Coronavirus has dramatically altered how we work, but perhaps for no one more than salespeople. As businesses shifted to remote working and social distancing out of necessity, in-person selling disappeared, replaced by videoconferencing and webinars.
For salespeople pursuing new prospects in particular, this virtual form of relationship building is especially challenging. Taking a potential client out for dinner or attending a sporting event with them is no longer an option, making it harder to develop a personal connection that often precedes a sale.
The sales cycle has also lengthened in light of the economic downshift caused by the shuttering of businesses. Decision makers at many companies have put a freeze on purchases, or at least are taking more time to ensure they’re making the best buying decision.
With sales conditions so soft, what should salespeople be doing? Some of these may seem obvious, but shouldn’t be overlooked:
1. Work Your Social Platforms. Due to remote working and social isolation, people are online more than ever. To this end, LinkedIn, the network for businesspeople, has grown to 690 million members—a new high—and LinkedIn sessions have risen 26 percent. For salespeople, being active on LinkedIn is a must, especially now.
There are lots of ways to connect with prospects on LinkedIn, of course. But one of the best ways is to use your “second-tier” connections to gain introductions. Let’s say there’s a prospect on LinkedIn you’d like to know, but don’t. However, you notice that you have some mutual connections with them. Ask one of those connections to make a virtual “warm” introduction for you, since warm is always better than “cold.” LinkedIn makes it easy to scroll through your network to find out who knows who to help you connect the dots.
Many salespeople use LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, which offers a number of special capabilities for identifying prospects and connecting with them. These include the ability to use multiple criteria to narrow down searches—for instance, you can search by industry, geographic area, and job title all at once to identify potential targets. You also have the ability to save searches and send unlimited InMail. These are things you can’t do with LinkedIn’s free version.
Salespeople should use this “down time” to become a LinkedIn pro, since it’s likely where your business prospects are congregating. We provided a number of useful LinkedIn tips in this past blog post: Five Tips for Getting More From LinkedIn.
2. Refine your videoconferencing skills. We mentioned videoconferencing earlier as a top way salespeople are selling these days. Popular videoconferencing apps include Webex, Google Meet, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and many others. Some are better for large meetings, some have slicker whiteboarding capabilities or live chat features, etc., so find the one that works best for your needs if you or your organization haven’t already.
While there are lots of tips online for improving your videoconferencing skills, the hardest part for many of us is getting comfortable on camera. Your efforts to master the art of videoconferencing won’t be wasted, though, as many believe it will outlast the pandemic and remain a common way of doing business.
3. Focus on Customer Retention. A lot of businesses are encouraging their sales teams to focus on existing customers right now. This makes sense, since it’s common knowledge that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Don’t use social distancing as an excuse to “ghost” your customers. Salespeople should be checking in regularly with clients to ensure their continued satisfaction. It’s also important to discuss their current business challenges and help them find solutions. You want them to know that while you may not be able to visit their office or meet them for lunch, you’re still here and they remain your top priority.
By nature, Americans are an industrious people, and most of us are chomping at the bit to get back to work. At the time of this writing, many businesses are beginning to cautiously reopen with safety protocols in place. On the flip side, some states are also beginning to see an uptick in coronavirus cases now that shelter-in-place orders have been removed.
However things progress, the key is to have patience and be adaptable to the fluidity of our situation. All of us, and salespeople especially, should remain calm in the knowledge that “this too shall pass.” I firmly believe that eventually things will get back on track. Until then, let’s make the best of things.
This article was originally published on The Connector blog and reprinted with permission.