MARIE WOODARD | Selling During COVID-19: Strategy Shift
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Selling During COVID-19: Strategy Shift

Selling During COVID-19: Strategy Shift

The truth is, if sales were about tactics, anyone could do it. What separates an average salesperson from a great salesperson is their mindset. A great salesperson’s mindset allows them to see opportunities no one else can and do what no one else will, even during a pandemic.

If you’ve been in sales for more than a few years, you probably thought you’d seen a dry pipeline before. But now, with the stay at home orders, remote work situations, and risk of deadly contagions, this may be the dryest pipeline ever! Even if your clients are working full speed during this pandemic, chances are they are so swamped that your normal sales activities are ineffective.

Here are some mistakes to avoid when your pipeline dries up and how to make the most of this hidden opportunity.

The mistakes most reps make when their pipeline dries up

  1. Getting anxious. In an effort to make up for the lack of volume, anxious salespeople try to overcompensate with perfect execution. They tell themselves, “Since I don’t have many prospects to work with, every prospect is incredibly important. I have to convert more of them and I can’t make any mistakes or upset them.” In addition to the anxiety we all have due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this kind of sales anxiety can effectively kill any leads that are left in the rep’s pipeline. Despite trying to be inoffensive as possible, anxious salespeople still lose. Tip-toeing around prospects in an effort to avoid making mistakes or upsetting them demonstrates neediness. No one wants to do business with a needy person, which results in either lost deals or poorly negotiated deals that heavily favor the prospect.
  2. Buying lead lists and spamming leads. Compared to other lead generation methods, buying lists produces the highest quantity but lowest quality of leads. Buying lists will cost you twice: once, when you buy the list and then when you waste time by reaching out to unqualified leads.
  3. Selling to the wrong prospect. Finding and selling to your ideal customer requires time and patience. Chasing after any prospect with a pulse and a credit card seems like a quick way to generate revenue. Nonetheless, selling to the wrong customers is expensive: They require more customer support, churn at a higher rate, and will bad-mouth your company. Any revenue gained from them is chewed up by their high costs.
  4. Discounting your offer. When done correctly, discounts can help close deals faster. Otherwise, constant discounts attract the wrong type of customers, customers who care more about pinching pennies than value.

Don’t waste time at work panicking because your pipeline is dry. The COVID-19 outbreak has given us all enough to panic about outside of work: So, use the time you spend selling to level-up your skills.

Here are four ways you can become a better salesperson during this crisis:

  1. Increase revenue through upselling. The lure of attracting new customers is powerful and exciting. But if you want to increase revenue, upselling existing customers is the easiest path for one simple reason: trust. Your existing customers already trust you. If they bought from you once, they’ll buy from you again. In this time of crisis, it’s essential to find ways to genuinely help your customers. So, go visit your customers (or plan a virtual coffee with them). Talk to them about the situation and give real, practical advice. Try to understand what new challenges they’re facing. In these conversations, the opportunity for an upsell that can genuinely help them through this crisis may come up naturally.
  2. Experiment with your cold call scripts and email templates. Over time, even the best scripts and email templates become ineffective. For instance, the subject line “Quick question” used to be very effective. Because it was effective, people (including me) taught it to other salespeople. Nowadays, I get so many emails with that subject line, I automatically archive them. This is especially true during the current pandemic. Will your subject lines get a better open rate if they mention COVID-19? How should you adapt your scripts to acknowledge the current world situation? These are questions you need to answer by experimenting and tracking the results. And keep in mind, COVID and all related language will soon reach a fatigue point.
  3. Get more referral sales. Getting referrals from existing customers is like upselling: It’s easier than acquiring new customers yet not enough salespeople do it. Either they’re afraid of asking customers, and possibly damaging those relationships, or they half-ass it. Start by devoting time to your customers’ success. Give them sincere advice and help to overcome the challenges they’re facing due to COVID-19. Then ask them for referrals to two people in the same business who would benefit from your offer. If you’ve done a good job, they’ll happily refer you to other potential customers.

Embrace an abundance mindset

When the world is in crisis mode and opportunities start to dry up, it’s easy to embrace a scarcity mindset. Under a scarcity mindset, you focus on preservation instead of growth, leading to missed opportunities. An abundance mindset is an exact opposite. Instead of being limited by what you lack, an abundance mindset means appreciating what you already have and turning disadvantages into advantages.

So how can you cultivate an abundance mindset?

  1. Open your eyes. When you’re hyperfocused on a problem, you filter out anything that contradicts it, including new angles and possible solutions. Break out of that rut by asking yourself open-ended questions like, “What are my choices here?”
  2. Be generous. Even if you don’t feel like you have a lot to offer, give people your attention, kindness, and knowledge. When you give more, you receive more.
  3. Practice gratitude. Gratitude lets you appreciate what you currently have and reveals resources and opportunities hidden right in front of you.

Be bold, try new things, have fun

When you have the right mindset, you can keep calm during a crisis and keep selling during a downturn. While everyone else is panicking, you’ll be too busy creating your own opportunities to notice a shortage. That could mean upselling, experimenting on your sales materials, or doing referral sales. The only limitation is your imagination. Stay happy, positive, and abundant! This too shall pass.

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