2020: The Great Teacher

2020: The Great Teacher

Categories: Sales Messaging

Through podcasts, conversations and LinkedIn activity, you’ve probably heard me call 2020 the “great teacher.”

No matter who you are or where you are in this world, we all have learned something about ourselves this year. I like to compare the 2020 business landscape to boats in the harbor. The water level lowered and ALL of our boats went down at the same time, but not all of our boats rose at the same time.

Why did some boats raise back up and others have not and maybe will not?

As I pondered that question, I thought about a few metaphors that may help explain my thoughts on why some will come out of this Pandemic stronger and in a better place to win. Here are three concepts that I think pertain to that current situation: 

1. First, Fly the Plane

In aviation, there is a critical protocol and sequence that they teach all pilots called Aviate, Navigate and Communicate. In times of emergency you will hear pilots refer to this as, “First Fly the Plane”. 

The best example I can give you of this is the story about the “Miracle on the Hudson”. All of us have heard the story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and US Airways Flight 1549 that made an incredible emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York, saving the lives of all 155 passengers on board. Most of us do not know why or how Sully and the crew performed so well on that day.

All pilots are taught that in the first signs of danger, they must get control of the airplane. Flight 1549 was struck by a freakish scenario where several birds flew into both engines and took them out. Within seconds, Captain Sullenberger took control of the airplane from his co-pilot, who had performed the take off. Sully had to get a feel for the plane, what it was doing and what it was going to be able to do. He had to first, fly the plane or aviate. 

The next part of the critical protocol is to navigate. Sully had to immediately figure out where this plane was going. If you have seen the movie, there is a heart-pounding scene where the pilots are looking out the window of the cockpit, ripping their heads from one side of the plane to the other and then using their instruments to make the calculations on how they might be able to get safely to the ground. Within seconds, they had a few scenarios. A few seconds later, they had only one option for landing the plane and that was to put it down in the water.

They first flew the plane (aviate), understood what was possible, and then they navigated. The last thing they did was get on the radio and communicate with air traffic control. There is no doubt in my mind that if they had not followed this protocol, all passengers would have been lost. I knew somebody on that plane and I’m grateful that the pilots followed their protocol; Aviate, Navigate and Communicate. 

So what does this have to do with 2020? 

I believe there is a huge correlation to this concept and why some companies performed well in 2020. At Force Management, we unconsciously followed this same protocol. With three weeks to go in the first quarter of this year, we were experiencing record performance in the company. Then, like the rest of the world, both our engines caught on fire and we were in an emergency situation. We quickly assessed the airplane, understood what it was capable of, headed in a very specific direction and then focused heavily on communicating with our employees, customers and investors. A big part of that has been our pivot to going completely virtual with our global sales trainings and engagements.

Our sales team is now articulating our differentiation when it comes to delivering outcomes in that virtual environment. Those differentiators may not have been what our sellers led with in the past, because it may not have aligned with what the buyer needed at that time. In order for your sales organization to compete, and raise your boat out of 2020 successfully, a reframed sales message around new or shifted differentiators and solution value drivers will be key. You may have also pivoted to address new buyer challenges, but have those capabilities been articulated to your customers?

2. Attach Yourself to the Biggest Business Issue

The next big takeaway for me in 2020 is one you may have also heard me say over and over again. Which is:

Those companies that have attached themselves to their customer’s biggest business issues have done really well. 

2020 has been so confusing and noisy that most companies, including us at FM, got maniacally prioritized on our most critical business issues. Amongst that noise, it is critical to keep in mind that your buyers are going through something they’ve never been through before either. Their most critical business issues have got to have changed or shifted. Partners and sellers who have attached themselves to their buyer’s critical business issues have done business with us this year working to reframe their messaging to align with their buyer’s changing needs.

This concept is as old as dirt. Reframing your sales message will support your sales reps in attaching to your customer’s biggest business issue, making themselves relevant and making your solutions an urgent need. Big business issues are accompanied by big dollars for spending. Big dollars for spending are accompanied by big people with power and influence. Win more and improve your sales team's ability to compete next year by ensuring your sales team is equipped to have high-level conversations about big business problems in a way that’s meaningful to what each key buyer is dealing with right now.

3. Psychological Immune System – The Warrior's Mentality

The last big teaching point for me has been what I call, The Psychological Immune System or The Warrior’s Mentality. God designed us with a psychological immune system. 

Our psychological immune system is very similar to our physical immune system. When we go through sickness and trauma our bodies have an immune response, antibodies if you will. So we have the ability to become stronger for the next time, when something similar or difficult happens again. 

Unfortunately, most of us do not know how to tap into our psychological immune system. We get amnesia. We forget how tough we are and what difficult times we have been through in the past. That’s why I like to refer to this process as tapping into our Warrior's Mentality. 

The Warrior’s Mentality is the knowledge and the memory that we have all been through bad things before and we have emerged. In many cases, we have emerged better than when the difficulty began. So how has 2020 been the great teacher for me? When this year started to unravel at a rapid and alarming rate, I was able to remember this concept of the Psychological Immune System and the Warrior's Mentality. I continued, and I continue to tell myself that not only is there a high probability that this too shall pass, but also there is a high probability that I will have an opportunity to emerge a better version of myself. Just like what has happened in the past. I have the opportunity to get busy and always keep in mind that what I do matters.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.” John F. Kennedy

I would love to hear some spirit from you on what 2020 has taught you and if you’ve learned similar insights? Feel free to share on LinkedIn using the hashtag #2020lessons. 

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