With business shutdowns happening nationwide, how do you keep your sales alive? There are four things you need to know.
Even before Coronavirus, anyone who is selling knew that you don’t “pitch” a new idea or product as they do on Mad Men. Gone are the days of standing in front of someone for 20 minutes and making your case in such a compelling way that the buyer simply cannot resist.
But now in the midst of Coronavirus, those days are REALLY gone. For one thing, you’re definitely not standing in front of anyone to do your selling. For another, many businesses have found that their sales have slowed down. But…they haven’t stopped completely (at least not for every business.)
How to Keep Sales Alive in Crisis
1. Engage with a potential customer as a potential partner.
When you’re desperate to keep a sale alive, you begin to see your customer as a purse instead of a person. Keep in mind that this person is so much more than a dollar sign. It is through them that your business stays alive. It is through you that they get something critical to their needs. That goes beyond a transaction. That’s a partnership that keeps both of you going.
Engaging with customers as partners requires that you look at them from a holistic, relational perspective. In any good relationship, you care for each other, you try to make the other person’s life better. You don’t treat the other like a vending machine.
The takeaway: Position yourself so that conversations with you—whether over (virtual) coffee or a quick phone call—create value for your client. Tell your sales team that it is their job to understand the values, objectives, and problems of your partners—and to always be thinking about how to resolve those problems.
2. Listen deeply and do your research.
Keeping your sale alive also comes down to listening deeply. Your first agenda should be “How do I find out and better understand the problems, challenges, and goals that my customer has?”
You find this out by taking note of the little pieces of information or irritations your customer mentions. Rather than blowing past a comment like “We’re doing the best we can”, ask questions—not for the sake of being nosey, of course, but for the sake of finding out how you can help.
Another often overlooked avenue of deepening your knowledge is a simple Google search. When was the last time you researched your client’s competition? With reasonable attention given to LinkedIn, Google Alerts, Quora, and whatever other industry knowledge you have, you can gain real valuable insights for your next call.
The takeaway: Don’t view small talk as annoying preambles you have to wade through before you can get to your pitch. View your client’s little throwaway comments as invaluable opportunities to engage in a value-creating conversation. And remember to do some industry research to learn more about your client’s world.
3. Prioritize problem-solving, not pitch.
Your second agenda should be “Now that I understand my partner’s problem, how can I help them?” Of course, you don’t have to be all things to all people. But if you happen to know someone or come across an article that could help them, don’t hesitate to send it along. Whether or not it’s the perfect solution, the authenticity of the gesture will be noted.
Now, what about in a transactional context, where you only have 5 minutes with someone and you’re hard-pressed to get more than 1-2 questions out of them? Focus the conversation around solving one of their problems.
Here’s an example opener:
“There’s a lot I could talk about with you today, but I want to know what you’re finding most frustrating or challenging about X today? Because I want to focus my time with you on solving a problem that perhaps you haven’t had solved.”
Of course, the answer might be “Well I don’t have any problems.” If you can’t solve a problem, focus on maximizing the value of their time. Here’s another example:
“I know your time is valuable, so I want to make sure we focus on what you need. What are you hoping to get out of today’s conversation? What is it that you’d most like to know?”
The takeaway: Focus on being of value to your client by helping them solve a problem. Be creative in how you approach solving their problem—is there a contact, resource, or way of framing the conversation that could make a difference to them?
4. Make it low-risk.
Finally, if you’re going to keep your sale alive, lower the bar to entry. This is especially important in the midst of the current economy when everyone is feeling strapped. Think like your client and ask yourself what might feel intimidating to them right now. Is it your fee schedule? The length of a contract? The start-up costs of doing business with you?
And then (once again) think creatively about how you can solve those problems. Perhaps it’s waiving a fee, extending your warranty or trial period, offering a discount, or being more transparent in your sales process. Maybe it’s creating more helpful, free content, hosting live Q&As. Still not sure? Check out our other post.
The takeaway: Ask yourself what you can do to make the water warmer and more inviting to your client. By creating a safe, low-risk landing pad you’ll make it easier for them to bite.
Always Add Value
Even if you’re feeling the pressure closing in on all sides, drop the idea of “pitching” to your clients. Pitching carries with it the sense that you’re looking to best them, bulldozing or badgering them with a presentation. “Winning” a pitch should never be at their expense.
You should only be there to add value and help them. With that, you gain longer-lasting relationships and keep your sales alive.