EPISODE 224: Sales Game Changers Learning Event: Sales Transformation and Success During COVID-19 featuring Susan Lee, Christopher Ware and Joe Alvarez

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers Panel Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on April 15, 2020. It featured sales leaders Susan Lee (MOI), Christopher Ware (NAIOP) and Joe Alvarez (NOS).]

EPISODE 224: Sales Game Changers Learning Event: Sales Transformation and Success During COVID-19 featuring Susan Lee, Christopher Ware and Joe Alvarez

Watch the webinar here. Listen to Susan Lee’s Podcast . Listen to Christopher Ware’s Podcast. Listen to Joe Alvarez’ Podcast.

MAJOR TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Empathy starts from the top down. It starts from the president of the company and it goes all the way down. Communicating, connecting, letting people know that we understand, “We’re challenged just like you’re challenged in your business” is everything to the empathetic part of supporting your clients.”

Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us what your top priorities are, Joe Alvarez? Why don’t you get us started?

Joe Alvarez: Thanks, Fred. Thanks to everybody listening to this podcast. I’m with a company called National Office Systems, we are a firm that is in a niche product, we do specially storage such as high density storage and specialty lockers, we also have a technology division that does document imaging and asset tracking using RFID technology. We have a division that does installations and installs many of our products, we’ve done a tremendous amount of glass walls so that’s NOS.

When you ask about the priorities right now, aside from being a sales leader in my company I also work in managing the entire firm and my top three priorities have been #1, take care of our #1 asset which is our employees, keep them all employed has been a goal of ours during this crazy time that we’re living making certain that business is running financially sound. It’s a crazy time of year to be doing business where people may be open, may not be open, may be paying you and the third thing that is really important to us is to provide a very safe environment to our employees.

Fred Diamond: Christopher Ware, you’re with NAIOP, why don’t you give us a 20 second overview on NAIOP and tell us what your top priorities are?

Christopher Ware: Thanks for having me on. NAIOP is an international trade association, we have members throughout the United States and Canada and our members develop, own, invest and manage commercial real estate, primarily office, mixed use and industrial. Of course, when we say industrial we talk about warehouse and distribution space so if you’ve ordered something from Amazon, you’ve ordered something that’s passed through one of our members’ buildings. I’ve been with NAIOP for 19 years now and sales career is over 20 years.

As far as our top priorities, of course employee safety as Joe mentioned is extremely important, also keeping people’s spirits up is extremely important as well dealing with the mental aspect of things. Sales is a stressful job anyway and then you add what’s going on now on top of that, it can be overwhelming so that’s a priority. In terms of our customers, for me it’s really about maintaining relationships and reaching out even though we may not have a whole lot to sell right now, the relationship is essential. That’s really the #1 sales priority for me, to keep our connections up with the people that we do business with.

Fred Diamond: Susan Lee, it’s great to have you on today’s webinar as well. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about MOI and tell us what your top three priorities are right now as well. It doesn’t have to be three, what your top priorities are.

Susan Lee: MOI is a company that partners with design, commercial real estate, project management firms and clients. We furnish their spaces, we do everything from the front door to the back door and we do this so that employees are engaged, they can build cultural strength in their organization and businesses can be very productive. I’m happy to be here, happy tax day for me because we don’t have to file taxes so I’m excited about that. Our priorities are staying connected as well with our people, from an executive team communicating and staying transparent with the rest of the organization, everybody is a little worried right now so open communication, open dialogue is important. Also connecting with our clients, we work with a lot of people that are essential businesses so making sure that our employees are safe and our customers are safe as we engage in projects with them.

Fred Diamond: A quick question here. Susan and Joe, you both have worked together. Your companies work together and have worked together frequently over the years. I’m just curious, how are you talking to your partners right now? Again, you’ve both done a lot of business together. Is that also a relationship that partnerships are getting together, talking to each other and trying to figure things out? Susan, why don’t you take that first?

Susan Lee: We do talk on a daily basis. One thing that we are in the business of is providing furniture and furniture comes from states all over the country. As you’ve seen over the last few weeks, we’ve experienced shutdowns of states and shutdowns of businesses so staying in touch with our manufacturing partners is important to understand what products they’re producing, which factories are open. Also, making sure that our design partners, we’re honoring the work that they’ve done making sure that we’re talking to commercial real estate partners to make sure that if they have timelines of projects that need to be done, construction companies we’re connecting with as well. Joe, I know you’re probably experiencing the same thing, aren’t you?

