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The gradual reopening of the United States’ economy may be underway, but that does not mean you can expect sales to come in as quickly as before. Prior to our current global health crisis, the sales rep with the best relationships was probably closing most of the deals. Perhaps they were a wizard at solving clients’ problems and knew their competitors’ weaknesses better than anyone, or they knew more about the company’s market position and how to meet their clients’ objectives. But those attributes may not be enough in today’s world.
Confidence is key
In recognition of the changing attitudes of buyers, sales organizations around the world have been holding virtual training courses to help sales teams develop new skillsets. Over the next few months and years, salespeople will need to exhibit high levels of sensitivity and compassion. They will learn how to educate prospects with insights that inspire confidence. Why is this so important? Because confidence is an “intangible” that moves nervous prospects from a maybe to a yes.
In a recent interview with Austin Cohen, the CEO of the remote personal training company FlexFit, Cohen claimed that: “Covid-19 is reshaping how we consume, not what we consume. Traditional industries, in our case personal, training, will continue to exist and thrive — and sales will always be the core of growing businesses.”
Process over performance
In trying times, process usually prevails over showmanship. Salesforce innovation evangelist Tiffani Bova says in her book, Growth IQ, that: “How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.”
Now, more than ever, it is all about promoting your unique ability to inspire and educate clients with valuable insights that will lead them to a better place. Once they believe you can do this, your closing ratio will improve.
How to close effectively
Here are six ways I believe you can close more deals in the post-pandemic environment.
Sell yourself as a “stress reducer.” There is no need to learn New Age practices to help reduce stress for your clients. Sharing stories and ideas about other businesses in their industry can reassure these key decision-makers about the future. In my experience, business owners and C-level executives need to get perspective from respected colleagues to balance out their own perceptions of a crisis. Often, this comes in the form of third-party analysis of market trends or anecdotal stories from others who are dealing with similar challenges, but it can just as easily come from a heart-to-heart conversation.
Empathize and share insights. Sellers should learn how to differentiate themselves by becoming a trusted advisor. Insights, predictions, and storytelling are most useful when packaged up in a pitch or presentation that can be read in under two minutes. This way the content is easily digested by clients and targets. When all the competitors’ products and services start to look the same, this technique creates a link between the emotional and logical mind. The process begins by providing a framework in which the seller can thoroughly understand the drivers and challenges of a business while helping them change the narrative.
Help them help others. The coronavirus crisis has revealed the need for companies to step up and do something to help their immediate communities. Many large companies set a social purpose and now is a unique time to make good on that commitment. “The Power of Sports” is a monthly television show, hosted by Harvard Law professor and sports business expert Rick Horrow, that highlights corporate social responsibility and the efforts to drive positive change by sports companies across the country. I worked as a producer on this show for multiple seasons and was able to absorb best practices with CSR, cause marketing, and the benefits of helping others. The businesses that helped drive change in their community built up the most goodwill. Genuinely doing good for good’s sake can be parlayed into long-term partnerships in business. Authenticity is key.
Stay on top of the news. Reaching out to clients and potential customers during a crisis can be exhausting, especially when it is a one-way conversation. Many emails and phone calls go unanswered, mainly because the prospect is not ready to commit. By providing valuable insights about your client’s industry and staying up to date on local, regional, and national stories, your communication will become more valuable and relevant. Remember to be selective and share only the stories that will drive the conversation about their business. Ultimately, prospects will respond if your communications are more about their needs than yours.
Find leads in different places. When the competition is slowing down, it can be hard to find out who is closing deals, and it could seem like your normal lead sources have dried up. A good example is the advertising agency whose clients are going “dark” because businesses are closed. Seeking out new clients may mean scouring the headlines in search of government and nonprofit initiatives, goodwill messages from major utility companies, and businesses looking for new ways to communicate with customers. A great number of deals have been closed because salespeople started thinking outside the box.
Bring your enthusiasm. As the expression goes – “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Never has that advice been more applicable than in these confusing times. When prospects can only see the bleak side of the crisis, show them the bright spots. When they talk about what has been lost, give them a glimpse of what a well-planned future looks like. But try not to be overly upbeat: It is never a good idea to dismiss your clients’ worries. Rather, acknowledge them while avoiding the temptation to commiserate. Genuine enthusiasm and hopefulness are like fuel that empowers people to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
We are living in a time of crisis and it’s time to rise to the challenge. Use the tips above to keep yourself in the best possible position for closing deals They may not happen as quickly as before, and you might need to work harder to get them. Just keep your eyes wide open and be prepared to adjust quickly.