How to Sell During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While toilet paper may be in short supply, your enthusiasm as a salesperson must remain abundant. Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Your clients are getting bombarded daily with news reports about the COVID-19 Pandemic. Death tolls keep rising worldwide. Coronavirus is affecting thousands of people. Millions of people are now unemployed.

With all this grim news, how can you, as a salesperson, keep your job?

Because you don’t want to spend hours filing for unemployment and standing in line at a food bank. You want to work. But how can you achieve your goals with so much fear and anxiety surrounding you?

Here are five steps to help you.

First, turn off the news. Forget the news. That’s right. Forget it. I know that’s easier said than done. But watching depressing news isn’t going to help you sell. It’s only going to make you more miserable.

You need to keep your head in the game. You need to stay upbeat. I know that sounds trite but hear me out. The last thing your clients want right now is a salesperson who’s anxious, nervous, and scared. Why? Because that’s how your clients are feeling. While I know it’s popular in sales to mirror your clients when speaking to them, now is not the time to do that.

What your clients want — and expect — is a salesperson who’s calm, professional, and relaxed. If you’re doing your job, that means you’re helping your client. Your customers have enough to worry about without you going off the rails.

And remember — your clients can smell fear a mile away. Whatever concerns you’re now facing; you better bury them deep. You need to be the best actor you can. And don’t think for a minute that if you work an inside sales job making phone calls, that your customers can’t tell how you’re feeling. The tone and inflection of your voice tell people more about your attitude than you think.

While some store shelves may be empty, your ideas to help your clients better be overflowing. Photo by Boris Dunand on Unsplash

Second, focus on what you can control. You can’t solve the Coronavirus Crisis. There are hundreds of experts on the job trying to end COVID-19.

So, while you can’t control COVID-19, you can control is your attitude. That means stick with the basics that always work with you in sales. Make your outbound calls. Send out email campaigns. Prospect for new business. Review all your old leads. Dig through those business cards buried in your desk drawer. Refresh and update your presentations. Do what you have always been doing to maintain or exceed your quota.

Continue to maintain best practices.

Are you worried that you can no longer attend trade shows or meet your clients in person? Then improvise. Start scheduling more virtual or online tours. There are many services you can use, including Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, to name a few.

(Yes, I know there are some privacy concerns about Zoom. But there are plenty of alternatives).

Trust me, your clients are in the same boat you’re in. They’re not traveling either. They’re not holding meetings in person unless they’re practicing social distancing. So, you might as well turn a bad situation into a good one by scheduling more virtual presentations.

By creating the right attitude, you will manage your activities and time better, which in turn means generating more sales.

Third, be empathic. Most of your clients are not in the mood right now to hear sales pitches. So as the old saying goes, “ditch the sales pitch.”

What you should be doing is to be more empathic than usual. Yes, talk about COVID-19, but from your client’s point of view. How is he doing? How are his employees doing? Are he and others working remotely? What impact is COVID-19 having on his business?

And the most important question of all is — How can you help?

For example, are you offering some free products and services? Are you offering lenient payment plans? Are you sharing information you gathered in your industry to help your clients?

I’m not suggesting that you should stop selling. Instead, I’m recommending you find hidden opportunities to sell by digging deeper into your client’s concerns at this critical time.

Listen more. Talk less.

Selling is more than getting an order. It’s about developing long-term relationships so that you will receive more orders and referrals down the road.

While some of your clients are worried, you need to aid them with free products, services, and advice. Photo by Benjamin Ranger on Unsplash

Fourth, collaborate more with your colleagues. I know. Sales can sometimes be a cutthroat business. But this is not the time for backstabbing antics or Machiavellian tactics. With the help of your sales manager, everyone on your team needs to brainstorm for new approaches to get sales. You also need to work with your Marketing Department more than ever before. Whatever infighting exists between the sales and marketing teams, it must end now.

Cooperation is key.

And finally, cast a wider net. Do you think you have enough in your sales pipeline? Think again. You should be doubling your pipeline right now with new and fresh prospects to contact. Depending on the industry you’re in, even in good times, the sales process can be slow. But with the Coronavirus, your sales process is going to be much slower.