Joe Alvarez: Yes I am, Susan. Interesting you say that, we have a lot of the same issues with our manufacturers, in different states different rules are being set in those different states. One thing we’ve done is also we’ve done a weekly meeting on Zoom with partners to hear what they’re going through and to understand. I want our folks to feel what they’re feeling and it’s a great communication hour that we spend talking to our business partners.

Fred Diamond: What’s something that’s been a big positive surprise that has come out of the last weeks that we’ve been through this situation?

Christopher Ware: I think being an association professional, associations is really about community, it’s about building relationships and the strength of those connections really have shown through recently. To give you a couple of examples, I posted some Zoom chats with regular sponsors and advertisers and other participants and people really appreciate that level of connection and that level of touch, and people really want to reach out, they want to connect. The association industry is uniquely positioned to help us be able to do that.

We also have been on the forefront of getting quality information out to our members so I’m very proud of our organization being able to pivot very quickly from bigger picture trends based type of reporting to information that our members can use right away. We’re providing almost all of that free of charge to the commercial real estate industry and that’s something that we feel is very important for us to do, but it’s also enabling us to reach new customers who maybe haven’t taken a look at NAIOP before. It’s a great opportunity to show our thought leadership, to show our expertise and also to connect people who desperately want to stay connected in this time.

Fred Diamond: One thing that we’re telling people is, “Now’s the time to show leadership to your constituency and bring them things that are going to help them.” How about you, Susan? What are some of the positive results that have happened for you and your company at this time?

Susan Lee: I’ll speak more about talking to the sellers, connecting with them. We run so fast every single day and I rarely get to talk to the sellers, we have about 30 sellers on staff and we rarely get to connect or talk. I’m seeing their kids, I’m seeing their pets, we’re being able to connect. This is a scary time for all of us, it’s so much uncertainty that we’re finding that we’re building strength together through this adversity. I think that’s one of the big things for us that we’re connecting with and also, our baseball hat game is really strong. A lot of baseball caps in these calls, that’s pretty cool.

Fred Diamond: Joe, how about you? Why don’t you tell us something?

Joe Alvarez: It’s funny because a lot of what Susan just described, our companies work a lot together and talk a lot and we mimic a lot of the things that are working for each other so we’re doing a lot of the same things. One of the things in addition to getting to know your folks better, and I’m talking about all the employees, is to see how they come together. When things get tough, people come together and it’s actually awesome to see our folks taking care of each other. They’re sending lunches to the installation guys, they’re taking care of each other asking, they’re doing things that on an everyday situation they don’t have the time, they’re running too fast. It’s one of the good things that’s come out of this, you realize what’s important, Fred.

Fred Diamond: One of the reasons why we brought the three of you together is because you all sell things to customers who have offices.

What has changed for you? The interesting thing here is your customer has changed. I’ll give you an example, I talked to one of our members earlier this week who sells to state and local governments and he said they’re working around the clock because now they’re helping with getting medical supplies, medical devices and things supporting that. We have another member who sells to the entertainment industry and he said there’s nothing going on right now selling to them so they’re having to figure out, but what has changed for all three of you as sales leaders? Again, your customers have offices, in the past four weeks. Joe, why don’t we start with you? Your customers have offices, you excel in helping them optimize their space. What’s changed?

Joe Alvarez: Obviously a lot of our customers are not at their offices so how do you manage your folks and how you connect with them has been different. We’re using a lot of technology, we’re using a lot of Zoom, GoToMeeting, it’s been interesting to me that getting ahold of a client today is so much easier than it’s ever been before. One of the things that I’ve heard someone say, I think it was Susan before the meeting was that you know where they are, they’re available, they’re going to talk to you most of the time which is a wonderful thing. The second piece, there’s no travel time so you can go from meeting to meeting without worrying going from DC to Virginia or whatever. Like I said before, people seem to be willing to talk to you so it’s about building and developing those relationships right now to make sure you have empathy with them and being ready so that when they’re ready to take care of business, you’re going to be there for them.

Fred Diamond: Susan, how about you? Again, obviously you furnish offices in the real estate as well, so what’s changed for you as a sales leader?

