If somebody would’ve told me three months ago that there would be a pandemic and we will be in lockdown. Forced to stay-at-home social distancing from each other and I wouldn’t be able to go to the gym. Well, crazy is one word about how I would describe that person.
COVID-19 took us all by surprise, it’s deadly, took so many lives. Affected businesses, people lost their jobs and the end does not seem to be in sight. Initially, I did not want to write about this topic, no matter which way you look at it, the damage that this virus has caused is truly heartbreaking.
We shall overcome and prevail, and prevail we will. It’s a matter of time. We have to adapt and overcome these challenging times by being compassionate and strong.
I have been thinking a lot about the negative impacts of COVID-19. Perhaps, no profession took more hits than sales. Sales of goods, services, houses, software, you name it, the virus affected it. Well, except for toilet paper. They sold out in droves! I never really understood why I mean why not Nutella or flour? French fries? I digress.
So, the virus affected sales of software, mostly because in times like this businesses want to cut costs as much as possible, wherever possible. And if your software got the cut, because you were declared software non grata. Well, you’re not alone.
Many businesses faced and continue to face churn. Not an ideal scenario for any CS team out there, but let’s dive into how it’s affecting my people.
My killers, my warriors who will not take no for an answer! I just had to put a wolf of wall street reference here.
And that was my humor plug for the whole article.
The budget on hold, holding off on any new purchases, uncertain how things will be in the coming weeks/months, Try again in three or so months. Sounds familiar?
Yup, I along with you am also getting similar responses from folks that were once ready to buy from me or were in the process of getting there.
It hurts, it’s disheartening, demotivating and most importantly it sucks because there isn’t a blueprint for events like these. You can’t be too pushy to prospects, since it’s not a single region or continent that is fighting this virus, it’s the whole world. That includes you too.
You can’t expect folks to make purchases in times as uncertain as to the ones right now. So what can you do?
Let’s dive into ways you should be selling (well, at least try to) while there is a pandemic.
Ride out the storm, adapt
Yes, the economy is in the rut. That’s hurting people and businesses alike. The best thing to do as a salesperson is to just be patient and ride out the storm.
That does not mean you should stop calling or stop following-up, doing demos, or stop selling and start binging on Netflix. As long as prospects are signing up for free trials or demos, it means you have work to do. Your job as a salesperson right now should not be to minimize the effect of this pandemic and carry on as “business as usual”. Quite the contrary, understand that it is a stressful time for you and your prospects and communicate that to them.
Figure out ways in which your prospects can make use of your product, perhaps it can help them be more productive, especially since most of the folks are working remotely now. If your product can help take things off their plate, a win-win right?
I have been in sales for quite some time now. Whenever there have been times when I wasn’t getting results or external factors were affecting the decision making of my prospects. I almost always changed tactics. I experiment and see what sticks. In layman terms, you adapt.
The times are not the best right now, however, just like me, I’m sure you too have prospects in your pipeline that are interested in your product. Communicate that you’re unsure about how to proceed forward and would love some guidance on what the next steps would be.
Deliver on the need of the prospects and leave the ball in their court. They will get back to you with the next steps, they probably just need some time. Like the rest of us. Just don’t forget to follow-up.
Don’t assume, ask!
I was attending an online video chat recently with a huge gathering of salespeople from across the globe (and yes zoom was glitching!), all the best that SaaS has to offer.
There was one recurring theme in the whole hour of the conversation. People are not going to buy, what should we do?
I get it. Those were my thoughts too, the way COVID-19 (I dislike acronyms… except FBI, that I like) crept upon us all, I was uncertain about the future.
I was scrolling through Quora (my free time guilty pleasure), and somebody wrote a very old quote at the start of an answer; You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Followed by an epiphany on my end: why don’t I just ask my prospects if they would like to proceed ahead (as usual) rather than be on stand-by and wait for the situation to get better?
You see, assumptions are useful, but in this case, you take the risk of being reactive rather than proactive. Prospects probably don’t have your software at the top of their minds. And if you don’t stay in touch with them, follow-up, show them why your product indeed can help them with their workflow. Well, you probably won’t get an answer from their side anytime soon.
You have to be pro-active and stay on top of your prospects. If that means extending their free trial period, do it. Another demo, do it. A slight discount to help them with the troubling times and remain in their good graces for years to come, do it.
Don’t just bury your head in sand and wait for everything to get better. Assume nothing. Ask every single prospect what the next best steps would be and then go accordingly.
Assist them and keep working your pipeline effectively and focus on serving your future customers.
Stop cold emailing. Stop sending Linkedin invites and messaging the minute the request is accepted.
If there is a time to be more personal, more human, it’s now.
The same goes for the way you approach your pipeline. It’s probably not wise to send out follow-ups that are sequenced and take little to no effort from your end.
Remember, these folks want to give you their business. At the very least, they deserve understanding and empathy from your end. If someone was ready to purchase and can’t right now and would like to revert back later on, that’s fine.
Our job as salespeople right now (like always) is to be understanding and assist our prospects anyway we can and add value in their day to day.
Schedule a call with them, but rather than asking when will they be ready to buy, ask them how they are coping with everything instead. Have a conversation about anything other than your product.
You need to build trust and establish rapport in order to sell even in the best of times. So, being extra empathetic during a crisis seems to be the natural way to proceed, right?
Don’t be desperate, because your bottom line is taking a hit right now. Goals can be caught up on later on, but by being pushy in times like these, you risk losing the customer altogether because you show a lack of empathy. Desperation reeks and it’s just not good business.
Remember, nobody has a blueprint for how to go about selling in times like these.
Especially, since we never experienced a global crisis like COVID-19 in modern history. So the best way to approach this pandemic is to try different things and see what sticks. Keep selling and stay positive. This too shall pass!
If you have any questions or are facing any challenges you’d like to discuss, feel to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, happy to help.