As a result of COVID-19, many of your clients are laying off employees. They are lowering their sales forecasts. They are scaling back on developing more products and services. Your client’s outlook is negative. You need to be positive.

I know it’s difficult right now to get your client’s attention. It’s hard to be optimistic when your clients are watching news reports of temporary morgues being built near hospitals in New York City, and mass graves being dug on Hart Island in the Bronx.

But you must try.

Because COVID-19 will end. What you don’t want to end is your job.

Don Lee is the author of — Jumpstart your Sales Career, Help for New Salespeople.

How Attendees can be Successful at Trade Shows

Attending a Trade Show can be like walking through a maze unless you plan ahead.

Attending trade shows is a huge investment.

First, you are spending a lot of money on conference registrations, hotel reservations, travel, and meals. You may also pay extra fees to attend exclusive breakfast or lunch workshops.

And let’s not forget, you will be spending even more money to attend evening social networking events. While some networking events are free, some vendors may charge a small fee to weed out freeloaders and curiosity seekers.

And second, you are spending time away from your office. Sure, you can bring along your laptop and respond to emails. You may be able to squeeze in some extra work between workshops or the early mornings or late evenings. But you know from experience when you return to the office, you will have a pile of work waiting for you.

So, how can you be sure you are investing your money and time to be successful at trade shows?

Here are ten tips to help you –

First, define your goals. Why are you going to a trade show? Do you want to make new contacts? Do you want to learn more about your industry? Do you want to catch up on the latest news and gossip that you’re not finding in trade publications? Regardless of your reasons, have some specific goals in mind before going to a trade show.

Second, select the right vendors to meet. If your goal is to buy new products and services, do your homework before attending a trade show. Most trade show organizers provide a list of all vendors on their website who will be participating in the event. Links to vendor websites provide a brief description of each company and their specialty.

Take full advantage of that information. You may want to contact some vendors in advance to view an online tour or do a free trial. Or, better yet, schedule an appointment with some vendors at the trade show to save time.

Networking at Trade Shows is critical to your success. Try to meet the right people.

Third, go to evening social networking events. Many vendors will sponsor social networking events to meet and greet potential customers. While you may pay for some events, if you visit a booth and show real interest in the vendor, you could receive a free or discounted pass.

Fourth, let the vendors pick up the tab. Let’s say you are a high paying, high flying customer, and the vendor wants to wine and dine you. Great. Let him.

Fifth, make sure the right people attend. If you are an employer, you most likely will want to take part in a trade show. But, in most cases, you will invite some of your employees to attend too. I would recommend asking your sales and marketing people to go with you. With more employees attending, you can use a “divide and conquer” approach by spreading everyone out to meet key vendors on the exhibit floor.

Sixth, prepare for a long day. Attending a trade show can be exhausting. I’ve attended more than 30 trade shows in my career. Based on my experience, trade shows can last two to three days. According to Spingo’s post “20 Powerful Stats on the Value of Trade Shows and Expos,” the average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing exhibits.

That’s a lot of time on your feet.

To prepare for those long hours, bring along a knapsack. Or, even better, bring a small carry-on suitcase so you can wheel around all your content. This way, you don’t hurt your back with all the swag and literature you will pick up. I always pack a small notebook, laptop, business cards, water, snacks like protein bars, and cell phone.

Seventh, ask succinct questions. Most experienced salespeople know that they should ask qualifying questions of attendees. Their goal is to determine if they are a good fit for what they’re selling. But trade shows can make even the most harden salesperson giddy with excitement.

With all the potential leads approaching his exhibit booth, a salesperson may disregard his training. He may do a “product vomit” on you, i.e., tell you everything under the sun about his products and services before having a chance to qualify you as a good lead. Or worse, he may ask you to watch a long video presentation with the promise of giving you…yes, you guessed it, more swag to pack and take home.

To avoid lengthy and unnecessary visits at exhibit booths, don’t ask the age-old questions, “What do you sell or what do you do?”

Instead, ask this question –

“What kind of problems do you solve?”

That question gets to the heart of why you are attending trade shows. If the salesperson at the exhibit booth can help solve your problem, keep talking. If he can’t solve your problem, keep walking.

