Should we even be selling in this environment?

Author: 
Paul Nolan

Your customers want to have conversations about the challenges they’re facing. Isn’t that where sales begin?

Among the challenges that sales managers may face in the coming weeks and months is uneasiness on the part of sales reps to make presentations in the current unsettled environment. In times of crisis, there is an inclination
to put commerce on hold. The problem is that disruption caused by COVID-19 could last months, and most businesses cannot afford to pause that long.

Should we be selling in this environment? There is a lot of talk about how the emphasis with human exchanges currently should be on our humanness. However, the implication that selling is not about “humanizing” is at the root of what has caused so much to go off course about selling over the past decades, says sales coach and author David Brock.

“Our job has always been about helping our customers, organizationally and individually. It’s about helping them identify and address opportunities to grow, to improve, to be better,” Brock states in a blog post. “Our job is to help them achieve their dreams and goals, whether it is to improve revenue, reduce costs, improve profitability, grow, address new markets, find new customers or improve their operations. This includes their personal goals, which may be as simple as bringing sanity and clarity to their lives.”

This is a time when reassurances, as well as ongoing normal business sales efforts, are an opportunity to validate the value of the personal relationships and reliability that your reps have hopefully established as a key supplier, adds John Gunderson, vice president of analytics and e-business for Modern Distribution Management. MDM provides industry research and trends analysis for wholesale distributors.

Gunderson cautions sales managers to make sure their reps are sensitive to whether clients are receptive to discussing business while not completely placing sales on the sideline. A tone-deaf, disruptive sales call can do a
lot of potential damage. “I believe that distributors can mitigate the impact of this crisis by supporting their customers and sales teams and not get gridlocked. While we are far from business-as-normal, we all have to work hard to look and move forward. This is a time when leadership makes a difference.”

Your clients are struggling with business decisions just as you are, says Al Davidson, founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, Inc. (SSM), which delivers B2B lead generation services and appointment-setting services to clients.
In a recent post for Small Business Trends, Davis says your customers may welcome your thoughts on how they can weather this economic downturn.

“Depending on what types of B2B solutions you sell, your prospects might already be having significant pain points and concerns about the coronavirus. Spend some time rethinking and changing the angle on what are the key benefits of your products and services in a way that is relevant to coronavirus concerns. Is there a relevant sales pitch that you can make about how your B2B solutions can help your clients adapt to coronavirus and key benefits to help them get through the crisis?”

Indeed, many of your clients are likely eager to talk about how the pandemic has affected their business — possibly for good. In times
of great disruption, just as in more stable times, sales conversations should be just that — conversations. Reps should take this opportunity to have high-level, thought-provoking conversations with the business leaders they engage with, prospects and customers, says Jack Wilson of information technology and services provider Cinch I.T.

Instead of asking customers and prospects stale questions about how this is impacting them, reps should be thought leaders and try to anticipate how the circumstances might be changing their customers’ businesses, not only immediately, but long term. That’s a conversation starter, and from there, your reps can position themselves as a leader who can help them prepare for the road ahead.


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