COVID-19 effect on sales
Whether directly or indirectly, COVID-19 is affecting all businesses.
Around 52% of consumers are now avoiding crowds at all costs, while 32% are leaving their homes less often. The impact is a feverish stock market, and a less-than-healthy bottom line for sales teams.
So, what can you do to stop your venture from tanking under the weight of all this panic? Making adaptations now will not only keep your organization’s head above water, but also give you a fighting start against the competition in the future.
Not sure where to start? No problem. Here are the top tips from a selection of world-class revenue leaders to get you back on your feet.
Everyone is asking me, and our team advice on selling (specifically prospecting) through these tough times. Let’s be clear, no one has been through something like this so therefore no one has the right answer. I’ve personally graduated in 1998 and started my career in the 2000 crash and then went through the housing market crash a bunch of other stuff but nothing has been like this.
That said, it doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to figure it out.
I feel like this is a good time to slow down, stop the generic cadences and go deep on personalization and empathy.
People and companies are in one of three modes right now:
1) lock down everything,
2) use this time to re-evaluate current systems and improve operational efficiencies and
3) get after it and try to sell through this.
I think we can and should use this in our prospecting efforts. Let me know what you think of this approach and anything else you’re finding to work right now.
If nothing else, stay safe and try to stay positive out there.
Seller’s are all facing a question they’ve never had to answer: Should you sell during a pandemic?
The answer to that question all depends on how you answer a different question.
What’s your motive?
If your number one priority is to help your customers and prospects solve relevant business problems, this is the best time to “sell.”
Inherent in the “should you sell” question is the belief that selling equals manipulation at worse, aggressive marketing at best. Yes, this may be a common perception of a seller’s motive, but here’s the truth: If you have something to offer in this time of crisis, you are being selfish by letting the fear of judgement keep you from serving those in need.
If you need to be on the frontlines, honestly examine your motive and determine how you can serve, not sell. This will determine if the customer see your role as an “ambulance drive” or an “ambulance chaser”.
For tips on selling remotely, check out my podcasts.
Here’s what will happen in the next few weeks and how the early adopters are already planning ahead.
1. March 9-16: Scramble to get WFH set up
2. March 16-20: Adjust to WFH and start reviewing projections (down 50%)
3. March 22-27: Focus on the closing quarter. Next week, finalize new projections, discuss headcount
4. March 30-Apr 3: Finish the quarter, revise numbers, start layoffs
5. April 6 and on: Do layoffs and then plan to move forward
Early Adopters, while doing all this are already researching and discussing how we keep the team motivated through training.
The ones who do will realize it’s about conversions.
Meaning every new conversation, every customer is about being human and real. But also focusing on what it takes to convert at each stage of the sales cycle.
This goes back to training, and the early adopters are already having these conversations about online training, virtual training, and if permitted, onsite training.
We’re all in an unprecedented times right now. So many of our members and member companies are being disrupted, events canceled, conferences closing and even entire sales forces are being told they need to work from home.
With that, whilst practising social network distancing, we can stay connected and united virtually. As we’ve always had.
As sales professionals, let’s remember that our customers are also going through these tough times. Yes, we must continue to achieve our sales objectives but let’s share genuine empathy and care for our customers first.
Finally, our community’s mission is to help raise the professionalism and performance of inside sales. So the next couple of weeks, look forward for the AA-ISP online sessions designed specifically to help bring our community together by sharing tips and ideas to help those who are now working from home.
Many sales teams are used to working virtually but typically not under the additional stress of the fear that comes from a global pandemic. A fresh approach is needed. Whether new to working virtually or used to it, here are some things you can do.
1. Share strategies. It’s important share strategies everyone can use to keep a positive mindset. Remind your team to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, exercise and stay hydrated. Have them take breaks, look up the Pomodoro method of focusing work time. Share simple ideas like in this article. Don’t assume people know what to do to keep a positive mindset, show them.
2. Keep in touch. You may have regular online meetings planned but also call and check in with your team. Ask them how they are feeling, if they have any worries. Ask them to share some positive things. If you use instant messaging, send them random positive messages throughout the week.
3. Be a model. This is a time for all leaders to model the behavior they expect. Take care of yourself. Make sure you have the support system you need. Form a mastermind, find a coach or mentor. Make sure you take a few breaths and center yourself before interacting with others. Don’t take on the fear or drama of others. Be empathetic but don’t get sucked in. Ask them questions and to provide solutions before you jump in with answers.
4. Be prepared. Things are constantly shifting. Prepare for things to change. Be flexible and adaptable. Think, how can we do this and make it work well, rather than any negative thought that may try to take up valuable space in your head.
Out of chaos can come innovation. Leaders can become better leaders, workers can become better at their jobs. Together we can innovate better ways to do things and stop the syndrome of “This is the way we’ve always done it.” It’s a good time to take a fresh approach.
