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30 Apr 2020

10 Tips for Selling During COVID-19: How to Talk to Prospects in a Crisis


If your company sells to businesses, you might be fortunate enough to sell to high-demand industries during COVID-19, like medical supplies or logistics. If so, stop reading this blog and get back to work! For the rest of us, keeping your pipeline full and closing sales probably seems daunting. But, at the risk of sounding overly optimistic, take this opportunity to discover new tactics and develop best practices during a crisis. Below are 10 tips to turn pandemic lemons into lemonade.

Ditch the pitch

Unless you’re a rookie, you’ve probably got your sales pitch down to a science. You’ve crafted your intros, value propositions, and an arsenal of responses to quickly overcome objections. With COVID-19, you’ll have to change your approach because a scripted “hard sell” sales pitch right now will only make you seem out of touch. You have to convey empathy, understanding, and sound more like a human and less like a billboard advertisement. Just like you always have, ask lots of questions about how their business is doing, but tune into how they are managing the impact of the pandemic. Only after you’ve connected over this shared experience can you discuss how your product or service should still be a top priority.

Offer them a “conversation” instead of a “sale”

With a lot of uncertainty, many of your prospects won’t be in a buying position. Chances are that your product or service still has value, but the timing may not be right. Closing a deal is still possible, but you’ll need to start with a softer approach centered around a conversation rather than a buying timeframe or solving a problem in the near term. A conversation today could serve as a foot-in-the-door with a dream account or give you a chance to outshine the competition by leaving a lasting impression. Once the conversation gets started, you’ll have a chance at two positive outcomes; they’ll conclude that they have a need now (see our next two suggestions), or they’ll be a hot opportunity down the road.

Test new products or services

Effective sales leaders are always dreaming up new products, services, and industries to target, but sometimes the day-to-day grind keeps them too busy to execute. With more time on your hands, now could be the perfect time to build pro-types, create marketing materials, or do some market research. Try making some calls to gauge interest level and feedback about interest or price points. During the process, you can build a pipeline of potential customers to call when your new offering is ready to launch. Plus, a new product or market vertical can create much-needed enthusiasm internally!

Tweak your pricing model

Following the rules of supply and demand, many companies are offering deals you can’t get during normal times. There are many ways to incentivize buyers, depending on your target market. Consider offering discounts, free consultations or estimates, payment deferments, or partner with a bank to offer creative finance options not available under regular market conditions. Interest rates are incredibly low right now, so capital investments might make sense for some buyers. To help achieve this goal, check with your own suppliers to see if they offer the same; you may be able to lower your costs and pass those savings to your customers to close a deal!

Leverage social media

With a slowdown in many industries, a lot of decision makers have more time to read blogs, LinkedIn posts, and case studies. You have a big marketing and branding opportunity by leveraging social media. Create new blog posts, share your company profile, and reach out with personal messages. You might get a better response by sidestepping traditional business-related content. Try posting about your dog, remote work experience, or new interests. If you’re having trouble reaching people at the office, email and LinkedIn is a great alternative.

Check-in with current customers or opportunities in your pipeline

This might be a good time to build rapport by connecting on a more personal level. You can ask how their company is faring, how their family is doing, or just offer well wishes. If you usually touch base via phone or email, consider a video conference to personalize the interaction and build a better relationship. Take notes on things like hobbies, birthdays, children, or pets to foster the relationship; in essence, get to know your prospects better! You can also ask for referrals, positive reviews, or testimonials with an offer to reciprocate.

Add (or research) new technology

New technology can be hard to implement. But with a slow-down, it might be an ideal time to move things forward without disruption. If implementation is cost prohibitive because of market uncertainty, you can get the ball rolling by investing your time. Researching now will aide forward motion when things return to normal, but doing so now can also help your potential partners and vendors stay busy and weather this storm, too. Think of it as a mutually beneficial practice for your business and theirs.

Build your lead list

With fewer appointments, calls, proposals, and presentations on your to-do list, maybe it’s time to focus on adding new prospects to your database. While you’re at it, you could make some calls, do some research, and find some viable contact names for future reference. Let’s face it, under ordinary conditions, busy salespeople rarely have the time to add cold leads to their database and track down decision makers. But we all know that today’s hot account was yesterday’s cold call. Imagine the potential for new business when you’ve grown your list of contacts and business gets back to normal. Consider adding leads that weren’t prime targets before, but offer high-demand goods or services now.

Look for Deals

As companies look for ways to keep their business wheels turning, there are deals and discounts to be found. Are you due to replace a piece of equipment? Do you have office computers still running Windows 7? Always wanted to invest in sales training? Do your raw materials have volatile price changes? Many vendors are looking to entice customers with deep discounts. If you have a quote in your drawer from last year, you might be able to leverage the economic downturn to negotiate a better deal. This includes shipping, installation, or other fees that are now flexible.

Be kind and empathetic

This isn’t just advice for business, but a great rule to follow on a personal level. If your existing customers are struggling, offer some understanding and compassion. Likewise, you might have a chance to shine by offering donations, volunteer for a worthy cause, or just do something nice for a neighbor. While this may not necessarily help your business, it’s always a great way to stay positive and upbeat. Studies have shown that positivity and kindness are contagious!