Bad time to be working in Sales, huh? The stock market suffered the worst first quarter in history. Unemployment is rising. Entire industries have been shaken. Nearly everyone is being moved to work from home if they are lucky enough to still have a job. It is still somewhat hard to believe that in just a few weeks, COVID-19 made our nightmares come true. You ask yourself: Should we even be selling at all in this climate?
I have been dwelling on this for the past two months, reading through various articles and discussing it with my colleagues. I’ll save you the trouble from doing the same and simply tell you that most of us agreed: the show must go on. Although you should be flexible and make some adjustments, you should not stop selling.
Accept And Adjust
First things first, you will need to revisit your quotas and balance your expectations. Unless you are selling a commodity that is essential in the battle against COVID-19, you will probably not reach the targets you set. But another thing you can do at this point is to modify your current sales strategy. You will not be closing so much, therefore you can use your time to stock up on new business leads, just like stocking up on supplies in this time of quarantine. The extra time you have on your hands can be used for prospecting and lead generation. At the same time, although deals may get stalled in your pipeline, you can still keep them warm.
Keep checking in with your leads and respectfully keep the communication going. Accept the fact that businesses will struggle for a while. Avoid panic. Stop assuming it is the end of the world. Do not give up!
Soften Your Approach
Next thing you should do: soften your sales approach. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, clients did not respond well to aggressive, outdated sales tactics where the salespeople were convincing them to buy their products as if there was no tomorrow. And, now, the approach needs to be even softer. As I wrote in one of my previous articles, 10 Dating Rules That Apply to B2B Sales, in order to be successful in sales nowadays, you can try applying dating rules to help you build a strong relationship with your client. So, if we translate this situation to the dating field, imagine that the person you are trying to win over is going through a major life crisis. At this time, he or she needs a friend, someone to be compassionate and understanding.
The last thing they need is for you to approach them and cheerfully say: “Hey, gorgeous, let’s grab a cup of coffee and then I can tell you all about how lucky you would be to date me!”. This is exactly how you will sound to your prospects if you continue with your regular sales pitch which assumes that everything is fine with the world.
Buying your product or service is most probably not on the list of top priorities for the day for your prospects and clients. So, bear that in mind when you approach them. Think about what they have been hearing for the last few weeks. Then, think about what they would like to hear at this moment. Maybe they are sick of the slightly fake standardized compassionate messages that they have been receiving from all the companies that have them on the mailing list. Perhaps they are sick of hearing their boss telling them to stay focused regardless of the situation. They could be possibly worried about their loved ones. Or, maybe they just feel overloaded with information around COVID-19 and crave light small talk about the weather. Now is the time to show your EQ and be creative and unique in your sales approach.
This Is Your Job
Once you have made the adjustments, you might still be missing the focus and motivation to keep on going. I hope this does not sound too melodramatic, but here goes: You have a duty to keep selling. I assume two things when I say this; one – you are not in the business of exploiting the fear surrounding us, and two – you truly believe that your product or service helps people in some way. If these two are accurate in your case, then you should stop feeling like the bad guy if you are talking about things other than COVID-19. It does not mean that you are inconsiderate, or that you do not care about the situation around you. It means that you understand that times are hard, but you have strong hope that things will pick up and once they do, you will be ready.
I leave you with the advice I gave to one of my friends who is a salesperson in the service industry. My friend was very concerned and shared with me that she thinks it might not be polite to contact clients and prospects at this time, since they have so many things to worry about, things that are more important than the services she is selling. I told her the following:
It is not impolite to do your job. You are mindful of the situation, you have adapted your approach, and you are simply doing your job. You are a salesperson. That is nothing to be ashamed of.