individual sales rep or a sales effort or sales force in general? When I'm seeing that my clients are kind of holding on the contract. So they say, Michael, we want it to pause for a few months because we were cutting off the marketing budgets or sales budgets, or our IT budgets, and then I'm a salesperson. I'm sitting at home. I'm taking calls, I'm negotiating the deals, but my customers are not closing. I'm asking for the close; they are not closing. Then my supervisor looks at his numbers and says, Michael, you're not meeting the KPIs, and we're probably going to be cutting off the sales team for the time being just because we will not be putting more dollars into our marketing, because we've seen that it's not leading anywhere.
So we personally think that it's not the right approach. We think that you just need to send one more email, to talk to another customer. So basically we just need to double our efforts this time, but never, never cut down those efforts. We feel like there are a lot of businesses out there that are making decisions, that are ready to buy, you need just to do double work right now. And so what is the right approach here? Do we need just to have that 90 days boot camp where you just work with your current customers and cut the costs where you can cut those costs, or you can cut costs on your sales and your marketing, even though it's hard, but you need still to spend more dollars because then you can maintain or leverage your churn rate with new sales?

Mike:     I mean, this is the cool thing about business is there's no right way or wrong way to do it like there are no right answers. If this was simple, if it was easy for people to just say, do this and you're going to get these results, then people would continue to do this and get those results. They would just work and automate it. In a scenario where a deal is stalling, because right now they're saying budgets have been frozen, I just can't move things forward, go back to your traditional sales process stuff, the things that you probably did before you delivered the proposal. You identified a problem that existed inside the organization. That problem is X, Y, or Z. There's a reason why they wanted to solve that inside their organization. The reason why was X, Y, or Z. There's a time frame for which they wanted to be able to solve that problem. The reason why was X, Y, or Z. There's probably some risk associated with them if they did not solve the problem during that time period. If that risk is greater than the amount that you're charging, then that may help to justify the freeing up of the budget it goes through.
A lot of this also depends on the size of the deal. I can force selling $10,000 solutions inside organizations. There are a lot of people who can put that on a credit card and move things through a process. If we're delivering $100,000 solutions or million-dollar solutions, then you might really be at the mercy of the process that the organization is running into. But you can still, from a control perspective, you can still ask those questions. And what you might find out is that things actually change. The urgency that they have on their side may have changed because now there are other priorities that are going on inside the organization.
And then it's our job as reps to go back to our management team and share that information with them so that they can see what's changing in the market, not assume that the reason why you're closing a business is that you're just not doing your job, or you're just not pushing hard enough, or you're just not doing whatever. If some of us are in really transactional sales roles, some of us are in more long-term solution-oriented roles, it doesn't even matter about the size of the deal in those instances. If it's more transactional turn-ups, some of the things that you do to help with the transaction again, because you're solving a problem inside the organization, if it's longer-term, then make sure we're gathering the right data and communicating that back into the organization. Ultimately we as sales reps do not buy from ourselves. We as sales reps do not make the number by buying our own products. Our sales management team understands that.
The challenge is, and I would actually say this to the sales managers that are out there, who are putting this kind of pressure on your team, what damage are you potentially creating inside the market by putting pressure on the team that focuses on the short term needs of your specific organization, and how does that play out long-term, given the competitive threat that you might have out in the marketplace? If you're the only person that's delivering some kind of solution in the market and there's no competitive threat, maybe you'd be a little bit more aggressive and you can get away with it, but I've just never been a fan of those kinds of tactics. What I've tried to do is be very, very deliberate about understanding the problem I'm solving in the way that the customer describes it, understanding the importance of solving it in a time period, understanding the cost of no decision and then highlighting the cost of no decision and time as a way to drive urgency.

Michael:    It makes sense also to create some sort of foot in the door offering or something that customers can start with during this outbreak, and then just continue on scaling after the crisis has finished, so it's easier for them to move forward with you.

Mike:     Absolutely! Make it easy for your customers to do business with you. There's so much stress that's out there. If you're going to be a pain to do business with, they'll find somebody else to work with. So if you can change, modify your offer just slightly where you actually deliver something that addresses a specific acute problem inside the organization, and because the price point is a little bit lower threshold that allows things to move through their buying process faster, then do that. The only way that you know that's the case is if you ask questions though. I think one of the mistakes a lot of us make is we go and we start pitching those ideas. We say, Hey, well, what if we did this? Don't ask them 'what if we did this' question?

