4 Tips to Manage Sales During the Coronavirus Outbreak
by Al Davidson
One of the biggest business news stories in the world right now is the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s affecting all kinds of industries from travel to industry events to global supply chains. The stock market has entered a new wave of volatility, prominent business networking events have been canceled or postponed, cross-border travel restrictions are complicating or canceling people’s international travel plans, and the entire country of Italy has shut down because of coronavirus.
In times of crisis, when the news is full of shocking and ominous headlines, it’s important to keep calm and remember that there are still a lot of things that we can control and a lot of ways that we can make a difference. Just like we are all learning how to deal with the virus in everyday life by taking additional precautions like frequent handwashing, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (like phones, keyboards and doorknobs), and being vigilant about properly covering coughs or sneezes, there are several strategies that sales teams should employ now to cope with the business impact of coronavirus.
Here are a few key strategies that sales teams should use now to make sure you keep your sales pipelines functioning properly:
1. “Stock Up” on New Business Leads Now
Just like stocking up on supplies that you think your house may need in case of a quarantine, you also need to “stock up” on sales prospects. You should be doing that now rather than later. Devote extra time, effort and resources to prospecting and lead generation, right now, even if you’re currently busy. Even if you’re not in an industry that has been directly impacted by coronavirus so far, there is the possibility that this outbreak could lead to wider and more severe economic impacts. Your business will be well-served by having a deeper pool of prospective clients to work with over the long term. Even if the coronavirus turns out to be a short-term panic, or if it’s worse than expected and the U.S. economy goes into a recession, it’s never a bad idea to invest in a well-stocked pipeline of sales prospects.
2. Reengineer your Solutions to Help with Coronavirus Concerns
Depending on what types of B2B solutions you sell, your prospects might already be having significant pain points and concerns about the coronavirus. Spend some time re-thinking and changing the angle on what are the key benefits of your products and services in a way that is relevant to coronavirus concerns. Is there a relevant sales pitch that you can make about how your B2B solutions can help your clients adapt to coronavirus and key benefits to help them get through the crisis?
For example, many companies are already announcing an aggressive shift toward remote working and encouraging people to work from home. If you sell cloud colocation solutions, refocus your marketing efforts to sell remote access to companies who can keep their offices functioning by having employees work from home.
Lots of other companies are having to cancel travel plans as big industry conferences and trade shows are getting postponed or canceled. If you sell a virtual event platform or collaboration software, this could be a great chance to show your prospects the value of being able to have their most important business conversations online, even if real-life meetings are currently not possible.
The same selling points for your product that already were relevant before the coronavirus might still work, but you might need to slightly adjust your sales pitch to frame your solutions for people’s most urgent concerns. Your prospects might be dealing with several coronavirus pain points, such as…
Worried about possible coronavirus-related disruptions to their business
Adapting to new travel restrictions or coronavirus-related shutdowns in their supply chain
Figuring out how to collaborate with remote workers in new ways
Enhancing their cloud security or business insurance to cope with emerging potential threats
Do any of these pain points sound familiar to you, based on your clients and industry? If so, adapt these angles into your sales pitch. These are all possible angles to show how your solutions can help – during times of coronavirus and once life goes back to normal.
3. Get Creative with Sales Presentations
Coronavirus is forcing lots of businesses to cut back on travel and in-person meetings. That means web-based presentations are more important than ever. Start repackaging your sales pitch into a full-blown virtual presentation. Be prepared to do more of your pitch over the web instead of on-site meetings.
This might require a change in your sales process. Perhaps you are used to doing an initial discovery-type phone call as stage one of your sales cycle, and then your next call would be an on-site meeting. On-site meetings may not be an option, as your potential new client may be working exclusively from home, or just not meeting face to face with anyone until the crisis settles down.
Be ready to get creative and keep your sales advancing by doing things that you never thought possible. Such as…
Taking your client on a virtual factory floor tour (using FaceTime or mobile conferencing apps)
Doing an in-depth product demo that includes your technical team who typically don’t get involved until later in the sale
Sending your client a YouTube video of your product or solution in action, and then talking through it via web conference while watching the video together
Think creatively. Use various collaboration tools. And look for communication apps to talk with your clients. Don’t worry if you can’t be there in real life.
4. Don’t Panic, Don’t Stop Selling
Avoid panic. And stop assuming the sky is falling. Keep selling and prospecting. Lots of people right now seem on the verge of panic about coronavirus. They have stocked up on toilet paper and canned goods. They seem to believe the economy will shut down. I don’t claim to be an expert. But I think the worst fears are overblown. (This article features interviews with actual disease experts. It shares some helpful and calm perspectives on the myths and realities of coronavirus.) Look out for some short-term economic pain. But I believe that we are going to get through this public health crisis without a 2009-style economic crisis.
The stock market reacts to possible risks and uncertainty. Business travel gets canceled. Do you work on Wall Street or in the airline industry or hospitality industry? Then you feel understandably concerned. But the rest of us need to avoid panic. Life may not totally go back to normal right away. So look for ways you can adapt and keep doing business.
Deals may get stalled in your pipeline. But make sure you keep them warm. And keep checking in with your leads. Some companies may hold back on investment until the uncertainty resolves. But look for the first sign that the crisis is ending. You should make up for some temporary losses very quickly.
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