As new cases emerge daily, Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Experts believe the spread will continue over the course of the next few months, leaving many employees worried about their jobs and many business owners wondering how to move forward.
Sales professionals face challenges as the economic uncertainty casts doubt on potential buyers. So, how will sales processes change during this time? How must businesses adapt to these changes?
In this blog, we’ll discuss the effects of Coronavirus on sales processes and sales reps, and then we’ll outline some strategies for navigating the evolving landscape.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Sales Processes
There are hundreds of different approaches to sales processes out there, but three of the most well-known are solution selling, strategic selling, and salesforce-focused selling. Let’s single out two of the most common approaches as we assess the impact of Coronavirus on processes.
Solution selling starts with prospecting, then qualifying that prospect, discovering the prospect’s challenges and desired outcomes, adding value to the process by inserting your recommendations to overcome those challenges, and then presenting those recommendations and closing the deal.
Strategic selling also begins with prospecting. Once the prospect is identified, the sales rep turns his or her attention towards strategy. Understanding the business’ issues helps the sales rep prepare the approach to the sale. What will we offer to combat these issues? When presenting the solution, the rep is prepared for buyer push-back and objections. Those objections are anticipated based on the rep’s knowledge of the prospect.
The good news? The stages of the process don’t change. But certain steps may need to be replaced with a different form of communication. For example, you might have a proposal presentation that requires a visit which would now be a phone call. Or if you are in construction, the discovery process may require an onsite visit. You will now have to figure out an alternative for that step.
Prospecting, uncovering the customer’s pain points, putting together a water-tight analysis, and answering customer concerns are all doable via the Web. Inside sales reps are used to closing deals remotely, so their normal patterns don’t have to change much in the age of the Coronavirus.
The challenge emerges for outside reps – who primarily broker face-to-face deals. In a time when offices are closing and societies are practicing social distancing, it’s impossible to close a deal using these in-person sales tactics.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Types of Sales People
According to the philosophy of Challenger Selling, there are five different sales personalities: the relationship builder, the reactive problem solver, the hard worker, the lone wolf, and the challenger. Each of these personalities brings his or her own unique strengths to the table and uses those strengths to navigate the sales process. For example, the reactive problem solver reliably responds to stakeholders and builds trust with the customer by making sure all problems are solved. The challenger educates the customer on alternative solutions and promotes those alternatives as better, so the customer moves outside their comfort zone and the rep’s deep knowledge of the customer’s business moves the sale forward.
The most at-risk type of salesperson in this scenario (as you may have guessed) is the relationship builder. The relationship builder amasses advocates internally with his or her magnetism and builds trust externally with the client by creating long-term, meaningful relationships. Those relationships, which are often built through in-person interactions, are potentially at risk during a time of social isolation. That means the relationship builder personality must seek out new skillsets and define a new approach to fill in the gaps.
The Coronavirus Sales Solution
Combatting sales obstacles during the Coronavirus is a strategy that must evolve over time. As new challenges emerge, sales reps must be prepared to pivot and try new things.
A WORD OF CAUTION: Businesses will inevitably struggle due to this pandemic, so regardless of what you’re trying to sell, the most important strategy to adopt right now is one of empathy, compassion, and patience. Do not exploit this situation. Dishonest tactics and fear mongering are a short-sighted (and just plain wrong) approach that will derail any long term gains you might otherwise enjoy. Customers and prospects will remember who supported them and who tried to play them. Don’t be “that” guy.
Here are a few sales strategies to consider going forward:
#1 Stockpile Leads, Not Toilet Paper
Prepare to prospect. If the economic impact worsens, you’ll have a larger list of buyers to draw from. Keep industries in mind as you qualify these leads. The industries that are flourishing amid this crisis may be more likely to make an investment than those facing greater uncertainty. One tool I really like for prospecting is Hunter.io. You can enter a company name and receive verified email addresses for employees at that company. Their free version lets you make 50 requests per month, so if another digital investment isn’t in the cards for you right now, it’s a great short-term solution. I tried searching our company name to test the accuracy, and the results were pretty dead-on (Except the one email they listed from someone who worked here 15 years ago!).
|Highly Impacted Industries||Less Impacted Industries|
#2 Shift to eCommerce
It’s time to shift from outside sales to inside sales, and whenever possible, ecommerce. For example, restaurant owners whose websites do not offer online gift card purchases are missing an opportunity to regain some lost revenue during this difficult time. Think about your selling structure and look for any ecommerce gaps you may be able to fill. Offering easy access to online sales will help your bottom line and take some of the pressure off your sales team.
#3 Change the Narrative
Your go-to pitches and selling points must adapt to speak to people’s urgent concerns. Your prospects are now mitigating Coronavirus pain points in addition to other business woes, and those pain points are taking precedent. For example, many businesses are concerned about making new investments right now. But, could an investment now help that business with long-term cost savings later? Would it help with remote work? Sales analytics to better monitor and align resources? Tailor your sales messaging to the moment by creating a more relevant narrative.
When money is tight, it’s more important than ever to explain ROI and show the actual savings to the customer, not just intangible revenue. For example, we had a client looking to replace a few mismatched tools with a marketing automation. By calculating how much those individual tools are currently costing them and comparing that to the cost of the marketing platform, we were able to show them the real savings their investment will create.
#4 Get Creative with Visuals
Maybe you can’t do an on-site visit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visually connect with your clients. Instead of doing a live tour of your facilities, why not do a virtual tour using a mobile conferencing app? How about sending the client a video of your product or service in action? Convert your sales process to digital wherever you can and get creative with how you interact with your clients.
#5 Prioritize Current Customers, Too
Trust plays a major role in a business relationship, and it can be the difference between a lifelong customer and a one-off sale. A good sales rep knows that a repeat customer will spend up to 300% more over time than a new customer. Find ways to connect to your current clients and be their advocate during this tough time – WORK WITH MARKETING ON THIS!! It’ll be a powerful relationship builder and may even result in some upsell or cross-sell discussions.
#6 Stay Busy
If ongoing sales halt and new deals are hard to come by, what is there for a sales rep to do? Aside from the aggressive prospecting research you’ll be doing, it may also be a good time to come up with a relevant promotion. For example, a customer of ours who sells office equipment is having a sale on standing desks and other work-from-home necessities. If you can tailor a promotion to address a need, you can then spend some time reaching out to customers and prospects who are ideal candidates.
#7 Evaluate your Sales Team
Do you have anyone who is a relationship salesperson? This approach to selling is not effective for an inside sales model. This is a great time to transform your relationship selling people to Challengers with a little training, CRM software, and a detailed sales process guidance.
Need help assessing your sales process? Looking for ways to streamline sales activity? Technology Advisors offers free discovery calls to learn about your business and software needs and advise you on the best next steps. Contact us today to schedule a call.