One survey found that 87 percent of small businesses are hurting because of the COVID-19 crisis. Even more concerning, 35 percent said their business can only survive for less than three months under current conditions. While government loans promise to provide some relief, the long-term recovery for the economy is bleak.
This is an unprecedented time, and the “unknowns” are what is most unsettling for business owners. In fact, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is an advocacy group for small businesses that regularly surveys its members to measure their feelings about the current business climate. Their March survey put the Uncertainty Index at 96.4, representing the biggest drop since 1986. Reporting on these findings, the Washington Post noted “Pessimism reflected the largest-ever decrease in sales expectations.”
Take a moment to absorb what those few short sentences represent. Uncertainty. Instability. Anxiety. These are just a few of the feelings your clients and prospects are feeling. If they are not mandated to close their doors, many are stressed about how they will continue to pay employees, how to cut through the red tape to get a government loan, or simply how to protect the health of their employees and customers.
Taking all that into consideration, it’s easy to see that receiving a sales call in the middle of a pandemic is not going to be received well. However, putting your work on pause will only dry up your team’s pipeline and put you out of business. What’s the solution?
Offer a helping hand to your clients and prospects. Continue building relationships. Solidify trust. Provide Guidance. Here’s how.
Think of every customer touch point as a deposit into your savings account. Continue depositing huge value now, and watch your reputation grow over time. You’ll reap the reward when the time is right, and the prospect is ready to purchase.
While “value” is the critical part of any sales conversation, reps must shift to an approach that puts personal interest first. Take time to be human. Ask how they are doing. What changes have they had to make? Leading with a value proposition will only push people away, making them less likely to ever talk to your team.
Thinking long-term means you know the difference between someone who is never going to buy because your product is just not a good fit, and someone who is likely to buy, but just not now. Invest in the latter. Even though you will not receive an immediate return, you will build trust and earn the opportunity to sell when they are ready.
Here are three more practical ways to keep your team and their prospects focused on long-term goals.
- Be a good listener. People want to feel like they are being heard, especially when they are frustrated with their current circumstances. Don’t just ask “how are you?” Ask more open-ended questions that will get your prospect/client talking. Show you care.
- Don’t set deadlines. “I’ll check back with you in a couple of weeks” is like saying, “I want a yes/no answer in two weeks.” Pushing artificial deadlines makes it seem like you are insensitive to their current situation.
- Be positive. Empathetically listen and show you care, but don’t contribute to a “doom and gloom” mentality. You want the prospect or client to feel a sense of optimism after speaking with you. Find some industry insights to share. What are other companies in their field doing to cope? Fear-based marketing is not successful at getting people’s attention. It comes across like ambulance chasing. A survey by Salesloft found that emails with subject lines containing COVID had a 40 percent lower response rate.
Shift Your Value Messaging to One of “Help”
We already mentioned that reps should not be leading with their value proposition. However, that doesn’t mean value should never enter the conversation. The quicker you can take a prospect to a better place, the quicker you’ll be having a sales conversation. No doubt you’ve always focused your messaging on value. However, recognize that value propositions have changed. What was important to your prospect 30 days ago is no longer critical. They have new priorities.
How can your value message be one of help? Turn your sales team into trusted advisors with these four suggestions.
- Write a blog with advice on dealing with the COVID pandemic. Be sure you have something insightful to share. Shift your email messaging to one that promotes this blog.
- Host a virtual webinar that answers questions from participants. Be sure to record it so you can get even more views by linking via email or through social media.
- Create a resource center on your website that will serve as a home to your blog post, webinar and any other resources you produce or collect.
- Turn any of these mediums into a series of advice.
Tap Your Network
Isolation has many people craving human interaction. We’re hosting Zoom parties, Facetiming with old friends and simply connecting more. Tap this resource by using your professional network to ultimately grow your pipeline. Offer to host a Zoom meeting that’s not solely about sales. In fact, many sales experts say the key to successful networking is to “stop selling.”
Help your peers and gain personal insights by discussing situations and identifying trends. Use your network to establish relationships. This is another key to thinking long-term. Whether it happens now or a year from now, someone in your network will meet a client that needs your product. Your valued relationship will prompt them to refer the client to you. Never underestimate the power of developing relationships, with both prospects and industry peers.
Vendor Neutral is Your Resource
Deals are getting stalled. Prospects are facing unique challenges. Sales teams are venturing into uncharted territory. Vendor Neutral is committed to helping sales team reach peak productivity with the right sales tech stack. Take advantage of our Simple Stack Selector to identify the tech tools that align with your company’s mission. Contact us to learn more about the resources available to your sales team.