covid-19 what sales people can do

Updated for COVID-19

The original post at the bottom of the page was written pre COVID-19.

This pandemic is affecting us all globally and so we’ve updated this post.

We’re helping our clients and their sales people think about what they can be doing while they are working from home and thought it might be useful to share some of this.

I’ve seen lots of blog posts about working from home, which say “get dressed in the morning”.  If that’s the sort of advice you need, don’t waste your time reading the rest of this, this is for people who are thinking about managing both the short and longer term.

So if you are in field sales or a business owner and you find yourself having to work from home, here’s our top five things to think about so that you can come up with a plan of action which makes sure you’re effective in the short term, and puts your in the best possible position for when things get better, and they will.

1 How can you help your customers and clients?

What value can you add right now?

What insights or services can you offer that can help them?

We’ve seen businesses pivot overnight to cope with the crisis.

Reynolds Catering Supplies who supply fresh fruit and vegetables to all your high street restaurants saw their customers close overnight. They’ve set up a website and are supplying bulk boxes of fruit and vegetables in a click and collect service / delivery service to communities to split with their neighbours. Not only that they are donating free boxes of fruit and vegetables for NHS workers.  We’re slightly biased because we worked with their contact centre. These are good people, working hard to sustain their business but really wanting to help the country.

We’ve seen dental practices delivering medicines and getting shopping for their patients – making sure they are at the heart of the community.

Ineos are building a hand sanitiser factory near Middlesbrough to produce 1,000,000 bottles of hand sanitiser a month. They plan to build it in 10 days. 10 DAYS.

BOC another client of ours are responding rapidly to keep vital Oxygen supplies flowing.

And we’re putting our courses on line far faster than we had planned to at the beginning of the year, changing the way we work overnight.

We are all living the change curve at the moment, and in these emergency times offering help and insight to your customers sets you apart.

Not only that, being and feeling helpful is good for you.

Your own resilience is affected by the contributions you make, and so if you are feeling frustrated by the fact that you can’t do the things you would normally do, or help your community or family in the way you want to be able to,  think about the things you can do and focus on them.

What can you do right now to help your customers?

We have been facilitating meetings, helping sales teams to think through what they can do from home and what kind of conversations they can have with their customers on Zoom / Skype or on the good old telephone.

2) Speak to your customers

This is a time to have conversations that are real, supportive and helpful.

I would caveat that as a business owner you might want those calls to focus on bringing cash into your business. Credit control is always essential to your cashflow, but right now it will be vital. Remember, that after this passes ( and it will ) you will still want to keep a relationship with your clients and customers, so don’t get angry ( where fear lives anger is often close behind…….. sadly not listening to social distancing advice ), practice your calls before you make them and be clear what you want to achieve from the call.

We sought out some advice from Nicki Kinton, the  cashflow guru behind Confident Cashflow who has this sound advice:

“Many of us don’t like asking for payment, but it’s important that, at this time, we make sure we have talked (not emailed) to every one of our clients that owes us money. We’re all feeling the stress of the current situation but try not to approach the call emotionally, that will only provoke an emotional response and can lead to confrontation. There may be a temptation to feel obliged to go easy on everyone because we’re all in the same situation, but you need to have a clear picture of where you are financially before you can be supportive to others, it’s not something you should be doing at the expense of your own businesses survival. Finally, consider setting up payment plans for those struggling to pay, little and often is better than nothing at all”

Your customers will be under all kinds of pressures with cashflow, sickness and worry. DO NOT TRY TO PUSH YOUR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES – we know you might  feel the need to do that, but this isn’t a time to push, this is a time to help, listen, advise and agree a way forward – the next step that works for your customer and you.

If your customers are working from home, we’re finding they welcome a conversation with someone who understands their world, has industry knowledge and insight and a take on what is happening in it right now.

Let me give you a practical example of staying along side a customer.

One hire controller we were working with in a lifting equipment company in the North East of England, understood this and phoned her key customers regularly.

She didn’t push product, she tried to understand things from her customers point of view. She did talk about things that were right for the customer. And when one major ship yard lost a big contract, she kept calling, to see how people were, not to make the sale, but to keep the relationship. She was looking long term. She knew pushing product wasn’t going to help this relationship, she knew that she wanted to be in the best position when things did improve, and she knew which of her accounts she could still sell to.

And when the contract came back, who got the call, who got the work?

You’ve guessed it – Julie.

Why? because she was alongside her customers as an equal partner in the supplier / customer relationship.

And when she got the work, she was told, she was the only person who called during that down time, and the buyer valued that. Everyone else stopped calling, but when things picked up, they all started again.

3) Rethink your sales messages

The sales messages you used two weeks ago might not be the ones for right now.

Keep them helpful, keep them relevant, keep them sensitive.

Make sure before you pick up the phone you are clear about what you are going to say and why you want to say it,  build the relationship with the quality of your conversation.

4) Use this time to plan and learn

Remember all those jobs that used to drop off your to do list because you were so busy? Sitting on the M6 wishing you could be at home ( don’t tell me that was just me?)

Take the time to think, plan and learn.

From updating your CRM, to developing your sales plan.