Susan Lee: I believe it’s accessibility, being accessible for questions that come up. Also, we’re starting as an organization, our design team, our project management team, our sales team are all now working together to look at what’s next. We have a new normal, it’s not normal so how do we start looking at going back to work and what does that look like? What are our clients going to expect from us? We work with the federal government, they’re still installing right now, we work with construction companies.

Construction is essential, people are at work, how do we support them in that? We’re looking a lot at, “Where do we go from here where we are?”. I think it was a shock for us over the last four weeks just to figure out what is our new normal but now it’s, “Where do we go from here? What are we looking at two weeks from now to a year from now?” We’re really starting to talk about that and again, coming together, bringing people together to talk about it.

Fred Diamond: Chris, what has changed for you as a sales leader in the past four weeks?

Christopher Ware: Certainly the fact that we can’t meet in person is very impactful for the commercial real estate industry. If you can’t meet with your clients and show them a space that’s available, that certainly is a traditional way of leasing or selling commercial real estate. I’ve been really excited to see how inventive our members have been using virtual platforms, virtual tours, connecting with people online and facilitating transactions. The deals are still happening in the commercial real estate space, obviously things have slowed down and are going to continue to until we find out what our new normal is, but business is still happening and the commercial real estate people in particular are very entrepreneurial, very creative and we’re really seeing the best of that right now within the industry.

Within my own space, not having in-person meetings as we normally would has been a challenge but again, we’ve been able to pivot very quickly, very effectively offering this content online in the near term. I think that’s going to be one of the legacies, additional online engagement as we begin to blend that back in with in-person conferences and events as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Fred Diamond: Joe, I want to follow up with something that you talked about before. Again, if anybody who’s listening to today’s webinar has a question please feel free to submit them via the panel. People are home, as a matter of fact I’m going to guess that 99.9% who are watching today’s webinar are home. How have you responded to that and how has your industry changed?

Joe Alvarez: There’s a lot of schools of thought on that discussion. From my perspective, this has been a huge business disruption and it really has changed the way people think and do things every day. From a sports perspective I look at this almost like a forced tryout in telecommuting. You have to do it and now people are starting to realize what it’s like to be able to work away from the office. The generational divide is becoming closer, you have all the baby boomers that wanted to live a certain way and you have all the Z and X generations being different, this has really forced that divide to come closer.

My perspective is that as we move on, there’ll be a lot more home offices than you have today, there’ll be technology driven towards them, there’s still going to be a lot of offices. A lot of the discussion today is we need to be 6 or 8 feet away so before it was, “How can you densify an office with as many people as possible?” now it’s, “How do you do that and also provide the space?” This new normal is going to be different. I know that Susan probably has a lot of studies about how they’re going to do the furniture but I can tell you this, from our business, our technology division that does digitization of records, we have gotten a spike up in calls saying, “We were thinking about this, now we really need to be completely virtual because we don’t know how we’re going to end up in this new normal moving forward. There’s been a lot of good things for it that are going to happen off of this.

Fred Diamond: Susan, let’s follow up on that. It’s interesting, the first four, five weeks of the pandemic people were getting used to working from home and all those kinds of things. Now what we’re hearing is a lot of people are starting to plan for what might be the return and we don’t want to get into political discussions right now, but back to what Joe was just alluding to, people are looking for advice on how they do go back to the office safely. You are experts on that, what are some things that you’re telling these people?

Susan Lee: What I would like to address is that we’ve spent years selling the open environment and community connections and common areas where people can come together and socialize. Now we are facing a situation where we have to look at the complete opposite. You’ll see articles that are starting to come out that are posted all over social media that are talking about, “What does the office look like coming back?” and we have to start thinking. We were on a call today with our team, with the president of the company. We were talking about you’re starting at hand sanitizer at the front door and then you’re walking into the space and you’re completely open so we’re starting to work with our manufacturers and looking at solutions they may have to separate that open environment.

We’re talking a lot about distancing, we’re talking a lot about alternating days of working but we are going to have to go back into those interior spaces, those common areas that we put where people can socialize and we’re going to have to start reevaluating it. Part of this is – and we talked about this today – it’s going to be a phased type of solution because the challenges that we’re facing today are not going to be the challenges we’re facing a year from now or two years from now. Just like when we faced 9/11 and we had to regroup on how we look at safety and how we looked at international safety, we’re looking worldwide at how people work across the world. This is a situation where we’re really going to be evolving over time and the environment will change as well.

Fred Diamond: Chris, you work with a lot of companies that are very involved with real estate. How do you think real estate will be impacted by this?

