A test of Bob’s connection with his team occurred in February 2020, the start of the U.S. breakout of COVID-19.
“We were all personally living in a world of upside down. Who knows what was going to happen? We had health worries, we had career worries, we had family worries. We had all this uncertainty.
“Many of us could just sort of tap in and work from home, but if you think about our [Sales] people who are out remote, calling on financial advisors five days a week, all of a sudden they’re quarantined at home. They don’t know when they’re going to see clients again. They feel like they’ve been reduced to an internal [wholesaler], they’re worried about their jobs, the market’s crashing. We had a massive level of anxiety on a personal level.
Bob’s near immediate response was to schedule 9 a.m. Zoom Sales meetings, daily at first and then on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“Let’s see how we can get people connected so they can function in their job, whatever that looks like now. They’re going to need to have a connection to their coworkers because they’re used to having a connection to their clients. When a salesperson is out with their advisors, that’s their family. [Wholesalers] walk into somebody’s office four or five times a day. It’s not their office. They don’t have an office. They do this every day, all day, every day, and they get in the car and go. How they spend their days was upended.
“My ultimate goal with the Zooms was that I wanted to make sure we continue to stay engaged with clients because that’s the lifeblood of what we do.
Bob’s direction to the Sales team: “You gotta get up. You gotta shower. You gotta turn your camera on.’ Humans are pretty good at routine. If you get up and you put on your suit or your dress and have your coffee and then you go about your day, that’s a lot easier than wondering what am I supposed to do right now.
“The plan was we were going to share ideas on how to deal with a pandemic, and be accessible to clients and see what’s going on in the marketplace. A massive information sharing sprouted up out of it.
The few months of Zoom meetings were moderated by Bob and then he began to assign the hosting and agenda to the external and internal teams.
“I wanted to see them hone their Zoom skills. Some got really nervous about presenting to their peers, even though it’s a friendly group.
The meetings lasted 30 minutes, and no more.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to be here for 30 minutes and take 40. At 30, you’re done.
“The net effect was that it really kept people connected to each other. We shared success stories and failures and it made us all better. It helped with what I called the rolling freakout that was happening. You know, for the last month, Judy was fine and all of a sudden, Judy was like, ‘Holy ****, my life is never going to be the same again.’ Everyone went through something like that.
“We also tried to get people back out as soon as we could. Shockingly, so many of our clients told us they hadn’t seen a wholesaler in six months.”
Marketing, Product Management, Business Intelligence, Investment Management and even Compliance on occasion took part in these Sales Zooms, extending the value of being connected and relying on a stream of information from the office. They centered us, too. To Marketing, they provided raw content that we were able to run with. We heard about other workers being adrift during the early days of COVID but not us—thanks to these meetings, we had more than enough to do. And everything we created Sales was eager to use, albeit in different, digital ways.
Proof of the power of the connection? 2020, the year of the pandemic, was one of Calamos’ strongest years. Sales were up 50% from the prior year, according to Bob.
Marketing interactions with Sales
“Bob, what do marketing communications professionals need to better understand about Sales? How does marketing make the biggest impact?” Jody asked.
“I think the biggest impact Marketing can make is to be sure they have good stories to tell because buyers buy stories that are backed up by data.
“There’s a great book by Robert Cialdini—Influence and the Psychology of Persuasion—based on all kinds of studies he performed. Essentially, there are lots of different ways people buy, but there’s still part of your brain that wants to be told a story.
“Today many advisors have set up these walls of analysis because they don’t want to buy on the story. But story is what gets them.
“Also, keep in mind how hard the wholesaler’s job is. It can be a grind of a job. Just remembering that can go a long way toward fostering a kind of more empathetic marketing.”
Our thanks to Bob for meeting with us, and consenting to our sharing of these comments.