The deck of cards is being reshuffled. Everything you thought you knew about 2020 has changed. Your expectations are in a state of flux. Certainty has been replaced by uncertainty.

  • Anticipated new business (wins) may be pushed out for months.
  • Prospects may not want to meet, but you still have a business to build and a budget to hit.
  • Clients may resist discussing new opportunities, choosing instead to hunker down to deal with the unknown.
  • Key pieces of your growth strategy may be impacted, canceled or delayed.

Everyone will respond differently. No one-size-fits-all when it comes to facing unprecedented events and circumstances. Like you, your prospects and clients will have a fight or flight reaction. It is your responsibility to adjust accordingly.

Fight: Some prospects and clients will view the situation with this mentality. They will strive to maintain business as usual, and will look to create advantages in their space. They will focus on ideas, investments, and actions that propel them ahead when negative circumstances subside.

Flight: Other prospects will assess the situation differently. They will pursue a coping strategy that calls for caution, eliminating all non-essential business activities, placing all change and risk on hold. Not all industries are created equal, so this approach might be prudent for some.

The challenge will be to not risk the future by pushing the present. How can you tell which prospects and clients will adopt a fight or flight mentality? These rules will help guide your conversational approach:

No Assumptions: Treat each interaction and conversation with neutrality. Don’t assume that the person you’re talking to will assess the circumstances the same as everyone else in their respective industry or company. Don’t assume people will maintain the same attitude toward change and risk they had before this new environmental shift in business.

Eliminate Your Opinion: Be objective. For opportunity seekers, take caution to not push your views and opinions onto your prospects or clients. Although the current business environment may bring opportunities or advantages to them, you may think your persistence helps them take certain action. However, what seems logical to you might seem terrifying and disrespectful to them.

Ask Questions: No matter the goal of your outreach, take time to engage your prospect’s thoughts and opinions. Choose a conversation approach that puts the prospect or client first. These questions will help you:

  • How do the recent events impact your business and culture?
  • What are some of the operational changes you’ve had to make?
  • Is there a change that has you most concerned? Why?
  • Are there things you’d like to do differently?
  • With hindsight, what would you have done differently to prepare for this?
  • Can you share an example of facing this kind of uncertainty in the past? What happened?
  • What opportunities could come out of this situation?

Listen w/ Empathy: People can tell when you’re listening to find their pain, or just asking questions to elicit specific answers in an effort to sell your services. Normally, this has a high degree of annoyance, but your prospects tolerate it because it’s the standard sales norm. Well, the norm just changed. Listening for what you want to hear (sales angles) and asking questions that serve you will only amplify prospect and client irritation. If you can’t shed your sales skin and truly ask empathetic questions or listen without judging – then don’t engage.

Human nature seeks the familiar in times of uncertainty. Your prospects and clients may magnify their tendency to overestimate what they have in place, and underestimate potential gains by doing something differently with you. Many will seek the familiar to pacify the present uncertainty they feel, and your deal may be a casualty – so, tread carefully. Your approach will determine if the delay becomes permanent or temporary. Learn to fight another day.