Research potential new customers.

Get social and engage with people on Linkedin.

Read those business books you never get around to.

Listen to podcasts.

Take some training about how to lead and structure a telephone conversation – it’s very different to a face to face meeting.

5) Keep positive

We don’t know what is ahead of us, but that was true this time last year as much as it is now.

What we do have is a choice about how we approach what is going on. I know you might be juggling children and worrying about family, but you can use this time to focus on what is important, and control the things you can control.

You don’t need to check social media 50 times a day to see what rumours there are about the spread of virus on petrol pumps or how many toilet rolls there are in the Sainsbury’s.  You won’t feel better doing that.

The good news is that despite all that’s going on, after any crisis there is usually a bounce back, – a surge of growth – how can you position yourself to be in the right place to make the most of that?

Stay well, keep washing you hands and when going out for essentials stay 2 metres apart – it’s further than you think.

If you’d like us to run a webinar or Zoom meeting for your sales team to help think some of this through, or would like to tap into some of the sessions we are running about developing your sales plan, social selling, or leading telephone conversations, then get in touch here, or on 0845 450 0988 and ask for Diane Banister.

Here’s the original post 

When there is uncertainty in any market, there is a danger that people reduce their spending. As a salesperson, you will be hearing that “no” word more often that you did before, and it seems like the more you push, the more they say no.

When we hear the word “no” regularly, it can eat away at us. In fact, when times get tough, research shows that sales people reduce their calls by 38%.

If you think about it, it’s very easy to do – we can fall into a pattern of reducing calls because we don’t want to hear the little “no” word.

So we convince ourselves “no-one’s spending” “everyone is cutting back” “times are hard”

What can you do?

Besides becoming more resilient, here are some sales tips to help you be successful:-

Selling in tough times – use your time wisely

Keep your call rates high and stay ahead of your competitors who may be reducing theirs. Be intelligent about the people you see.

This is a winning combination which means that you can be in the 5% of businesses that thrive when things are more difficult.

“In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognise the opportunity.” John F. Kennedy

Which accounts will offer you the best opportunity to win business?

Which markets, which projects, which relationships, which people will help you achieve your sales targets?

Which market sectors are buying or hiring? Which are paying their bills on time?

Concentrate your time and energies with these priorities, and be clear what you can do to help them.

Selling in tough times – Stay positive

One study of salespeople, showed that people with a positive mindset sold on average 37% more products and services than their negative counterparts.

I don’t mean this glibly, it can be tough to keep positive when market conditions are hard, and some days it’s easier than others.

Focus on what you are achieving, where the opportunities lie, what your products and services can do for people, it will all help you in achieving your sales targets.

Keep a log of all the positive things that you do during your sales calls, and notice what gets results. When you’re selling in tough times, things that worked before ( when things were better ) may not work now. You can’t just collect the order, you’ll need to shape a business case for your products and services. You need to be clear and confident in your value proposition and why people should buy from you.

Selling in tough times – What do you really sell?

You need to be able to explain your products and services in terms of not what you sell, but what they do for the customer / prospect.

This is essential, clients, customers and prospects don’t want to know how many pixels something has, how many products you offer, how long you’ve been going, they want to understand what all this means for them.

Take time to prepare clear benefit statements or statements of results for your different buyers ( a user of product will be interested in different things to a financial buyer.)

So rather than

“call handling skills training makes people feel more equipped to deal with customers”
or
“call handling skills training reduces invoice queries”

Be clear, be precise:-

“Our call handling skills training programmes have reduced invoice queries to help clients improve cash flow by 65%”  ( that’s true by the way ) You can find out more here

Let’s look at what happens to buying cycles when times get tough.

This will depend on what kind of industry you work in. If you sell low value products with a one time sell, then doing more calls, more proposals, more presentations, more cold calling, more prospecting will bring results.

But if you sell business to business or the long term relationship is important to you you’ll need to be smarter; the time it takes to get a decision from your prospects and customers will be longer as buyers will be more cautious. Some estimates are 40% longer.

Pushing the sale will not work, but being convincing and understanding your customers will. It’s estimated in businesses where there are more than 200 people 5-7 people are involved in a buying decision. You need a plan to convince all the decision makers and influencers that your solution is right for them. This means tuning into their buying process, being convincing at every step of the way.

Manage your pipeline, keep it filled with prospects

Focus on your best opportunities. Good CRM software can help you with analysing and keeping track of this.

Put your energy into winning those opportunities rather than being busy sending out and delivering loads of brochures. Make sure you are getting payoff from your activity by prioritising where you spend your time. Define your best opportunities – you’ll have your own criteria, here are some of ours:-

  • Are you dealing with the decision maker or the whole decision making unit?
  • Do you have good intelligence about the prospect and their buying?
  • Are there clear and credible timescales for the purchase?

In short have you established that there is a clear basis to do business?

Sales Leaders

We help clients have more confident conversations with customers. Conversations which get results.  We do that by training and development programmes or sales coaching, and right now we can do that on line. If your market place is competitive, your people are finding it tough, and need a little help getting their sales mojo back, we can help.  Call us on 0845 450 0988 or get in touch here