Today’s post is by Justin Zappulla, managing partner at Janek Performance Group.
While many states and countries are gradually in the process of re-opening, there remain restrictions and a need to navigate a new sales normal. Additionally, an economic crisis is clearly part of the COVID-19 fallout. All of this has created a business environment where sales can be achieved, but through a different process than we are used to. However, it’s important to remember that, regardless of the state of the world, your industry, or business in general, there is a path forward to sales success.
1. Adapt your skills to the current environment
The sales process has likely changed. We are connecting with customers in different ways, there’s a greater emphasis on remote selling, and there is a vital need to think creatively in meeting the unique challenges of an economy overshadowed by a pandemic. But the good news is, you’ve developed core selling skills that can be applied to the new environment – just a bit differently.
Things like knowing how to open and close, being a trusted advisor, identifying needs, tailoring a solution, offering insights and ideas to get customers to think differently – these are all core selling skills sales professionals have honed over the years and are still critical in today’s unique environment. They are applied a bit differently, as the communication medium has changed. Lean into Web-based tools with video, if possible, and get comfortable working phone and email. While face-to-face interactions will be limited, you still can connect deeply with your customers by leveraging the core selling skills you’ve learned to rely on.
2. Pay even more attention to communication style preferences
Communication styles are one of the most critical gateways to understanding and connecting with buyers. In times of stress and strife, like COVID-19, they become even more important. Being able to talk to someone who is in sync with you in your preferred communication method is a huge relief, and it’s an opening that sales professionals can use to establish trust, build rapport, and engage in a productive sales dialogue.
However, the environment has changed. Even with the relaxing of some restrictions, face-to-face is still less likely to take place. Consequently, sales professionals will need to use other strategies to discern communication styles – verbal clues like tone and words used, and writing elements such as content, length, and syntax. When possible, the use of video can be a tremendous asset. Being able to read the body language of your customer – and them being able to see the same – is a significant advantage.
3. Short-term problems could take priority over long-term solutions
Because pandemics involve a great degree of future uncertainty – no one knows precisely how long it will last, for example – long-term strategizing will likely downshift to a lesser priority for buyers. After all, if you don’t know what the world will look like in the future, it can be difficult to make plans based on that.
Thus, sales reps may find they need to align with buyers’ most pressing short-term concerns over long-range issues. That doesn’t mean future scope is completely out of the equation, of course – one can make models and projections based on an array of possible futures – but addressing immediate problems could not only represent a win now but strengthen your position on future deals as well.
4. Resist the trap of diving too deeply into non-business discussions
The pandemic response at the local, state, national, and international level has tragically become politicized. One of the things sales professionals need to be aware of is buyers who have strong opinions about the strategy employed to deal with COVID-19. Sales professionals need to be aware of the risks associated with diving too deeply into this dialogue.
Despite the chaos affecting the entire world of business and sales, core selling skills are still critical to engaging and influencing buyers. Shifting strategy to work through different communication channels, emphasizing relationship building, strongly considering communication styles, and balancing both short-term and long-term goals are all ways to effectively keep the sales pipeline full.
For more helpful advice on how to advance your selling and sales management skills, visit Janek’s resource library.