Bring up things that you had identified, and then say, if we were able to solve it with this, how would that impact your business? And I think one of the most common mistakes that people make around this is they put together some kind of incentive thing where they say you can buy now and we'll discount it 20%. Well, if the value that you're delivering to your customer hasn't changed, then why are you changing the price point, and are you okay with the idea that that price point now becomes the new norm? And when they come back outside of the time frame and say, okay, well now I'm ready to buy at this price point, how are you going to answer the question when they say, well, you said you were going to do it at 20% less now. How come you can't do it 20% less today? And that timepiece is not really a good excuse, at least not for me it isn't.

Michael:    You cannot basically get a customer by discounting the cost. You need to just get a small feel of the value that you can give them either for free or just to give them a feeling of what you can give them or solve a problem, and then just kind of sign them up for your regular price.

Mike:     Don't get me wrong, discounts work. People like to get discounts. Just be comfortable with the idea that if you're going to deliver a discount, you're getting something in return. There's has to be some kind of trade. We should be trading something. Are we reducing the number of licenses? Are we increasing the term for which they're committing? Are we getting them to do a customer case study or testimonial? Are they going to deliver a referral? Will they be a reference account, all of these things? There are trades that we can make as sales reps that are high value to us and might be low value to the customer but they don't know that, or might be high value to the customer and low value to us and they don't know that.

That's the beauty of trading these things. If we understand, if we are strategic in the way that we operate our sales cycles and understand what's important to the customer, then we know where our leverage points are and the types of trades that we can implement, and traders don't necessarily have to have a monetary value associated with them. It could be something completely different, and one of the things that you might get from a customer is, hey, we need this additional service added here, or I need an additional report, or I need some kind of data or whatever it is. Have your list of things that you want to trade with that customer and ask them for access to the organization. Hey, while I'm working on this report or while I'm working on getting that approved, you had mentioned that you were going to help me get in front of this person. Can you make that introduction? Be aware of the trades that you have out there and trades don't necessarily have to be money-driven. They can be people, access to information, all kinds of things.

Michael:    Before the crisis, the great chunk of the business was made by visiting trade shows events, face-to-face just meeting with people. Now everything is online, and I know there are many businesses out there that were just heavily relying on trade shows and making personal connections and now they're online, and probably they are currently struggling, but they will figure it out for sure. But the question is, do you think after this thing is over, do you think that people start more relying on the digital channel and calls in making decisions online rather than going to trade shows, or the trade shows will still be back and will still play a huge role in generating new businesses?

Mike:     Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball. If I did, I probably would be doing something a little bit different, so I don't know. However, what we can do is we can refer back to what we've seen in our past. And I have been involved in SAS-based products since 2000. If you know your history, 2001 we had the dotcom bubble, then 9/11 11. So in 2000, I forget - dotcom 2000/2001. 9/11 happened in September of 2001. People reacted. They all reacted differently. I mean, immediately you saw planes stop flying and then people started looking at this saying, well, how much risk do I have by putting all of my folks on an airplane and sending them out to training, and what are some of the other vehicles that are available to me, and how do I do X, Y, or Z with fewer resources? We can look at some of the things that happened after 9/11, things that happened after the financial crisis, and use those to infer what we might see after this.
I would expect that you're not going to see these really large events. It's going to be hard to justify pulling 120,000 of your friends together for a Salesforce.com conference, like a Dreamforce conference. That's insane. We're recording this in the middle of April. There are folks who are talking - I think Mayor Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles was saying that he doesn't believe that large groups of people will come together throughout 2021. I don't know that he's an expert in that, but he's planning. He's at least referring that that might not happen. So I would say that yes, things are going to change. How will they change? I don't know that we really know. What we do know is there's a lot of technology that we can use. We can use technology like Zoom. We can use technology like remote HQ. We can use technology like Google docs. We can use technology like Slack. We can use all of these resources to increase the amount of collaboration that happens, and start to replace some of the things that might happen in person. And there are a number of events folks who are scrambling around this. There are also a number of companies who are scrambling. One of the things we're starting to see more of is more companies are creating their own webinar environments. More individuals are creating these opportunities for sales reps to come together at happy hours and come together as part of these individual communities. So I would expect that we'll see people leverage existing technology in different ways, and that's one of the cool things about innovation. We take what we know about what works in one area, start applying it into another area, and create new ways to deliver solutions.
So I would look at a couple of different groups. Look at some of those organizations that all they've ever done are virtual conferences. What do they do well? How do they engage? Look at webinars. Look at live streams. Look at your community events. I mean, there's a number of different ways where you bring people from multiple locations together in both asynchronous where everybody is doing it at the same time and an asynchronous format where you can kind of dip in whenever you want and the thing doesn't have to be happening at the same time. And there are different ways to leverage the technology. So I'm optimistic that these events will continue to evolve. The question I would be asking inside the organization is who are my customers? Where do they hang out? What are they trying to do? How can we get in front of them? How can we add value — not to overplay that — but how can we add value in the conversations and get people to kind of come to us in the same way that they might have come to us in a trade show? When we set up a trade show booth, we put up all this really cool design and we have these tchotchkes and these giveaways, and we try to bring people in and we scan badges and do all of those things. Well, how does that shift if we can be very targeted in the 10 people that we want to bring into a webinar, instead of broadcasting and making it available to 1000 people? How do the conversations shift? How does the engagement shift? What's the benefit of taking that approach? So, yeah, I think things are absolutely going to shift. I don't know exactly how they're going to, but I would imagine more and more Zoom, more and more collaboration tools and we are going to apply technology that's used in other areas a little bit differently,

