Data leaks. Negative press. The sudden loss of a leader. These crises can affect a company or their clients at any time. Being an excellent leader or partner requires the ability to lead a team or client through trying times as well as sunnier days. Many of the tactics that can be used to defuse a crisis situation can come from tried-and-true sales courses.
Run Practice Drills
It behooves companies to run trainings to try out various sales negotiation techniques and measure the business results. It’s certainly preferable to hone these skills when you have the luxury of time on your side, rather than testing them out for the first time when you’re already under the gun, and at risk of losing an important client or deal.
The same holds true for crisis management strategies. Just like practicing a fire drill, a company should hold internal crisis scenario trainings. As a team, imagine scenarios that would require crisis management tools. Train your leaders and employees to react to those scenarios, then debrief their strategy with a post-mortem analysis. By the time these drills have finished running their course, you will have a dossier of options to reference during a true crisis.
Give More Information, Rather Than Less
Uncertainty causes panic, especially in a time of crisis. It is best to be forthcoming with your clients about what is truly going on and check in with them regularly to answer any questions or concerns they have. Additionally, information is free for you to give, but holds tremendous value for your client. Train yourself to use these opportunities to create value for your customers and clients, paving the way for future wins in negotiations.
By way of example, I will use an anecdote to demonstrate how communication can serve as a critical tool during a crisis.
A server breach disabled my company’s ability to access any of our client’s information that was located on the server, and also cut off our access to our email servers. It was worrisome to the clients to think that their data might be compromised, and that they couldn’t reach out to us with any questions. Thinking quickly, we opened an email alias with Gmail that clients could use to contact us should they need to. We also gave them all the information that our IT department had as it was shared with us. Even though the process was incredibly frustrating for all parties involved, with clear, open lines of communications, the clients’ worries were eased while the problem was resolved.
If you hold back information, or even wait too long to deliver the updates you have, the clients will begin to worry and could jump to conclusions. Sales communication courses say even reaching out to clients with a “no new updates” message is better than radio silence.
Offer a Helping Hand
Sometimes a client’s crisis is internal and has nothing to do with your firm’s day-to-day business. Nevertheless, your company should reach out to the client to see if there is any way you could be of service. Any additional resource you could offer – whether it’s manpower or physical or mental tools – will offer the client invaluable help at little cost to you. This will demonstrate to the client how your relationship is more than just transactional, and how your company intends to be a valued partner in the long-run, winning trust and loyalty. Expressing this deep value is the best possible way to sell your services as a long-term partner.
Lend an Ear
A crisis, whether internal or external, can cause stress and anxiety for your team or for your clients. Make sure to keep the door open for concerns that any party might have. If employees or clients are worried about their future, let them share those concerns in a safe space, without feeling like they are risking their reputation or relationship.
In addition to demonstrating genuine compassion and concern for your stakeholders’ well-being, signaling your ability to be trusted with sensitive information can help you win in future negotiations, whether extending a contract with an existing client, or winning new business through referrals.
Keep a “One Team, One Dream” Mindset
Nothing is worse in times of crisis than internal division. Ensure that team members are aligned on how to proceed in a crisis, as well as how to communicate to clients and external parties who may be involved, like the press. A unified message projects strength and competence, which will aid in repairing any reputational damage that may result from the crisis.
Additionally, companies should avoid looking to point fingers for who is to blame for the crisis. If necessary, a third-party mediator can be used to diffuse difficult negotiations between team-members. The full team should work as a unit to solve the problem, no matter if one person’s mistake caused the problem in the first place. Naming names will only sow division amongst the team.
Also consider signing up your team for courses in sales strategies that could help prevent the issue in the future. If an employee’s negligence was severe enough that it warrants disciplinary action, that person should be dealt with after the crisis is over and things return to normal. Depending on how they respond to the crisis, the negligent party could even redeem themselves to the company.
The hardest part about a crisis is not knowing when to expect it. If you adequately prepare your team to respond to any number of scenarios with trainings and courses, you should be able to navigate most challenges you face with aplomb. Don’t hesitate to take sales courses to start learning valuable negotiation skills as soon as possible before you’re thrown into the deep end.