Christopher Ware: I think it’s going to have, in the short term, certainly a significant impact but I think you’re going to see an extended impact over time. A statistic that I just read that I think is worth noting is in the 1970s, the average office worker had about 500 square feet of space on average. That was down to about 200 square feet of space a decade ago and most recently it’s 150 square feet of space so that trend I think is going to be halted and maybe reversed as people are going to want to have a little bit more separation than otherwise was the case.

I also think, however, that you are going to see an increased number of people working remotely, as Susan mentioned maybe some staggering out of space in the short to mid-term. Honestly, you also have some businesses that unfortunately just aren’t going to make it through this crisis so I think in the short term there is going to be some vacancy as a result but the long-term health of the industry certainly is very strong. We went into this crisis with very good fundamentals from a commercial real estate market perspective whereas the last downturn there was a lot of over-building, we really didn’t see that this cycle.

Once we get our footing underneath us as an industry, I’m very confident in the long term success. However, like I said, the densification trend I think probably is going to halt and maybe start to unwind a little bit and then of course the work from home options I think you’re going to see more of that.

Fred Diamond: Again, you’re sales leaders, we’re talking about how you’re managing your sales team and your customers but how do you find a work-life balance in these times especially as a parent? There is a follow-up question, Susan, the question is how do you tell your other kids that your oldest child, Courtney, is your favorite? [Laughs] obviously thank you, Courtney for that question. Susan can take the second part offline unless you want to tell the world… No, but seriously, how are you managing your lives? Let’s talk about that from a human being perspective. You all live at homes, Joe, you have a beautiful house down in Annapolis and Chris, you’re in Centerville and Susan, you’re in Olney. How are you managing your lives as sales leaders? Susan, since Courtney directed that to you, why don’t you get us started there?

Susan Lee: [Laughs] I will tell you that Courtney is an essential worker so she has to go to work. Courtney, you’re working right now. The second part of this is there is a balance so I’m looking right now and one of my kids is walking around doing like this in the screen, we’ve embraced our sellers that have kids, it’s very stressful to try to balance your kids with your job, you’re constantly on calls, they’re constantly coming up wanting things. We’re letting our sellers know it’s okay, I think that’s one of the things that you feel with your job that you have to be fully engaged but part of the engagement is actually incorporating your family and one of the things that our organization is doing, we have a really good marketing team – shout out to my marketing team – they do webinars for the kids. In the middle of the day they’ve colored masks to symbolize the mask, that it’s okay to wear a mask and masks are good.

We’ve done things like The Price is Right, I am not good at The Price is Right, I actually don’t know anything about pricing but we’ve got employees that are really good at understanding what the prices are at Harris Teeter, Safeway and Giant. We’re also just taking the time to let everybody know we have new sellers out there, people that recently joined the organization. It can be stressful, you try to prove yourself, you come to a new company and you set up the strategic plan and you really want to show them that you can do the job, and then we face a pandemic where you can’t go out and sell.

We’re trying to reassure them that it’s okay, we understand, we hire you for your potential, we understand that it’s going to come in time and we’re trying to find creative ways to sell and connect outside of your traditional being in front of a client. That’s a little bit about how we deal with stress.

Fred Diamond: Chris, how are you balancing things? I know you’re a big sports fan, you’ve gone to a lot of minor league and major league baseball teams. As a matter of fact, on your Sales Game Changers podcast we talked about it at length as well so what are some things that you’re doing to stay sane during this very challenging time?

Christopher Ware: That is one of the challenges of work from home is that you’re technically always at work, so certainly setting boundaries for yourself and saying, “I have office hours and then I have hours where I’m at home” is very critical. I think being creative and reaching out to friends, staying connected with your community even though you’re not able to maybe go out and watch sports with your friends or go out and do what your normal activities would be, but one example that was a lot of fun was my friends and I enjoy playing Golden Tee which is the game at a lot of sports bars.

There’s an online app version of it and we have Golden Tee virtual tournament, we use Zoom so we can do a little trash talk with each other and we’re playing each other in the game. It’s certainly not as good as the real thing but we had a great time, had a couple beers and just had some fun and stayed engaged. Just thinking along this term is maintaining those relationships and those friendships is certainly vital because everybody, no matter what industry they’re in, they’re all having a lot of stress right now and just being there for people I think is essential.

