On a global scale, sales representatives are finding it impossible to sell the way they used to—face-to-face meetings are difficult, some prospects still haven’t returned to their offices, and businesses and consumers remain on high alert. This article, the first in a two-part series, highlights some sales best practices during a pandemic. The second will discuss sales pitfalls to avoid and provide strategies for addressing current and future challenges.
- COVID-19 has brought the printing industry—and many others—into a time of “pause.”
- Empathy is becoming a recurring theme; smart selling involves identifying clients’ current needs vs. what they were before the pandemic hit, as well as determining how you can help them going forward.
- Now more than ever, it is important for businesses to develop personas, understand what their best customers look like, and determine where these customers play in the industry.
By Karen Kimerer
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses of all types to think differently about their bottom lines, profit projections, revenues, and sales strategies. On a global scale, sales representatives are finding it impossible to sell the way they used to—face-to-face meetings are difficult, some prospects still haven’t returned to their offices, and businesses and consumers remain on high alert as they face an uncertain future. Although marketing and sales strategies have been forced to change, there are some best practices for smart selling as we navigate through the pandemic.
Sales Best Practices during COVID-19
Although the economy is starting to reopen, the reality is that many people are reporting to their physical workplaces much less frequently than they once did. In addition, many events that once would have occurred live are now taking place virtually and will likely continue to do so for quite some time. Simply put, many professionals are spending less time commuting or traveling and more time at home than ever before. As a result, it has been said that COVID-19 has brought the printing industry—and many others—into a time of “pause.” Now is a great time for sales reps to re-establish their relationships with clients and develop a better understanding of what they are going through. Empathy is becoming a recurring theme; smart selling involves identifying clients’ current needs versus what they were before the pandemic hit, as well as determining how you can help them going forward. Face-to-face meetings might not be an option, but sales reps can still demonstrate that they are listening to their clients via online conversations, phone calls, or emails. Solidifying these relationships now will better position sales reps to start providing direction to these clients when it comes time to start taking orders again.
Regardless of whether they are stated or not, all sales reps have revenue goals. COVID-19 has made it very daunting for salespeople to reach out to their clients because many of them have entered “survival mode” and might not be open to sales pitches. For the time being, sales reps must resist the urge to push sales and instead focus on their clients’ current needs and modes of operation.
Attributes of Top Sales Reps
It is important to remember that although the methodology and approach to sales might be different, the qualifications for market leaders have remained largely unchanged. Sales organizations that continue to demonstrate growth typically have a very defined and strategic focus. Meanwhile, many of those that are struggling will have a loose or poorly defined marketing strategy. Now more than ever, it is important for businesses to develop personas, understand what their best customers look like, and determine where these customers play in the industry. A strong focus on a specific market, product, or industry enables sales reps to better understand the issues in that industry, the problems their clients are facing, and what they can do to help solve those problems.
Top sales reps generally have a defined and well-understood sales process in place. The sales cycle can stall at any point in the process, but many firms struggle to pinpoint where most of their sales opportunities are lost. By following a specific and well-defined sales process, thriving firms can develop a better understanding of where the sales cycle commonly breaks down and develop strategies to keep it moving forward.
A good sales process will always be aligned to the specific customer’s journey. Accomplishing this goal means conducting research ahead of time and being prepared to have conversations with the right types of customers. Today’s sales reps have many responsibilities and are pulled in a number of different directions, but they still must take the time to prepare themselves for their sales conversations. They need to understand their clients’ business challenges and what their specific industry is facing as a whole. Sales reps who are well-prepared for their conversations have a much higher success rate than those who don’t plan ahead. Fortunately, the Internet is a great tool for learning about prospects and customers, so reps can ensure that they’re getting in touch with the right people—even during these pandemic times.
There has never been a better time for salespeople to do their research; those who set themselves up for success now will be able to capitalize on opportunities when clients are ready to meet in person again. When it comes to getting an accurate read on a prospect, nothing can replace a face-to-face sales call. These in-person encounters might be difficult today, but this shouldn’t stop sales reps from preparing themselves and planning for the future.
The sales process doesn’t end with preparation, though; the next step is determining how to engage a particular prospect. It is important to start every sales interaction with a statement, question, or observation that will make them understand how your business can help them. Once they’ve developed an understanding of their clients’ needs, sales reps will be better positioned to present the right business case and properly implement it.
The Bottom Line
Although the best sales process may be slightly different for every organization, the most successful strategies will always incorporate a well-defined process with consistent, repeatable steps. Sales reps who come to rely on a predictable process will be better able to define any breakdowns in communication and overcome them before they derail the entire sale. Keypoint Intelligence will provide more insight on these pitfalls in next week’s article, which will explore common sales mistakes and how to avoid them.
Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.