The global events in the past months drove drastic changes in the selling industry. Aside from adapting to a remote selling environment, salespeople also had to adjust to the sweeping change in buyer behavior.
Leveraging technology to reach more customers is a key approach that helped sales professionals cope with the evolving selling landscape. But while it’s a challenge for sales teams to reach their quotas, it is important to acknowledge that customers are affected by all these changes as well. It should be your sales team’s goal to help your customers navigate through these changes successfully.
Understanding your customer’s challenges and carefully segmenting them to tailor how you reach out to them is important. Here’s how you can be thoughtful when selling in the new normal:
1. Acknowledge that your prospect is more budget-conscious now
With so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic’s long-term impact, prospects are almost certainly more concerned about the budget than they were three months ago. However, it’s also important to recognize that the pandemic is impacting industries in different ways. Research the industry so that you understand your prospects’ current business outlook and the most significant challenges facing them.
In your conversations with prospects, communicate that you understand the budget crunch. Tell them that while you understand that they may not be able to commit to a large purchase right now, you are here to provide value to them. Offer high-quality content that addresses their biggest concerns. Even if the prospect is not ready to buy right now, you can position yourself to be a go-to solution once the economy begins to improve.
2. Highlight how your product can be an asset now and in the foreseeable future
You need to redefine your sales pitch so that it is pandemic-specific. Consider how your prospect’s business has changed due to the pandemic—and how your solution can provide value. Is your customer struggling with new customer acquisition as they move towards digital distribution? Are they concerned about protecting employees from infection, or supporting employees who are now working from home? Find an angle so that you can position your product as a solution to new business challenges.
Ask plenty of questions about how the prospect is adapting to the pandemic. It’s quite possible that they’re facing problems you aren’t able to foresee. Use what you learn to refine your pitch further.
All of your points should connect back to how your solution can address the prospect’s current business challenges. Avoid language such as “when business returns to normal.” We don’t know when that’s going to happen, and that reduces urgency for your prospect. You want to show that your product is critically important right now.
3. Explain how your solution can help reduce risk
The pandemic presents risks on numerous fronts. The last thing that prospects want is to begin an initiative that presents additional risks.
Address this fear proactively by emphasizing the ways in which your solution can mitigate rather than exacerbate risk. Back up your arguments with hard evidence and data so that your prospect feels reassured. Explain what safeguards are in place to ensure that your solution is truly low-risk.
You can even use pandemic risks as an argument for your solution. Point out that simply trying to conduct business as usual during these times also poses risk. Then, show how your solution lowers the risks your prospect is already facing.
4. Be sensitive to stakeholders’ concerns about their own professional futures.
The risks posed by the pandemic aren’t just scary to businesses. Stakeholders you talk to are also concerned about their own futures. They may be worrying what will happen to their position if their company goes out of business or makes major staffing changes. Given this possibility, stakeholders may be especially reluctant to propose a solution that could jeopardize their future.
You will need to be empathetic towards these concerns. Expect that you may have to talk with more stakeholders than is typical, or provide more information in order to fully reassure prospects. Let stakeholders know that you understand their fears and want to help address them. The prospect cannot ever think that you care more about making the sale than their individual well-being.
5. Find ways to creatively address a reduced budget without simply offering a discount.
During the downturn, many companies have significantly reduced budgets. There just may not much wiggle room in that regard.
However, you can sell to a prospect with a reduced budget. Try not to give a major discount whenever possible. That creates the expectation that your solution isn’t really that valuable. Instead, work with the prospect to provide a solution that fits within a smaller budget. For example, you might suggest a small trial run for your solution. This helps set the stage for a larger purchase later on, once you’ve proven your value and the economy begins to recover.
6. Continue to nurture relationships even if the prospect is reluctant to buy right now.
For many prospects, a purchase just isn’t in the cards right now. You should still pay attention to these prospects. Although you do not want to overwhelm stakeholders, who are probably under a lot of stress right now, you do want to remind them that you are here and willing to help. Even just sending a quick note to check in and offer value can do a lot to nurture a relationship.
7. Pay attention to your existing customers.
As always, your existing customers are a great source of potential business. Make sure you nurture these relationships during the pandemic. Check in with your customers to find out what specific challenges they are facing right now. Formulate a plan to help them navigate their challenges and receive maximum value from your solution.
Team up with the customer success team to identify your customers’ biggest needs. Together you can create webinars and other high-value content that directly addresses their concerns. Whenever possible, you want to position yourself as a partner who can help the customer through the challenges of the pandemic.
Sales is definitely a challenge during a downturn, and the dual challenges of the downturn and pandemic are particularly difficult. But if you can display empathy for prospects and position your solution correctly, you can successfully make it through the downturn.