Michael:    More webinars, right? More content, essentially, and various ways to deliver that content to your customers and creating different communities around your brand, and just sharing that.

Mike:     So if you think about this podcast, we're recording on a podcast, which is a great way. I mean, I started listening to the HBR Idea Cast way, way back and I love the medium of podcasts, because it's a great way to communicate information that carries over, but there aren't a lot of people who listen to podcasts. I mean, the numbers keeping increasing and more and more people are discovering these, but there are other formats we can do. Instagram TV is live now. We can do live events on YouTube. My advice here would be to go where your customers are, and the fastest way to go where your customers are is to ask them. So when you're talking to your customers, just ask this simple question. Now that things are changing, where do you plan to go for information? Where do you plan to go? What do you plan to do to replace those larger events that you would go to? And then be quiet and listen, and you start to identify patterns in the way that your customers share with you and iterate based on that.

Michael:    What's going to be happening with overall headcount within companies? I mean, the remote-based work was trending since 2012 or 15, but I think that only in 2020, 2021 we will see the shift that folks will start hiring remotely, that you need to be based out of wherever you are. You just need to deliver as well as folks start more outsourcing. Because then instead of doing something within their own organization, they will say, why don't we hire this guy or that person or that company that could help us to create the value around that.

Do I really need to outsource, or I can build my remote workforce also effectively because we personally have been remote for a long time. We have an office in Europe and we have folks scattered around the world, so we effectively leverage the technology and work remotely. However, I know many of our customers, they have locations, especially for the sales force. It's very important to be in one room with other folks, to listen to what others are saying, the vibe of the room and just start shooting the numbers. So folks are struggling to work remotely right now because of different distractions. So do I need more to build the process around working remotely, kind of being a business owner to make sure that my folks can work remotely effectively and leverage the technology and the processes and build some kind of KPIs around that? Or should I just keep the headcount down and focus more on what if I could have this agency working on project-based work, delivering this value for me, instead of me having 15 people doing the job? Does any of that make sense?

Mike:     It does. I'm going to go back to what happened after 9/11. So after 9/11, all of a sudden we had different security protocols that we had to use to get into an airport and get to the gate before we could fly. There are different security protocols inside each airplane. You couldn't stand in the galley way. You couldn't form a line. Doors are locked. All of these things will change. The market will continue to shift. The market will prevail. Organizations will shift. Organizations will figure it out. So related to the remote work stuff, one of the cool things that are happening right now, and I've worked remotely since 2003. I've been very fortunate to be in a role where I could do that. And one of the things that are going to shift is people who thought remote work wouldn't work inside their organization now have been forced to operate in an environment where remote work does work inside their organization.

