The global Covid-19 pandemic has presented buyers and sellers around the globe with a myriad of challenges and opportunities.
While businesses do their best to survive and thrive in this unprecedented climate, architecting our sales motion to bias towards empathy and kindness will no doubt pay huge emotional and commercial dividends when the smoke inevitably clears.
The good news is, the fact that many salespeople are experiencing this minor existential crisis is a positive sign!
After all, sellers are also buyers and many of us have a strong desire to treat our customers the same way we would want to be treated.
Here then are a few tips for reaching out to customers and executing your sales motion during this global crisis.
1. Acknowledge and empathise
When you reach out to your customers, before diving into business or your pitch, first acknowledge what they might be going through at the moment.
Show genuine interest in how they’re doing, especially if their geography or industry has been especially affected. You can even share how you, your company, or even your family has been affected and are coping with some of the same challenges.
For example, “Hi Mandy, I’m sure like most of us you have your hands full at the moment and I imagine being in the travel industry, which has been presented some unique challenges.
“How have things been going? My team and I have been working remotely for the past week and with everything going at home and are doing our best to stay focused as best we can…”
As we’ve learned from the endless discussions we’ve had with our customers over the years about the weather, our children, vacation stories, and even personal hardships, nothing brings people together more than shared human experiences.
2. Personalise and prioritise your outreach to those you can help the most
Given the magnitude of change rippling across the globe, now may not be the best time to diligently work down your standard lead list and reach out to customers with the same value proposition you were using just a few weeks ago.
Instead, linking your solution to a specific challenge that customers in a given role or industry might be experiencing, in particular now, demonstrates a degree of personalisation and relevance that customers appreciate and nowadays expect.
In fact, according to a research study by Salesforce in 2018, at least 82 percent of business buyers expected the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves and 72 percent of them expected salespersons to personalise the buying experience to their needs.
Strengthening this winning strategy will not only create more empathy and affinity with your customer but best of all, you will feel good about doing it! And when you feel good about your outreach, you’ll do it with more passion and conviction.
Word of Advice: try to avoid using your old, standard value proposition here! For example, your solution might help your customers save money by automating or accelerating some of their business processes.
But leading with a statement like “During tough times like these you’re probably looking to save as much as you can, right?”, sounds generic, leading, and disingenuous.
Instead, focus on a use case that directly relates to something the customer may be experiencing now such as, “With more employees working from home, many of our clients are realising they’ll need to spend more time processing a larger number of previously unseen expenses. We can help with that.”
3. Make it OK for them to say ‘no’
The psychological principle known as reactance can immediately cause customers to become resistant to the advances of an insensitive, unempathetic salesperson.
In short, if a customer feels cornered or pressured by your outreach (whether on the phone or via email), they’ll shut you down, hang up on you, or worst of all, go dark.
Some of the best sales opportunities are indeed born out of adverse times, but as buyers are scrambling to deal with all manner of professional and personal fires, now simply may not be the right time for some, and that’s OK.
Recognising the importance of the current state of affairs and making it OK for your customers to say “no” or “not now” will do two things. First, it makes it more likely that you’ll get an answer at all!
Of course, we would prefer a “yes” but even a “no” or “not now” are both vastly preferable to no response at all.
Second, even if the timing isn’t right, your customer will remember that you handled the situation with kindness and empathy when the time comes to re-engage (which they’ll be more likely to do).
For example, you might say something like “While it’s definitely been a challenging time for all of us, we’re grateful to have helped similar clients in a meaningful way with minimal heavy lifting on their end. I’d love to explore how we might help you but I know you’ve probably got a ton of things on your plate.
“If you’re keen to continue the conversation and learn a bit more, I’d love to help! If you’re not interested or the timing isn’t right, that’s OK too. Just say the word.”
Note: Before using this tactic, it’s important to first demonstrate the value of working with your client!
A classic bad example would be cold-calling a client and saying “Hey, it’s David calling from Systems Support. Do you have a few minutes to talk? And if the answer is ‘no’ that’s OK.” As the buyer, I’d take that out every time!
This approach is best used after outlining the value you add (e.g. the personalised approach outlined prior). That way, if your customer says no, at least the value of what they’re saying no to will be clear to them should they choose to re-engage in the future.
Robert Gonye is a business growth expert and influencer. He writes in his capacity. He can be contacted on: [email protected]