The stock market is rolling and pitching like a Six Flags attraction, a pandemic is spreading across the world, and offices are sending everyone home to work indefinitely. And yet, sales must go on. But how?
While the sales industry has never faced the challenge of a pandemic, there are lessons learned – and tips to be shared – from recent national emergencies and economic downturns that can be applied to keeping your sales funnel full and your sales team selling in the most difficult of times.
11 Tips to Help Your Reps Sell During Times of Crisis:
- Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes. Your sales organization has entered crisis mode, and there’s a good chance your customer’s company is in crisis too. You need to be empathetic and stay focused on solving a problem for your customers that delivers value to them. Remind your reps that mid-funnel deals may be re-evaluated in light of financial, supply chain and staffing changes. Patience and empathy are key. The coronavirus crisis is unusual because unlike a hurricane or other natural disaster, it is a global event that is directly affecting every person of every age on earth right now. This is a rare shared experience.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. If your team typically dedicated a certain amount of time before a call researching an early lead, have them double it through April. People are extremely anxious right now. Having a thorough agenda, thoughtful questions and a plan for next steps will immediately set the tone with a buyer that your sales organization is rock solid (unlike the outside world).
- Make it Incredibly Easy to Buy. Remind your reps that they are the experts. It is very possible that prospects have children under their feet and elderly parents on their minds. You can’t expect customers to be as thoughtful and thorough in their evaluation of your products as they typically would be. Now is the time for reps to be expert advisors who don’t just answer questions, but also proactively offer solutions and deeply think through each customer’s potential needs.
- Don’t Slash Pricing. Now is the time to hold your pricing firm. Don’t let fear drive your pricing strategy. Discounting now could lead to more and more price reductions. Margins need extra protection in uncertain economic times.
- Listen More than Ever Before. Customers, now working from home, but who are used to the social interactions innate to an office environment may use a sales call as an opportunity to talk to someone other than their spouse and kids. Let them. This is an opportunity to connect with prospects through a shared experience.
- Don’t rush to close out of fear of what tomorrow could bring. Your reps will come across as desperate or pushy. Customers will be highly sensitive to this and turned off by salespeople who are acting in their self-interest. Remember that everyone is on edge. Let the customer take their time, and ensure your reps are using their time to arm customers with only information that is helpful to their unique needs.
- Be a Trusted Partner, Not a Fear Monger. For some companies, times like these present an unprecedented set of opportunities. For those reps, it is a delicate balance between helping educate prospects on the problems they face as a result of the crisis situation and your ability to help and feeding into paranoia. People are on edge, so dialing up a doom and gloom” scenario will probably backfire. Instead, build trust and credibility, by acknowledging the challenges the customer will face. Ensure your team is being helpful and not coming off as opportunistic.
- Make the Case. Dig up case studies from recent difficult economic times and offer them as reassurance that you’ve helped others navigate similar challenges. Even better if those case studies are from peers within your customer’s industry. Remind your team that your product is of value to the customer. That it will help them. And that any reservations they have about selling in tough times should be viewed through that lens.
- Review Any Automated Messaging What was appropriate a few weeks ago may seem tone-deaf in light of current events. You don’t want to turn off a valuable lead because someone didn’t review an auto-responding email.
- Inspect What You Expect. Effective sales management is crucial in these situations. Know your sales reps tendencies and be prepared to coach when correction is needed. Have them role-play with you and listen in on their calls to be sure that behaviors such as empathy are being observed. An overly aggressive rep can create a terrible experience for a customer that can damage your brand forever in their eyes. Other reps will become disappointed and lose confidence when the going gets tough and will need a boost to carry on. More than ever, your team needs exceptional leadership.
- Seize the Opportunity. Sales leaders should take the opportunity to take inventory of their team. Tough times call for tough decisions. Identify your people’s gaps, identify what they need to succeed, provide the development, and if necessary, who’s really motivated to stay.
And remember, it’s not just your customers who will need extra consideration and sensitivity. Every member of your sales team will have their own unique, personal challenges in dealing with the new post-coronavirus reality. Be sensitive to them as well.
And if things are slow, use the time to task your salesforce with an in-depth evaluation of sales processes. Ask yourself, and your team:
- How can we make it easier for our customers to buy?
- What sales materials are we missing?
- Could our presentations use a refresh?
- Could any reps benefit from reinforcing sales skills online in a virtual reality environment?
While the coronavirus crisis will live long in our memories, it is important to remember that it will pass. This period will be a real test of your sales team’s selling skills and sales behaviors – and your sales leadership.