One of the cool things that I'm seeing is more people when you go into a zoom call, they've got their video on. People are just comfortable with it. And I think another thing that's really cool about it is I work in board shorts and flip flops. I throw a pullover on so that I'm not just wearing a tee shirt. I'm not going to go throw a button-down shirt on or a suit or any of these other things, and you're starting to see people would have dressed like that in an office environment actually wear tee shirts and hoodies inside these zoom calls. So remote work will continue to evolve.
Should you add headcount? You've got to look at it and say, is it valuable? What value does it add to the organization? And I actually think a better question is how much more flexibility can I create in the organization by bringing people together from other countries, other economic backgrounds? How will this diversity help my organization grow, and what can I learn from those who bring a beginner's mind into the organization? And then on the flip side of it, as reps, when we go out there and we try to get jobs, we look at, Hey, I would love to work for...let's say you wanted to work for Amazon for whatever reason. You just want to go work for Amazon and Amazon wants most of their people in leadership to be up in Seattle. Well, now with everybody working remotely, you can probably work inside one of those large organizations, one of those companies that you might not have been able to work for before. And whether you're in Seattle or you're in Arizona, you can get on an airplane, be up there in a couple of hours for the big meetings, but you don't have to be there every day.
So how can we as reps, we as individual contributors, we as people who are looking for jobs out there, how can we take advantage of this and say, hey, these are a list of companies that I really would like to work for? I find what they're doing fascinating. I find the problem that they're solving fascinating. I find their leadership team is really interesting and now shift the approach and start going and trying to find opportunity inside those companies. So I think this is actually good, both on now the hiring side as an employer who hires reps, and on the seeking employment side of things. The biggest challenge we're going to have are the biases and the preconceived notions that we have around what works and what doesn't work, and where people need to be and how they need to operate, and I think this reset that we've just had will help break down some of those biases.
Now, there are others out there who probably are listening to this and looking at this, and they're saying, look, all I've done is demonstrate that remote doesn't work for my business. And the reason why remote work doesn't work for my business is I have no idea what my people are doing. Well, that's a leadership and management challenge. You'll figure out addressing that. It's not the remote workpiece. On the other side of that, there are some people who remotely work just won't work for. They're in a 400 square foot apartment in the middle of New York City or the middle of London, and they need to just get out. They need to go to someplace. Well, maybe they no longer need to have that two-hour commute that they had to go to wherever they are, but they can find other kinds of remote work environments. So I am optimistic about what the future brings. I wish I had a crystal ball and could tell you exactly what it is going to bring, but I think there's going to be some pretty cool innovation that's going to happen as a result of this and just make sure you're asking the right questions. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Am I working in the right organization? What can I do better? What opportunities can I create, both on the hiring side and on the employment side of things?

Michael:    Do you think to be a leader that the main question that stops me from the kind of having folks working remotely is that I don't know what they're doing at home, how to motivate them, how to make them efficient, and that's the only question? And then if that's the challenge, do you have any advice on how I can address this challenge? What are the top three that I need to do to be more comfortable with folks working remotely?

Mike:     Number one — hire well. Hire the right people. When you're hiring somebody, make sure you understand why do they want to work inside the organization? What's their motivator? What are they excited about? Where does their passion come from? Not to go all Simon Sinek and that kind of stuff, but more like why do they care? So hire right. You can train for skills, but you can't train for attitude and initiative. And if I can hire people with the right attitude and the right initiative, I can do anything with them. So number one, hire right. Number two, I would say fire right too. If you're going through the process and saying, look, this person is not the right fit. And there was a guy that I used to work with, his view of this and a really good view of it as if I wouldn't hire this person again today, then I should let them go today. There's no reason to just keep that weight inside the organization. Now I know those are tough decisions, but number one, hire right and number two, fire right.
And then the next one is to communicate. Communicate effectively set the right expectations. I'm one of those people who will always have my phone on. I'm working all the time. I will send messages to people in Slack across multiple time zones, folks that I work within the UK and I've got folks that I work with on the West Coast here in the States. I'll send stuff in multiple time zones. What I also am really clear with people about from an expectation standpoint is I let them know just because I send something to you, it doesn't mean that my hair's on fire and you've got to respond immediately, but what I do expect is that you're going to respond within 24 hours unless you're on vacation or holiday and then I just expect that you'll respond 24 hours when you see the message when you get back. But communicate clearly and set expectations with your team, and all the other stuff kind of tends to work out. If you think your value as a manager was walking around cubicles and asking people how they're doing and just making sure that everybody was in the cubicle, then revisit what it means to manage people. Revisit what it means to lead people. If they're delivering the results, then focus on the results. Focus on the things that they're working on. So hire right, fire right, communicate.

