The world, as we know it, has changed forever.
Traditional sales processes and business operations have been disrupted with office closures, mandatory work-from-home measures, and safe-distancing requirements to comply with government guidelines.
Different industries have been affected in various ways. Technology, conferencing and online learning have had an exponential increase in demand, while the impact on hospitality and transportation has been catastrophic. Across industries, this impact continues to shift the customer decision jour
It is now more critical than ever for organisations to innovate and transform, to sustain revenues and navigate this current climate towards our “new normal”.
The health of any business is measured by its ‘pulse’: from day to day activities meant to build the sales pipeline, to leveraging available channels to generate qualified leads and accelerate the sales cycle, and delight customers along the way. And it all starts with the sales team who are the first point of contact and the ambassadors of every customer focussed organisation.
As such, it is paramount for sales professionals to understand changes in customer behaviours and adapt their approach to continue to offer genuine value.
The aim is to become a trustworthy partner and problem-solver, who can offer invaluable counsel and practical solutions to their customers to help them during these uncertain times. This is nothing new, of course, but a different approach now needs to be embraced to achieve this.
Here are my four guidelines to help sales people focus, remain productive and continue to provide value to your customers, so we can continue to navigate our way through these difficult times together, and come out the other side stronger as a result.
Approach Prospects & Clients With Empathy
In such an uncertain and challenging climate, the best way to connect with people is by practising empathy.
To start establishing trust with your prospects, you have to take the first step to understand their business and the potential issues that they may be facing.
Research how they have been affected by the pandemic, gather data on industry trends, look at what their competitors are doing and conceptualize how your services or product can genuinely help them.
Schedule a virtual ‘check in’ or ‘coffee’ with them. Ask them questions and; listen.
Remember, the pandemic has impacted each and every one of us professionally, socially and personally. This isn’t about pushing our services, this is about truly understanding and acknowledging their difficulties, and being open and honest about our own experiences. You might even discover you can help them in another way.
Showing genuine compassion and concern costs us nothing and creates goodwill. When you create goodwill, people will always remember the good things you did for them. This is all about strengthening relationships, creating brand loyalty and setting you apart from your competition.
Don’t Sell, Problem Solve
Once you’ve understood the issues, concerns and pressures of your customer, don’t sell, problem solve.
Think about how the service or product that you are providing, can help them adapt to the ‘new normal’ and achieve their organisational goals or help solve a pressing issue. Your customers still have their own customer relationships to maintain and growth targets to hit. How can you help them be successful?
Offer simple solutions that provide value for your customer today. Prove that you are a trustworthy partner and someone they want to work with in the post-crisis world.
Once a clear and distinct link is identified, whereby a need is satisfied by engaging in your company’s services or using the product, buying becomes intuitive.
Marketing is your friend
Leverage the opportunity to align with your marketing team. Work together to refresh sales and marketing content, with a focus on digital channels that are now being adopted more than ever before due to the lockdown.
Work together to create personalised messages or engaging emails for your customers - regardless if the revenue is declining or not - let them know you’re thinking of them and you’re there.
Create new and engaging sales presentations to deliver via virtual meeting tools or even create an engaging piece of content to use as the welcome screen as participants join your meeting. Virtual selling is new to many people, and given we can’t have any face to face meetings right now, most of us are starting to suffer from ‘virtual meeting fatigue’, so make it fun and engaging!
In a recent meeting I hosted, I created the below welcome slide, to break up the monotony of ‘yet another virtual meeting’. I got a lot of giggles and it was a great icebreaker that led to a very productive meeting.
A Channel Often Overlooked
In these times, many sales professionals tend to overlook their greatest resource; existing customers.
Building a fresh pipeline in this climate is going to be tough. So focus on the customers with whom you have an existing relationship and have already built trust.
Get in touch with past clients to understand the new challenges their business is facing. In these conversations, the opportunity for a product or service that can genuinely help them through this crisis may be uncovered, and lead to a new revenue stream for your business.
Build upon your existing relationship and ask for a referral to another department or someone within their network who may also benefit from your product or service. While this may feel uncomfortable for some, if you have built a strong relationship with them, you will be surprised by how many people are open and willing to support one another during these times. A warm introduction goes a long way. And remember, this pandemic isn’t going to last forever and you will have a refreshed target list of prospects to approach.
In the long term, by proving that you are a trustworthy partner during these challenging times, you can build a loyal customer base and increase referrals; setting yourself up for long term success.
The sales landscape has changed, and it is crucial that we all continue to transform. There are so many opportunities that we can leverage to refresh our pipelines, strengthen our relationships, maintain our focus, and maybe even have a little fun along the way.
The crisis has impacted us all, shifting the ground beneath our feet. It is vital to stay optimistic and resilient in the face of adversity. Take it in your stride, accept and conquer the challenges that have been set forth by this pandemic and emerge a winner.
A parting quote: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”