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Tips for sales teams in the COVID-19 crisis

With COVID-19 face to face selling is over, at least temporarily, and this means that sales teams and sales leaders have to adapt their approach, offering and technique to a digital world.

Selling doesn’t sound easy during a pandemic, but it is still happening and essential, so all is not lost. Although it is true that many customers will be stressed and re-prioritising right now – and therefore not in the right frame of mind to talk to a salesperson – this is a crucial time to be building relationships, before we enter the “new normal” more formally.

Empathetic sales

At this uncertain time, it’s important for sales teams to understand their customers’ mindsets. Empathy and understanding will go a long way with customers at the moment, which means that having a good research beforehand on how they are affected by COVID-19 themselves is imperative.

Sales teams should be able to answer questions such as:

  • How is this customer/contact personally affected?

For example, is their job at risk, and how will this affect their relationship with you?

  • How is the industry affected at large?

We know hospitality, tourism and other sectors have been particularly hard hit, however some industries such as pharmaceuticals and software have seen a short-term boost. This affects the tone and pitch of sales massively.

  • What does the CRM data say?

Checking in with your real-time data of how many customers are interacting with you and using your products and services is imperative. Any trends can be used in changing the sales approach.

Reach out to customers and prospects now more than ever, show that you care and that you are invested in a long-term relationship, not just a short-term pitch.

Digital, but with a human touch

Although attitudes to digital sales channels are mixed (McKinsey report), they are nonetheless essential in riding out the crisis period. Sales are for the most part now taking place via videoconference, phone, webinars and other digital mediums, this doesn’t mean the service has to be automated or robotic.

Pandemic aside, customers much prefer meaningful and personal conversations with sales reps. This sentiment has probably increased tenfold since the crisis, as businesses are vulnerable and more careful than ever about their spending and investments.

It’s important to see sales now as a long-term venture rather than short-term and think on how your customers will see you post COVID-19 – hopefully that is ‘helpful’ rather than ‘pushy.’ Remember the ‘human touch’ in this digital world.

Sales messaging

Pre-COVID19 messaging is probably not going to be relevant anymore, and therefore not convert to sales anymore, so this needs to be adapted at each stage of the crisis.

The messaging must be relevant to where customers are on their journey in real-time and what will help them in that particular moment. Having said that, don’t rely on COVID-19 itself as a selling point. If your message solely revolves around the pandemic, this could be taken as fear-based marketing, which may put people off. Instead focus on ROI and how customers can use their limited cash flow wisely with you – tailor options and services for them based on their changing needs.

The choices made now by sales leaders will massively affect a company’s positioning post-pandemic. Teams should be empathetic, deliver a human touch despite the digital channels and agree on a value-added sales message.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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