Michael:    Just to add to the communication point, especially considering the way folks communicate their company goals or company trajectory because it's not just about communicating how are you doing or what's going on with you. It's more communicating where we are as an organization and where are we going, and what are the main things that we need to do with our company. And in fact what helped us as the company to be working remotely. And again, I as a leader also was struggling during the first few years. You always think that you hire the best people, but you can't be sure. We always say, well, I hired the best, but I can hire better. So as the leader, you always think like you are pushing the train and no one else doing anything. And only after if you go back and kind of look at things in retrospect, like where we were and where we are right now, then you see that, well, my team is great because they helped me to build this. But in momentum, I'm the only warrior in the firing line.

The others, are just sitting and smoking and doing something else. So what we've seen that helped us especially is that when we clearly communicated our company targets, and then we connected people's motivation, their compensation, their kind of promotional ladder, as well as their day-to-day and their weekly goals and their monthly goals to our company targets and then we communicated those targets, and then people know that if they hit the targets or why they should hit the targets, both from the compensation perspective and from the perspective that they achieve something, and they can push the company forward, but then you don't need to motivate them, because they motivate themselves because they know when they get up in the morning, what they need to do this day tomorrow, next week. And it is your job as a leader just to have that kind of communication where you can do quality assurance, as well as just keep on either saying a great job or giving comments on what needs to be improved, and just making sure that all these parts of the process are working together, but then those parts of the clock should work themselves. You don't need to get there.

Mike:     One of the visuals that I like to use to describe what you just went through is imagined I'm at the front of a boat, and I've got this big spotlight and I'm pointing it in the direction that we're going. So I'm leading the boat. I'm the captain, I've got my spotlight, I'm pointing in one direction, and then I've got the different functional areas inside the business that operates more like flashlights. These might be individual teams. Now, in some instances, they're going to align with each other. In some instances there'll be separate, but they're always within the spectrum of the spotlight. And then I've got the individual roles that people are working on as laser pointers inside that flashlight spectrum.

Well, if at any point in time, I as the leader take my spotlight and I turn it 90 degrees to the left and then maybe 180 degrees to the right, all of these things start moving around and before you know it, it looks like the 4th of July. We've got flashlights going in one direction and laser pointers going in another and nobody knows what's going on and there's this high level of confusion. So when you go through this process that Michael was just talking through, ask yourself how do all of the laser pointers, flashlights align inside the spectrum of that spotlight? And if they fall too far outside of the margin, then determine, do I need to adjust a little bit? What's changed in the business that supports that adjustment? Alignment is critical. And that was a great way to reinforce it, Michael. If people don't know what they're doing and how it fits relative to the ultimate mission of the organization, it's hard for them to make effective decisions on where they should spend time, what they should be doing, and hold themselves accountable.

Michael:    A great summary of my monologue, my 10-minute monologue. All right. So I think that we have like 10 more minutes. I wanted to wrap up with you just kind of maybe brainstorming or talking more about ...and we touched base on this during this whole episode, but how long do you think this crisis will go on? I talked with the guys from Detroit and they said that things in Detroit are bad and they feel like they're going to keep on quarantining themselves up to June, middle of June, or something. I mean, in Europe, folks are saying that it could go on till August. When do you think we're going to breathe fresh air and get back to normal, or will we never get back to normal?

Mike:     Well, I think we're going to have a new normal. I think the new normal is really cool because ideally we've all built up some level of resilience because of the experience that we just went through as an entire globe together. We've all gone through this. One of the coolest things about it is it's no longer okay and I don't think it ever was okay to talk about hey, you've got to be empathetic, but not really understand what empathy means. Now we see it. We feel it. We've dealt with being stuck in a home with our families, or being stuck in a place where we can't get to our families or whatever those things are. We've all dealt with some kind of experience in this storm. As far as getting back to normal, I think there's just going to be a new norm. As far as the time frame, I think one of the risks out there is if we react too quickly and we say, look, everybody opens up and we go back to normal really quick that we'd have another outbreak that occurs. We've seen that before with things like the Spanish flu and any of these other pandemics, that they tend to be these two-year cycles. I don't know that there's anything out there to tell us that this will be any different other than hey, we've got some really good technology and we should be able to move through the data and maybe we'll be able to identify some things.