Email has always been an important communication medium and it’s even more important now that your prospects are working from home. Make sure your sellers have a way to set up email sequences to reach more prospects. While you’re at it, give them a way to access and update Salesforce records from within their email account. Providing these tools will show that you’re doing your part to help your salespeople be as productive as possible during this difficult time. It’s an investment that will deliver dividends well beyond this difficult period.
Sales teams have to adjust to the digital communication environment. Because all their prospects and clients are working remotely, it is much harder to pick up the phone and reach someone directly. Using LinkedIn to find and connect with stakeholders has never been more valuable. In fact, people are more apt to jump on a zoom call or chat now because of the self-quarantine so now is a wonderful time to connect.
In today’s COVID-19 world, make sure your outreach is of value to the audience and not a pitch. Connect with empathy and be a real resource to your recipient.
I personally view this crisis as a giant PAUSE || button on the world and our lives. I’m taking this time to retool, rethink and redirect:
Retool: What tools should I be using to be more efficient?
Rethink: What needs to change in my daily workflow?
Redirect: What priorities do I need to focus on going forward? Every crisis is an opportunity for change!
Help your existing customers – how can you add real value? For example, we have made some sales leadership coaching slots “no charge” to help sales leaders right away and have had many of these conversations.
We are approaching existing prospects that have deals in play – and having candid conversations and a reiteration of why some of what we sell makes sense to move forward and other items may not.
Biggest issue is that we are here for the long haul – it is better to do less business now knowing we stayed focused on how to best help our buyers.
Today almost every smart executive is listening to Sequoia’s Black Swan advice on the need to conserve cash.
Now more than ever is the time to understand your competition (not competitors) and show prospects how you can make their existing cash go farther.
Here is the 2004 HBR article that helped me understand what my real competition was.
Text me (+1.403.874.2998) if you would like some free assistance building a competition chart similar to this one so you can show prospects how you can save them money and make their existing cash last longer.
Sales leaders all around the globe have said to me in the last week alone “My pipeline and opportunities came to a screeching halt. But I know my buyers are at home, behind a computer and on social media. How do I reach them?”
They are correct. I’ve said for four years today’s buyer is digitally connected, socially engaged, mobile attached and video hungry. Now more than ever our buyers are engaged on these channels. While closing sales came to a halt because of COVID-19, pipelining should not. Now more than ever before must our sellers learn to engage properly on the digital channels where our buyers are hanging out at. Guess what? You’re there and so are they!
Just remember HUMANIZE the connection and outreach experience. We are all in this together.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the impact of COVID-19, but we have to remember that this is a human and health challenge, not a sales challenge. This is the time to get out of yourself and focus on what is happening with your clients. I used to say: “Leave the product in the car”; now you may as well leave it at the office.Reach out to your clients and be a sounding board, focus on helping them re-calibrate and reformulate their plans. If you cling to your product, the feedback and insights you get will be narrowed by that perspective. Instead, allow the conversation to explore all aspects of their situation, and by extension, learn in the process. This is not about “open-ended questions”, it is about an open mind.Since most are facing some degree of adjustment post COVID-19, ask them:“Given where things are today, and if you were to start the business again, what would be different?” This allows them to think about the success they’d had building the business, which energizes the conversation, getting them to be open to new possibilities, just as they were when they started off.
The key to WFH success is laser focus during work time and then balancing stretches of hard work with taking exercise breaks. Easier said than done. Set up your workstation to be as organized as possible and block out distractions as best you can. If you have kids at home, set up a schedule so you can sync their video time with your deep work time. Also sync up your exercise time with your kids so they get some movement as well.
Context is everything. If you don’t have a product or service that can help a buyer through this time and put their business in a better position to weather the storm, it’s best to wait to contact that specific prospect.
But if you do have a product or service that can help your customers or prospective buyers now to get through this difficult time in better condition, it’d be negligent, in my opinion, not to reach out. It’s how you do it, that matters most.
I believe that sales approaches in a time of crisis require a mix of Relationship, Value, Patience, Intent, and Empathy. If you need a way to remember that, just think about serving up “R-Value-PIE” (our value pie). This isn’t meant to be linear, or a script model. It’s the stuff you want to consider as you build your personalized approach.
You can read more, but here’s a quick breakdown of R-Value-PIE:
Relationship: Expressing caring and concern for others and developing trust (by acting in trustworthy ways).
Value: In a time of crisis, consider Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s likely that Personal Needs and need for safety are elevated – so it’s best to check in on the person first. Then, you can ask questions and discuss ways you can support them and deliver business value.
Patience: Take it slow, don’t pounce on needs (even if you can resolve them). Ask questions, dig deep, engage them in truly understanding their situation and then work together to co-create solutions.
Intent: Communicate your intentions to help and serve, early and often.
Empathy: Consider their feelings and perspectives, and acknowledge them to let them know you understand, as much as possible.