Understanding Your Customer’s Context During A Pandemic

11 February 2021

As sales professionals, a lot of what we do, how we sell to organizations and how we lead our sales teams is driven by customer perspective.

A common question that we are being asked by clients is “How do I know what my customer is thinking and feeling right now through Covid 19?”.

A tough question to answer but nonetheless, we have developed a framework which sales professionals may find useful in discerning their customer’s current state of mind. This framework was first introduced by Phil Squire in our “Leading Through The Pandemic” webinar.

 

The S.P.A.C.E curve

To start to gauge where your customers are as they respond to the pandemic, it is important to understand what they are thinking so that you can re-work your account selling strategies to become more effective.

This framework is called the S.P.A.C.E curve and has been written from the perspective of the C-suite team.

 

The S.P.A.C.E curve - a framework designed to help you understand your customer's context

 

Survival -

This is the stage where C-suite members will be asking themselves, “How are we going to survive and manage through this situation?”.

When the pandemic first hit, organisations were primarily concerned with cashflow and liquidity, looking at what would be the immediate effect of the pandemic on their cash balances. Trying to get cash from customers that you might be selling to will be 100 times more difficult in a time of crisis – unless they are in a high growth situation like Zoom, who may find it easier to raise cash. However, for the former, there has been a huge increase in borrowing and a decrease in spend.

From an economic point of view, we have seen a lot of governments from around the world pump liquidity into the system because it was absolutely crucial in dealing with the first few months of the pandemic. This survival phase is still being felt by some organisations even till now and trying to sell to people at this stage is going to be quite a challenge.

Preserve -

What this phase is actually looking at is risk analysis. We are seeing organisations all around us thriving, whilst some are also declining.

There will be groups of people inside organisations who will be spending a lot of time deciding on what the future is going to look like. Decisions will need to be made fairly quickly around which customers are going to be there for the future, which will be thriving and which will sadly not be there once the pandemic is over.

They will also be considering what impact this going to have on their supply chain as it is not just about selling to customers but also about keeping the supply chain solvent.

Agile -

As we move from the Preserve stage, questions will then arise around what the future will look like. There will be few organisations that would be able to stand up and say that their business is going to be the same in the future as it was in the past.

However, for most companies we know that life is going to change. Working practices are going to change, as well as the way that customers want to buy solutions will change. Therefore, we must expect that the way we sell will also change.

The ‘change’ described might not be known just yet, but the important point to note is that your customers will need to start changing and asking themselves, at least from a mindset point of view, “what can we do inside the organisation to allow it to become more agile and deal with some of the challenges that we must face?”. “How do we manage the organizational structure to achieve change quickly?”

Co-create -

Once the company has decided how it will adapt to change more effectively, they will start to be open to new ideas. This is the stage where customers will realise that they must work with people and partners that will help them move towards a brighter future.

They may realise that it is unlikely they will come up with all the answers themselves, so the board will be looking at the kind of innovation that is coming from their own organisations as well as looking at their customers for innovation and suppliers too. This is very much likely to be driven in the spirit of partnership.

For salespeople, it is going to be remarkably interesting for you to look at how your customers are going to be looking to you to help them in their transformation journey. They will be looking at partners and suppliers that a) they can trust; and b) are the smartest in producing new ways of helping them develop their business.

Emerge -

This last phase of the curve is where the new ideas that were conceptualized in the previous stage are now being firmly established in the new way of working. Through the decisions that have been taken during the pandemic, the customer will be emerging out from this stronger with a higher sense of self-respect, having navigated through this incredible storm.

As mentioned above, we have seen companies hit the ground running and thrive. Take the likes of Zoom and Amazon for example, who have helped their own customers find new ways of innovation to support them through the pandemic.

 

How can I use this framework?

The purpose for calling it the S.P.A.C.E curve is all within the name. Quite simply, the C-suite will need time to think and require the space to do so.

It is within this time that they will be reflecting on the situation as it is a critical moment for them to be making the right decisions, as well as at the right time.

From a sales professionals’ point of view, trying to come up with too many innovative ideas when the customer is in the Survive or Preserve stage is probably not the best timing, even if those ideas are the right solutions forward. Therefore, those in sales need to have a degree of emotional intelligence; the ability to adapt one’s approach to, in this and many other cases, a horrendous journey.

So what does this mean for you, the salesperson?

Displaying the right Sales Mindsets in this particular time could make all the difference in your approach.

Start to think about your customers and where they land on the S.P.A.C.E curve. Think about the solutions that you have at your disposal that can fit within these different categories.

You may also want to share the S.P.A.C.E curve with them to see how they feel right now and therefore whether you could help them on this journey. This alone shows the emotional intelligence required to forge the building of trust for the future.

 

If you’d like to discuss the S.P.A.C.E. curve in more detail, please reach out to us using the Contact button above. We’d love to hear from you and how this framework has helped in your own approaches.

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