So hopefully it doesn't take that long. What I do think is going to happen is every one of the organizations we work with is going to move through the process of figuring out where they are. So this first part of the process that we had talked about earlier was, hey, there's a lot of stuff going on. I just got to figure out what is my current reality and make sure I plug all the gaps in my boat. Make sure I'm no longer taking on water and make sure I start getting some of the water out of the boat. So there's that crisis management component.
Then I've heard people talk about it in this context. They talk about it being at a level of gravity. We're now at the certain elevation where we know we're just kind of moving along and we don't know how long we're going to stay at that elevation, but we've got things stabilized. So we fix the leaks. We've gotten through the storm. We stabilized. Then we start to move to this point of kind of normalizing and saying, okay, we've stabilized this thing. Now where do we go? What's next? What's this next evolution? And I think depending on where you are in your business, you're either going to move through one of those three phases really fast or really slow. What's important is knowing which one are you? Are you the one that's moving really fast? Are you the one that's moving really slow? And if you try to skip steps, know that you're taking on additional risks that may not be necessary.
So take it back to more practical things. Ask yourself these questions. What have we learned about the market? Have we started to realize these patterns again, things that are starting to repeat themselves? If we're starting to see those patterns again, how can we address things from a pattern perspective? If every time we engage with people, the story changes, then we've got to realize that maybe they're still in the middle of the storm and things haven't normalized and we still have that phase to work our way through. What we do know is money has to start working its way through the economy in order for everything to continue to build and everything to go along. You work inside organizations where you solve a problem that's important to organizations. Find those organizations who care about that problem, and you will be able to help them normalize things a lot faster than if you're just pitching for the sake of pitching. So that was a pretty big non-answer relative to timing. I just don't think that we know, but there are things that we can do throughout that time horizon to help us move through one— the storm, two — stabilizing, and then three — getting to the point where we start evolving.

Michael:    Good stuff. So before we wrap this up, when do folks need to talk to you at Catalyst Sale? When is the time to contact you and say, Michael, we need help?

Mike:     If at any of those points where you just are kind of looking at it and saying, I think there's a better way to do this. I think that everybody else out there has figured this out and for whatever reason, we haven't been able to figure out inside our organization and I just need to talk to somebody who can help me gain a different perspective, help me see things that maybe are inside these blind spots that I can avoid. So if you or someone who's out operating your business or operating a territory — this could be an individual rep, it could be a business owner. And you're saying, you know what?

There are just some things I don't think we really know the answers to them and we're not even asking the right questions, that's a good time to engage with Catalyst Sale. We are extremely process-oriented. Although I'm not a scientist, we take a scientific approach, apply the scientific methods to the way that we address things. We ask a lot of questions. There are questions to help to shift perspective. When we shift perspective, those blind spots start to open up, and then we can start to say, all right, now I've got a better understanding of what our current state is. I know what I want my desired state to be, and I can build a roadmap or build a plan that will help me start executing on that.
So if you are in a situation where you feel like there are a lot of unknown unknowns out there, then having a conversation could be really valuable. If you're in a situation where your unknowns are known, then what we might end up being able to do there is just kind of validate some thoughts around what you're working on. And if you really know what your knowns are and you know where you're going, then good luck. Just keep moving forward, and when you get to that next plateau that you need to break through, then check out what we're doing.

Michael:    Where should I talk to you? On LinkedIn or by email? What is the best way to reach out to you?

Mike:     The best place to go is to Catalyst Sale.com, and at catalyst cell.com you'll see the website. The website's not great. I'm not a marketer. I'm a sales guy, that's it. I know how to build sales processes, sales methods, train people, coach people, advise folks. Marketing is not my strong suit, but we're getting a little bit better at that. There's a live chat button there. It goes right into my Slack instance. You can interact with me there and I see that stuff pop up in Slack. Depending on time, I may be able to respond quickly or somebody on the team will respond quickly. So that's number one. Number two would be you can find me on LinkedIn. Just Mike Simmons, Catalyst Sale on LinkedIn. And then the third one and where you see me really active is on Twitter. Simmons_M on Twitter. So if you're active on Twitter, check me out on Twitter. You'll see a barbecue. You'll see the New York Jets — well, once they start playing football again. You'll see me doing stuff for my Jeep, and you'll see stuff that I'm sharing on the sales side. So just ask questions and I'm happy to help and answer questions whenever I can. And I'm also good at saying, I don't know cause there's a lot of stuff we just don't know. So say it — I don't know, but you know what? Let's find out.

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