An Open Letter to Sales Personnel Amidst CoViD-19

As we enter month two of the COVID shutdown, I imagine you find yourself in the same predicament as I do: facing immense pressure in a market where phone calls aren’t being answered, emails are being ignored, and networking events and trade-shows have all been cancelled.

Basically, you’ve been tasked to strike gold in a salt mine (that is, unless you are working in Streaming Services, Hand Sanitizer, or Toilet Paper Sales – those folks are probably seeing their best sales months ever). 

The good thing about this situation is: you aren’t alone, and this is your chance to have a say in how the future will look. Crisis is a catalyst for change, and our roles will be very different once this is over. 

For now, we are all part of a big experiment to identify sales best practices amidst a pandemic. I want to take the opportunity to share what practices I’ve noticed to be working:

(If you work in sales for Netflix, Purell, or Charmin, do not read any further! Just kidding;)…)

1. Sales Enablement Tools are Paramount

Selling at a distance is the only way to sell right now (late April 2020). As a result of this forced change, the paradigm has shifted towards sales enablement tools such as video conferencing, meeting links, email automation, electronic signatures, and social selling (e.g. LinkedIn Sales Navigator).

I anticipate that some elements of traditional selling are gone for good as prospects are becoming accustomed to a new normal. As the benefits of Distance Selling are becoming clearer, decision makers will continue to embrace them as the market shifts towards a less intrusive sales environment.

In fact, many of the thought leaders in my target industries have already embraced Digital Selling – believe it or not, I have sold to several of them during the COVID crisis. My expert guess is that the rest of the market will follow suit and pivot towards this culture of Selling at a Distance. Right now, it’s the only way for businesses to survive – going forward, it will be their only way to compete.

Given the projected longevity of this crisis, many businesses have become aware of their ability to take their Sales Processes fully remote. If you haven’t done so yet, make sure that you are equipped with the tools you need to thrive during this challenging period.

2. Online Workshops (a.k.a. Webinars) & Follow Ups

For Sales Reps who previously thrived off of the connections made at tradeshows, I have a suggestion to alleviate your current prospecting frustrations: online workshops and webinars.

Here’s an informative guide on how to navigate through this crisis.

Sounds silly? Then stop for a second and think about the critical success factors of tradeshows: a room full of qualified buyers, a chance at making a lasting impression via product demos, and the opportunity to add prospects to your sales pipeline.

You can do all that (and more) with an online workshop! The only difference is that you are responsible for the marketing of the event, and not the trade show organizing company. Bonus: the online format allows you to target a wider audience because it’s independent from geography.

So far, the online workshops Flawless Inbound has been hosting amidst this era of self-isolation have turned out to be our most well-attended. And it’s not surprising: the B2B market is searching for answers, and because informative webinars provide just that, they are beginning to overtake other forms of content marketing as the surging popularity of video events shows.

As a salesperson, your webinar attendees are a wealth of great connections and opportunities. Reach out and give them the answers they need.

3. Value Adds Will Pay Dividends

Let’s face it: not every company is going to buy during COVID-19. That would be an unrealistic expectation to put on yourself and your clients. However, this is a prime opportunity to create lasting relationships with the people in your network.

We’re all in the same highly unfortunate situation. For Sales (and all other ops), that means empathy is the way to do business right now. Your network will remember those who helped them during what (for many businesses) has been an unprecedented slowdown.

Lately, at Flawless Inbound we have been setting up organizations with free HubSpot accounts and offering non-commitment consultations on Sales and Marketing Strategy. Pre-COVID, this model resulted in a wealth of future business opportunities and referrals; I anticipate the dividends of this trend will continue once everything has calmed down.

Even if your network can’t do business with you right now, they will remember your goodwill and become your most loyal advocates.

4. Leverage Your Marketing Team

Pre-COVID, your sales activities were probably much like ours: they relied on a little bit of marketing to build interest and then Sales would come in and do the rest. COVID-19 has turned this approach on its head: now more than ever, Marketing must take on the lion’s share of all business development stages.

Sales People, this next image might frighten you as it may look like your role is diminishing, but that is not the meaning behind it. Rather, think of it as sales responsibilities adapting because your prospects are spending more time in the evaluation phase of the buyer’s journey.

Fact is: it’s still possible to achieve deal velocity while selling through distance. But it requires Salespeople to go deeper into the evaluation phase rather than wider in their approach.

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My advice to you all: involve your marketing team in your sales cycles. Not only will you empower your Marketing Team, you will also create an opportunity to expand knowledge bases between departments.

A Strategic Marketing Team is continuously adapting an organization’s Go To Market Strategy according to current trends.

As a result, the people in your Marketing Department are your best resource for insights into changing market values during this time. Marketing knows to interpret trends and analytics that Salespeople may not be aware of, while Sales can provide deeper insight into changes on their end.

A Few Closing Remarks

To those of you who have made it this far, thank you for bearing with me. Nobody has all the answers to the frustrations we’re all facing at the moment. Nevertheless, we are seeing a few small victories here and there. I am confident that, once this is over, we can shape the outcome on the way we conduct Sales to everybody’s benefit.

Getting back to normal is a dimmer – not a toggle switch. We will recover from this, but it will have to happen gradually and baby step after baby step. I wish you all success, and hope you can join me as we expand upon these points further in our upcoming Selling At A Distance Webinar and on our new LinkedIn Business Talk Show, “The Breakthrough Club.”

Stay tuned for more, and stay safe.