Business as (Un)usual: Best Practices for Salespeople Amidst COVID-19

Author: 
Sean Persha

The coronavirus outbreak has thrown all industries into extremely precarious states, with businesses around the globe grappling for ways to pull in revenue despite widespread uncertainties. In the current climate, it’s a particularly peculiar time to be a salesperson; how can we pitch to customers who are most likely facing their own fair share of financial hardships?

The sales teams positioned to succeed during this time will be those who help rather than haggle customers – understanding, too, that “success” will look somewhat different these days. Here are best practices for securing sales while remaining sensitive to customer circumstances amidst crisis.

Focus On Customer Relationships

While making sales is, of course, the cornerstone of our profession, making purchases during this time is far from a priority – or even a possibility – for many of our prospects. This doesn’t mean you should pause all outreach. Instead, enter conversations with the intention of building relationships with your prospects, being mindful of their realities and their evolving needs so that you foster their loyalty and forge connections that you can act on post-pandemic. Acting with thoughtfulness and a relaxed expectation of when the sale needs to be closed will mitigate the risk of you turning prospects off to your business.

Likewise, checking in with your existing customer base and referral partners in a time of crisis will demonstrate that you value their business as more than just a lucrative opportunity. Connecting with customers also allows you to gain insights into their current struggles and conceptualize solutions accordingly. Customers will remember the partners who showed genuine interest in their wellbeing during this time, so focus outreach efforts on building trust and loyalty, rather than pushing for a sale.

Update the Pitching Process

With many business owners currently more concerned with making rent and payroll than they are about tacking on expenses, how can your company still demonstrate its value to customers? Once you identify specific customer pain points, adapt your offerings to solve for those struggles and rethink how you present them. Pitch free trials or product demonstrations to prospects. Chances are they have extra time on their hands these days and may be more receptive to trying your offerings. The expectation here is that once business returns to normal, companies that have tried your products or services won’t want to work without them going forward.

Offer Flexible Terms

Many businesses are currently existing within a state of financial uncertainty that may make them hesitant to sign deals with any new providers. To ease their commitment concerns, offer flexible plan terms, such as a penalty-free cancellation period, month-to-month contracts or waived on-boarding or setup fees. By removing impediments, prospects will see your product only as a tool for moving forward.

Focus on the Opportunities

Fortunately, not all businesses suffer in times of crisis; some in fact thrive. While the number of companies benefiting is undeniably lower than those hurting, focusing on the aspects of your market that may be experiencing growth can make all the difference in your hit rate. For example, whereas pet grooming salons are suffering, mobile groomers are booming. Consider how you can focus your prospecting on certain geographies, demographics or niche markets that may be busy right now.

Learn To Turn Churn

Adding new accounts is always the primary goal of sales teams, but maintaining the installed base meets an equally important business objective – especially now since new clients may be sparse. To keep existing customers from closing their accounts, educate sales, billing and customer support professionals on how to diffuse panicked inquiries. Have them ready to renegotiate plans, offering options from suspended or delayed payments to free upgrades to avoid any permanent customer losses. Business owners can be quick to panic and cut partner ties to save capital, but oftentimes all it takes is some assurance and temporary relief to persuade them to stay.

Coronavirus is making the sales profession, which can be challenging even in the best of times, an increasingly tricky game, but not an impossible one. With many competitors failing to meet the current needs of their customers, there is the opportunity to gain ground. Professionals everywhere are relearning how to do their jobs amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Those who succeed will approach the task with a level of flexibility and thoughtfulness designed to ease customer stresses rather than add to them.

Sean Persha, vice president of sales at DaySmart Software, is a seasoned sales and business development executive with more than 20 years of experience in developing meaningful and mutually rewarding relationships.