- The fundamental goal of solving customer problems remains unchanged — however, sales reps techniques and timing will need to adapt
- Reps must develop remote communication skills and a plan for every customer interaction
- Your needs are not top of mind; cultivate sensitivity to the impact on customers’ businesses, initiatives, teams and families
If you have not prepared, reacted to, or at least worried about the effects of COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) on the U.S. and world economies, you may be guilty of ostrich syndrome (a psychological term to describe behavior where we deny or refuse to acknowledge something that is blatantly obvious).
When confronted with a potential economic downturn, should sales reps panic or persevere? As sales continues to evolve into a recognized and respected profession, the fundamental objective of meeting buyer needs and solving customer problems remains unchanged.
However, patience, empathy and creativity is required to be successful. It’s times like these that define, build and reinforce relationships with clients and prospects. Demonstrating sensitivity and respect positions the sales rep as a trusted advisor and will have benefits that extend well beyond the current crisis.
Here are seven tips for dealing with the new reality of selling in the age of the novel coronavirus:
- Add value in every interaction. You must be even more conscientious about time spent communicating with prospects, buyers and customers. Acknowledge that they’re busy and, like you, they are trying their best to adapt to a new environment. Recognize the impact of current events on their businesses, their initiatives, their teams, and their families. Advance planning for any interaction (e.g., calls, emails) is critical to ensuring you’re prepared to use those “golden minutes” effectively and efficiently.
- Sales content is critical. What you send to buyers and customers (e.g., white papers, proposals, FAQs, specifications) becomes especially important and must communicate the organization’s value in a clear, concise manner. Assume that readers will not have time to search for the nuggets of meaning and relevant information. Summarize documents using bullet points when necessary, and point to relevant sections.
- Leverage remote working tools. You’re probably already using tools for chat, virtual meetings, email, and phone. Now is a good time to polish the skills you use to communicate virtually as it can be challenging to “read” a customer’s reaction when interacting virtually. Active listening is a requirement to ensure you understand and address buyer and customer needs.
- Use video. Use video whenever possible and appropriate. Research shows that a video call is much more effective in attracting (and keeping!) participants’ attention than a phone call. One vital skill is to actively engage everyone in the meeting — especially if it’s a combination of remote and in-person attendees.
- Get dressed for success. This may seem obvious, but the act of getting dressed is like putting on your sales uniform. It moves you into a sales “mentality” — much like a doctor putting on a lab coat. Working in a bathrobe or pajamas might seem like a luxury, but it sets the wrong tone for both you and your customers.
- Stop shaking hands! Shaking hands is a relatively new custom, primarily practiced in Western countries. It may seem awkward at first, but if you do have an in-person meeting, avoid shaking hands. In the age of coronavirus, doing so is a sign of respect for your customers and shows you care about more than their business — you are also concerned for their personal well-being. Use a slight bow, a tip of the hat, a fist bump or virtual high-five — and add a quick explanation as to why you don’t want to shake his or her hand. For example, “Namaste is the new handshake!” (combined with a slight bow), or “As a secret Star Trek fan, and out of respect for your health, I’m adapting the Vulcan salute as my new greeting to clients — live long and prosper.”
- Have a work buddy. When you are a remote worker, hallway, kitchen, and watercooler conversations don’t happen as readily. I highly recommend having a formal “sales buddy” who you virtually spend time with a few times a week. This can help maintain communication and cultural norms and reduce any feelings of isolation.
There is a great deal of information available about ways to be more effective when working remotely and one of my favorites is from GitLab, which can be found here.
We may be entering a very challenging time for both sellers and buyers, but I am confident that business will continue, and customers will still have needs. Recognizing that fact and adapting your selling and communication skills is critical to continued success.