Fred Diamond: Joe, I want to go back to something you mentioned before. Again, we’re calling this a Sales Game Changers webinar where we’re talking to some sales leaders. Of course, you’re a business leader but you mentioned empathy a few moments ago and that was a big theme the first couple of weeks after the pandemic kicked in. This is a sales webinar and I’m looking at the hundreds of people who are watching today’s webinar. I’m going to presume that most of them are sales professionals. How do you be in sales right now? Again, you mentioned empathy in your past answer. Is it okay to sell things right now? Is it okay to ask people for business? Is it okay to prospect or should we just be empathetic and helpful? I’m curious in your thoughts in that and I’m also going to ask that to Susan as well.

Joe Alvarez: That’s a really good question, Fred. I think you’ve got to be good enough to read the client. Some clients today are in dire need of what you have to offer from a service or product. We sell by relationships, we build relationship so we get to know our clients pretty well. The empathy word has been one that is needed for everybody whether you’re selling to them, whether you’re calling your sister or you’re calling anybody. In this time there’s a lot of stress and anxiety in our world right now and it’s important to obviously have empathy but also to be a solutions provider. If somebody’s got issues, you want to be there for them.

One of the things that we’ve asked our folks is not just to sell but also to connect, so for instance if Susan is my client and she’s looking for something that I don’t provide but I know you provide, my job is to connect you, to help Susan get rid of that anxiety. It’s not about me winning, it’s about me helping her get to the point where she can get some result. There’s different ways of addressing empathetic perspective with a client, I think people think of sales like real hard sell kind of thing. Sales to me is you’re a solutions provider, if you can provide a solution that is a win-win for both sides it’s a great scenario, it’s not about pushing or selling something. That’s how we’ve been dealing with this, it’s changed a little bit in that you want to know how that person is first as opposed to talking about what you do or what your solution is. It’s, “How are you doing, Susan?” first. “How’s your family, how’s everybody doing?” and there’s a lot of personal discussion before you get to, “If you need what I do, let me know.”

Fred Diamond: Susan, how about you? You manage a team of sellers, you need to sell things. You have products and services that you sell so how are you selling right now? Do you feel comfortable selling? What’s your follow up to that?

Susan Lee: What I would tell you is just as we’re all at home working, so are our clients and the ball doesn’t stop bouncing in the process. When you think about a selling cycle there are various points in the selling cycle so a lot of our projects will be in various points in the selling cycle. When we’re looking at our forecasts, when we’re looking at our pipelines, a month ago we stopped but we were already at different points in time in the selling cycle so what we tried to do is continue to provide that information for our clients.

We still have people that are bidding projects, we still have people that are planning for the future, we still have people that are looking for budgeting prices and they’re also starting, as Joe mentioned earlier, to look at what does ‘work from home’ mean and what solutions will you have for that. As Joe mentioned also, those relationships are everything. We’re a trusted resource for our clients and for our partners so making sure that we’re available, making sure that we respond quickly to them, being sensitive, that time is about the essence and understanding that their time is short too, because they’re on conference calls all day as well, making sure they have the information they need to continue to do their job.

Empathy starts from the top down, it starts from the president of the company and it goes all the way down. Communicating, connecting, letting people know that we understand, “We’re challenged just like you’re challenged in your business” is everything to the empathetic part of supporting your clients.

Fred Diamond: Chris, we’ve implemented a lot of new things in the last couple of weeks. Everyone now is an expert on Zoom, at the Institute for Excellence in Sales we’re doing a webinar a day and we’re getting hundreds of people per week who are coming onto our webinars. Joe mentioned before that no one’s really traveling right now. Do you see the pandemic changing the way you sell moving forward? A lot of people are saying ‘the new normal’, whatever that means. Is this the new normal? Are we going to be doing Zoom all day or people are not going to be going to offices, less face to face, travel? Where do you think sales is going?

Christopher Ware: I certainly think in the near term, yes. Until there’s a vaccine, this probably will be what normal is going to look like, it’s going to be more virtual meetings, more phone calls, more emails, that sort of thing. I do think there’s a fundamental need for people to connect and real estate is still a face-to-face business so I think as soon as it’s safe to do so, the in-person connections are going to continue. We look forward to making that happen as soon as it’s safe to do so but I think the legacy of this experience is going to be how we incorporate some of these online technologies with in-person events and with in-person activities. Hosting video meetups in advance of an in-person meeting so you can get to know people ahead of time, things like that, we’re trying to think very strategically about not just coming up with immediate solutions but how we are going to use these tools going forward after it’s safe for everybody to get back together again.

