I believe we are at a digital crossroads in sales, between those that can adapt and change to the socially connected commercial world and those that sit and wait for it to pass believing that B2B sales will continue as before. Some estimates say that we have moved up digital adoption five years on three months.
The Scale Your Sales weekly podcast has hosted many insightful experts over the last quarter, April to June 2020. I asked all the guest their advice on how sales professionals can ride out the global pandemic and come out stronger; these are the answers. I thought it would be beneficial to compile all the expert answers to support you to ensure you are able to adopt the right mindset and actions to thrive through the challenges that COVID19 has presented.
The idea that you can take service as usual and turn up the volume is just not going to cut it right now, says Adrian Swinscoe. You must think about this time as service as unusual. The key to understanding and dealing with COVID19 is being mindful of what other people are going through as they transition to remote working and how you can help them do the best job. But also, how can you communicate with your customers to help manage and set expectations of business as unusual.
If there is a gift in COVID19, said Viveka von Rosen, it is that we are all experiencing some version of the same disruption. This will allow you to understand your customer as a human rather than a client. Salespeople must learn how to use LinkedIn to build relationships online. We must empathise the customer point of pain as the pandemic is making us realise that we are all human.
For the foreseeable future, we are not going to have conferences, trade shows and in-person networking, even leveraging your network is going to be done differently, Caryn Kopp. COVID19 is unlike any situation that we have experienced before, and sellers must master the art of developing business in this virtual world.
COVID19 has forced us to do the relationship building a little different, said Mic Adam, through Zoom, Skype, Teams or whatever technology you have available because it’s all done by video, we must get over our fear of recording messages on video.
Patricia Fripp said, COVID19 is not so much a time to sell but a time to keep in touch and be of service. Many clients are not spending money, and others are investing more. Always remember the clients that gave you the business when they had money and to help them along when they do not have money.
Patricia advises her clients to revisit, refocus and re-script, to look at your automatic messages and ask, “is the message relevant now?” FrippVT is an excellent resource if you want to brush up on your presentation skills. This is a great time to learn today and earn tomorrow, said Patricia, all the things you do not have time for, now you have no excuse.
Empathy is a Consistent Theme
David JP Fisher said, “It’s irritating t to hear so many sales gurus, talk about how empathy is essential right now because I’m like – when wasn’t it? Why does takes a pandemic, to think that empathy and being a human is important? Nevertheless, David said, if you are going to prospect and engage if you are going to talk with your existing clients, do use more compassion. Do not ignore the fact that there is a lot of stuff going on right now.
Adrian Swinscoe said the exciting thing about it is that empathy does not exist at an organisational level. Empathy is a human and individual thing, and unless you are predisposed towards it, or you have had an experience of developing it; empathy is a habit and behaviour that you can all learn. However, Adrian emphasises, that it takes effort, time, discipline, and commitment. If we all try to empathise, we will all get better at it.
Cian Mcloughlin said you must change your approach in COVID19; the sales professional cannot do cold outreach or call their customer and not mention that fact that the business might be struggling or that the customer might have stopped buying. Lead with empathy and authenticity and just be real when having a conversation and try to add some short term and immediate value. Cian said to focus on what you have that can help their urgent problem, and if you do not have anything to improve your customer’s current climate, then now is the time to focus on relationship building. He offers that to ‘sew the seeds’ now will reap the rewards down the track, however, being tone-deaf to how the current climate is affecting the client will stop you getting the sale and will also ruin your relationship in the long term.
Sellers need to be in constant contact with their target market of prospects and customers, said Karen Dunne-Squire. You must understand what the impact of the pandemic has been, how to adapt and flex to be able to continue to present value and solve customers’ problems. Sometimes salespeople assume, not realising that the thing that adds value last week or last month might not be valid now.
Talking to Kendra Lee about COVID19, she recommends sellers to keep calling, talking and offering help with more compassion and emotional intelligence than ever before. Kendra said sellers must stay with it and not give up as she believes opportunities will present.
What Can You Do?
David JP Fisher said of the many blanket statements that are being made, especially on LinkedIn, that right now every situation is different. There are lots of fun debates that ‘is a great time to sell’, or ‘it’s it a horrible time to sell’. The reality is that it is different for all of us. For some industries, this is not a good time to sell, and for others, it is a fantastic time to sell. Their context matters greatly!
Suchi Pathak said, one of the biggest strengths of COVID19 is that many people have many more one on one time and fewer distractions. Suchi has seen that rather than having a solid relationship with just one person in the client organisation, this time has enabled sellers to branch out their network within the company. The previous issue of developing a fantastic relationship with a primary contact of the company that left the seller vulnerable if that contact left. With more frequent communication across several different people in the organisation and the expansion of the network, Suchi says the experience of COVID19 is going to improve sales in the long term.
Caryn Kopp said the one thing that has changed is that the emails of decision-makers are filling up fast, everyone is bombarding buyers with emails with the word COVID19 in the communication. COVID, makes the email vanilla and prospects know it is a cold email. Few people are calling. Caryn said the significant change is to use the phone. People that were working in an office are now at home they are crazy to hear a voice and have a relevant conversation.
Mic Adam said that this time is great for companies to start on their employee advocacy. Adam said he is seeing many employees that are now willing to share messages from their company pages. Those messages are often related to the COVID19 crisis. However, they are willing to take the messages from the company page and share it on their personal networks.
Adrian Swinscoe said you must tell the customer what is going on and that you are working hard to resume service, and that right now this is services unusual. Adrian gave many examples of how companies frustrate their customers by not communicating effectively. Adrian said that COVID19 shined a light on what good customer experience can and should look like, he said, the best just know and get it, and everybody else is far behind.
Although quite a difficult and soul searching experience, Adam Gray said Now is a perfect opportunity to invest time in making sure our footprint reflects precisely how good we are. Your online profile must reflect and communicate your USP. When COVID19 lockdown finishes, he said, the improvement in your footprint is there forever. Do not waste this time, says Adam, you will never get another time like this.
Mic Adam says agrees that we need to lay down the foundation now, and not wait until this crisis is over. Mic noted this is the time you need to reach out to your customers with content; you need to reach out with conversations, and that way, you start building and develop the relationship and trust.
I have made minor amendments to ensure the information given by each expert flow and is easily actionable. Please do connect directly with each of the experts through LinkedIn. Look out for part two, which will profile some of the answers to questions on diversity and customer-centricity in sales. Please listen or watch the Scale Your Sales Podcast of your favourite expert and subscribe on your favourite channel to ensure you do not miss future episodes.