Selling During COVID-19

Keep in mind, I am not a salesperson. I have a tremendous amount of respect for sales teams, as they have provided me and my colleagues a front-row seat into many, many businesses. Anyone in communications figures out that if you don’t make friends with the sales teams, you will find yourself on the outside real fast.
I don’t need to be a salesperson to realize that at this moment in our history, during a global pandemic, selling just got a lot harder than it may have ever been. The conversation has turned from “Do you have a minute?” to “It’s OK to take a minute.” While the rest of the world turns its attention to some very pressing, unique matters, sales teams are trying to figure out the new guidelines for how to sell during a pandemic.
The bad news? There’s no handbook for this. The good news? There’s no handbook for this. There are, however, some basic communication principles to fall back on that could guide your strategy on how you talk with (potential) customers.
First, be human. Yeah, I’m talking to you, every person who has sent me numerous emails in the last two weeks acting like life is status quo. It’s OK to acknowledge current events in your communications. At the very least, I won’t put your message in my “bad example” folder.
Second, don’t forget what sets you apart. Now may not be the best time to call and want to talk about that shiny new thing. Instead, this is the best time to call and talk about what makes your company special in the first placeꟷhow you uniquely solve a problem, specifically, your ability to assess and consult. Even if there isn’t anything you can do right now, reminding them that you’re another brain to pick could go a long way.
Third, think long term … think short term. While there are some immediate orders of business, whatever the unique situation might be, the world and their business will return to normal at some point. Helping to think long term to recognize opportunities—or prepare for problems—that will exist down the road is yet another way to show value.
Fourth, be around. Even where there is no business, there is business. Your customers’ worlds never stop and just because you aren’t the focal point of it at the moment, doesn’t mean you should break off communications. Chances are you have become friends with so many of your customersꟷchecking in can take many forms. Plus, you never know when another set of eyes or another brain to pick could lead to that next great opportunity.
All this being said, the same advice for sales teams is the same advice for all of us during a time like this—it depends. This is the time to use the skills that you’ve refined the longest—your listening skills—and apply them in unique ways to each customer.
Stay safe.