Fred Diamond: I have a question for Joe and for Susan. Once again, if you’re on today’s webinar, if you have a question for Joe Alvarez, Susan Lee or Christopher Ware submit them through your panel. Once again, if you can take a screenshot and send it to me, we’re having a contest, that would be great. Susan and Joe, you both manage sales professionals, you manage sales teams. What are your expectations right now of your salespeople and what are you telling them? You’re also sales leaders, again Joe, you’re managing partner at your company and you both manage large numbers of people, teams that you have expectations of. What do you expect from them right now and what are you telling them to do? Joe, take that first and then Susan, be prepared.

Joe Alvarez: Back to the question, you asked before how they’re working today. I’ve got two thoughts there, one is to stay focused and to stay visible. The focus part is you need to have a daily and weekly plan and follow it, it’s easy to work at home and forget that you have a plan, you get stuck with the kids asking you for something or whatever and you get hooked on something else because you’re not used to working from home. You have a plan that actually tells you what you’re doing hour per hour and at the end of they day you judge yourself whether you accomplished the goals of the day or not or the goals of the week.

The second piece is to stay visible, stay in contact with your clients and your prospects whether it’s through email, Zoom, webinars, social media, LinkedIn, whatever it is. You need to stay in touch with them because if you plant the seeds today, when we go back to the new normal, whatever that means and however that happens you’re going to have projects that are going. If you just sat around and didn’t do that, you won’t have that coming to you so that’s our goal, that’s what we’re trying to get our guys and ladies to do.

Fred Diamond: Susan, how about you? What are your expectations of your sellers?

Susan Lee: My expectation, Fred, and if my sellers are on this call, keep your forecast updated. The one thing about a company in planning for the future is making sure you have accurate information so keeping the CRMs updated, keeping your forecast updated, as information changes, put it in. You have the time, I’m telling every seller in America and around the world, you have time to put that information in, take the time to do it because that’s how your company plans their resources.

That’s one of the major things that’s critical for sellers, we don’t like to sit in all the time and do because we are busy people, we’re always connecting. If you have time now, stop and take the time to keep your forecast updated, your CRM updated. You can prospect, think of creative ways to do it. We have team calls every week with our sales teams in each of the locations, we talk a lot about what are they doing, what are they hearing, information is power so continuing to bring information back to your sales team that’ll help your teammates as well is very important. It’s just that ongoing communication, idea of sharing and keeping that forecast updated.

Fred Diamond: Chris, I’m curious, are you prospecting for new business right now or are you constantly going back to your existing members and sponsors to make sure they’re okay? How about prospecting? Is it okay to prospect for new business now?

Christopher Ware: That’s a great question and our focus is maintaining existing relationships right now as the situation continues to unfold. We are in effect prospecting for new business in that we’re updating and cleaning up our database, that’s one of the things that constantly we talk about doing and because we are always selling we never get around to actually doing. That’s a priority for us right now, to make sure that our leads pipeline has been cleaned up and people’s contacts are accurate. Maybe they haven’t been in that company for a couple years and we’re just now getting around to updating that information so that’s a key part of it. Then yes, we do have in our plan to start to prospect and start to add some people to the pipeline, if you clean some names out it’s time to add some back to take their place so that definitely is a part of our near term plan.

Fred Diamond: Obviously we’re all doing Zoom now, but what is something else new that you’re doing that you think may have some legs past this pandemic that you’re now doing as a sales leader? Susan, why don’t you go first?

Susan Lee: Fred, to take no attention away from the fact that you do a podcast, we actually have a business developer that started a quick podcast. It’s like 5 to 10 minutes, it’s a young man by the name of Alvarez, his name is Brian Alvarez and he does something called Between Two Screens, it’s a takeoff of Between Two Firms and it’s connecting with industry experts across the area from clients to project managers to designers. He’s getting their feedback, these are thought leaders that are prominent in the Washington DC metropolitan area and he’s connecting with them and asking them questions about what do they see, what’s the forecast out there.

I do believe that’s something we’ll continue to do, he did his first one about a week ago, he did an amazing job and I know we’re going to continue to do that, that’s just something that will keep us all connected not only with our company but with our competitors. One of the things that we’re in the business of doing is helping each other to succeed, we all succeed when one succeeds so I think this is something that’ll be useful in the translate over.

