As the coronavirus pandemic and recovery continue to play out on a global scale, its massive impact on how we live and how we work defy easy understanding, con-founding efforts to fully reopen our economy. We know that our lives have been massively transformed; we know that the transformation will continue indefinitely. The “new normal” is evolving every day.
Buying and selling are of course greatly impacted by this transformation and will continue to do so. Clearly, whatever turns out to be the future of selling will not replicate its past. To sell successfully today and tomorrow, we will need to reexamine how we sold in the past. The skill sets and market understandings that supported our previous successes will need to be reassessed and updated.
Whatever market you’re in, that market has changed fundamentally. Few people experience the world as they experienced it as recently as March. Many people are grieving and will continue to grieve for some time. Customer beliefs, behaviors and expectations have been shaken to their core. How this will play out in terms of market dynamics and economic realities cannot easily be predicted.
We can, however, anticipate certain behavior changes.
Greater personalization. Buyers now place greater value on shared life experiences. They feel that human relationships really do matter. They are willing to acknowledge this, including people who previously insisted they were “all about the lowest price.” Buyers want to hear how the pandemic affected you, and how you are coping now.
Increased sense of essentiality. Customers who self-identified as connoisseurs of quality – and budgeted accordingly – have done without as many “non-essential services” were closed to enforce social distancing. In other instances, the supply chain was squeezed to the point of creating systemic scarcities. Many individuals found they functioned perfectly well in these circumstances. Today they embrace their new “spartan” selves and have altered their buying styles.
Increased appreciation of luxury. Conversely, for many prospects, luxury deprivation created greater appreciation for examples of excellence they previously took for granted. Such people are less tolerant today of products and services that are merely “good enough.”
As the market changes, we too must change. To sell in the post-pandemic market, we’ll need to reassess and perhaps sharpen some of the “tools in our tool kit,” by which I mean the skill sets on which we depend. Storytelling is one of the tools that is both a traditional asset and a future game-changer. While the stories we tell change, storytelling itself never goes out of style.
Traditional storytelling often looks to the animal kingdom. Throughout human history fables, illustrating life wisdom through animal tales, have helped us clarify different behavioral styles and perception modes. If we pair the turtle and the eagle, the challenges immediately ahead of us indeed crystalize.
We can be the turtle, one of nature’s great survivors: secure in our shell, snatching food where we find it, living independently, moving slowly, waiting out whatever threatens our existence.
Or we can be the eagle, another great survivor: soaring high above the fray, scrutinizing the terrain for prey, moving quickly, ever alert to risk and reward.
I believe I am an eagle. How about you?
Rob Fishman is a partner with Sandler Training in Hauppauge, New York.