Fred Diamond: Chris, how about you? What’s something new that you’re doing as response to this?

Christopher Ware: Our organization has started a series of online round tables of very specific commercial real estate industry topics and we’re getting groups of 20 to 30 at the most together to be on a Zoom call with an industry expert and of course, the expert leads off the conversation and guides the conversation. It’s an opportunity for people to have very in-depth conversations, to build their networks over the online platform and really learn more about how best to do their job in the process. Its something that we’ve done in person before, we posted similar type events in a live basis, giving this an opportunity to go online and deliver that value to our members and to the industry is something that’s new and it’s something that I very much hope will continue to be successful and that we’ll continue even after we can meet in person again.

Fred Diamond: Joe, how about you? What’s something new that you’ve now implemented as a sales and business leader as a response to the pandemic?

Joe Alvarez: Fred, I think that what we’re seeing is that telecommunications with Zoom and GoToMeeting are going to become bigger and bigger tools for sales. There’s a lot of time saved between me going to your place and meeting with you as opposed to having that conversation remotely specifically when you come to design. You could have a design posted on the screen and the three of us could be talking about changes and it can be done like that instead of me coming to you, going back to design and going back to you. I believe that in the near future you’re going to see a lot more of that. This force tryout is going to make people get smart about how to do business as opposed to the way we’ve been doing it for a long time. One of the things we’re doing is perfecting our ways of communication with all those different pieces of the pie that get involved in a decision to perhaps shorten the sale cycle by having less time between decision makers.

Fred Diamond: What do you think the challenges will be for sales professionals in the next week? Susan, why don’t you go first? What are going to be the key challenges facing sales leaders and sales professionals in the next week?

Susan Lee: I know Christopher mentioned Zoom, you guys have mentioned Zoom quite a bit. I think it’s challenging sometimes as a sales professional to sit in front of the computer all day long and look at screens on a box. I know as a sales leader I’m challenged by that on a daily basis, you get fatigued from that so I think one of the challenges is making sure we can keep our energy up, keep our engagement up, staying hopeful. If we’re listening to the news and it’s telling us we may be 6 weeks out or a year out, we’ve got to continue to stay hopeful. I’ve got some amazing directors that are constantly working with their sellers to keep them engaged.  They’re talking on a daily basis. I think next week we’re going to continue to have to do that because we’re going into week 5 or week 6, we’ve got to continue to do that.

The one thing that I’ll tell you personally that I’m battling with myself is whether or not I’m going to be able to let my husband cut my hair because you guys were mentioning haircuts earlier, I just don’t know if I can do it, though. I’m working on it, I don’t know.

Fred Diamond: If he’s going to do it, let him just go, you know what I’m saying? You’re going to be in your house for another 4, 5 weeks. Chris, how about you? What’s the big challenge for the next 5 days?

Christopher Ware: I’m going to take an even bigger picture approach but we’ll distill it down to five days in that we have an entire generation of sales professionals who have not sold in a down-market, who have not sold in a recession. Sales is a mentally challenging, difficult job to have and when the economy has thrown us for a loop like this it can be very psychologically challenging. I encourage everybody who’s on the call right now to reach out to maybe someone who is newer to the industry than you who doesn’t have the experience of going through a downturn like you may have and just check in on them.

See how they’re doing mentally, see how they’re hanging in because it’s hard right now and it’s okay to admit that, it’s okay to talk about that, it’s okay to say how frustrating things are and I think that is going to be best for the mental health of everybody and it’s going to add to your own resilience. Reach out to folks, let them know that it’s okay to feel the frustration, to feel the discouragement right now but understand that there are things you can be doing to lay the groundwork for your future success.

Fred Diamond: Joe, why don’t you bring us home? What’s going to be the big challenge over the next 5 days that we’re going to need to overcome?

Joe Alvarez: Every day that goes by is one day closer to the end of this thing. You’ve got to keep that perspective, every day is one day closer. Each week is going to bring new challenges and new opportunities, we’ve got to stay flexible, you’ve got to focus on what you can control. You can’t focus on stuff that happens that you can’t do anything about, you can only focus on what you can control and if you take that approach, it’ll be a lot easier to deal with the hard times. Doing what you think you can do, that’s the most important thing. Thank you very much everybody, for having me.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo
Produced by Rosario Suarez

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