Don’t let problems stick to you; instead, seek solutions from vendors.

Eighth, take advantage of early-bird specials. If you know for sure that you want to attend a specific trade show, then see if the event sponsor is offering early bird specials or discounts. The discounts usually apply not to conference registrations but hotel reservations too. Depending on the popularity of the event, you may want to book a hotel room early.

Ninth, sparely hand out business cards, and avoid being scanned by too many vendors. I know it’s tempting to hand out your business cards to everyone you meet. I also know you want to be polite when a vendor asks if they can scan your conference badge for your contact information.

My advice is to be careful who you give out your contact information to, or you may end up getting flooded with spam and bombarded with phone calls. Since your time is valuable, you only want to connect with vendors that you feel will help your business. So be selective about who you give your contact information to.

And please – don’t fall for the old trick of dropping your business card in a jar to win a prize. Based on my experience, I’ve seen some vendors selectively and strategically pick a prospect’s card to “win” an award. Why? So they can curry a favor with the winner and get a large order. The remaining cards are for lead generation.

And finally, have fun. Trade shows can be stressful. You don’t have to stick with a rigid schedule. So, wander the exhibit hall for a while. Go to a couple of booths that aren’t on your list. Take some swag. Make new contacts. Develop new ideas. Go to lunch outside the exhibit hall to clear your head.

Trade shows are a learning experience. The more information, contacts, and ideas you take away from a trade show, the better chance your company will be more successful.

Don Lee is the author of  Jumpstart your Sales Career, Help for New Salespeople.

Special Note: Middle Photo by HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan on Unsplash
Last Photo by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

In Sales, Are you Thankful?

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s always a time to reflect on what we should be thankful for. For some, it’s our family. For others, it’s our friends. Or maybe, we are grateful for our jobs, our health or our money.

What should salespeople be thankful for as we are almost closing a new calendar year and looking forward to a new one?

Here is a list of things you should be thankful for if you are fortunate enough to be successful and working for a good employer –

First, be thankful you have customers who are willing to buy from you repeatedly, are eager to purchase more upgrades or cross-sells from you. But beyond customers making purchases, be even more grateful that they are willing to offer referrals so that you can continue to increase your business.

Second, be thankful you have a full pipeline of prospects so you can continue to meet or exceed your quota.

Third, be thankful you have a reliable and user-friendly CRM (Customer Relationship Management)  to keep track of your sales and progress so that you are not wasting time, and not seeing potential sales fall through the cracks.

Fourth, be thankful you are receiving coaching regularly that helps you improve and doesn’t belittle you or make you feel like an idiot.

Fifth, be thankful you are working with colleagues or co-workers that support you and don’t try to steal your accounts or prospects.

Sixth, be thankful that you are working with an employer that is offering you an excellent livable compensation plan and benefits.

Seventh, be thankful you are not stuck with an unreasonable quota that stresses you out or a convoluted compensation plan that makes no sense.

Eighth, be thankful are you selling high-quality products and services that you are proud to represent in the marketplace.

Ninth, be thankful you have a manager who treats you like an adult and supports you, rather than treats you like his meal ticket.

And finally, be thankful that you are a professional salesperson who finds fulfillment in his work and is not ashamed of his profession or calling.

If you like my post, please read my book — Jumpstart your Sales Career, Help for New Salespeople.

Are you chasing too many rabbits?

Don’t waste time chasing after weak sales leads.

One of the challenges of inside sales is dealing with an inbox box flooded with inbound leads. Usually, these leads come about because the Marketing Department sent out a promotional email at a targeted group of prospects.

The email sent out usually has teaser information and a link where someone can click to download a special report or some other information. But there’s a catch – before you can read the information, you must first attend a one-on-one or group webinar or agree to speak with a salesperson over the phone.

Sneaky? Maybe. Effective. That depends.

You see, there’s nothing wrong with receiving inbound leads. Far from it. The problem is distinguishing between good and bad ones.

How do you correctly set priorities before contacting inbound leads?

First, are the inbound leads decision-makers, influencers, or curiosity seekers?

Let’s face it – most decision-makers are not going to download reports because they’re too busy making decisions. That leaves just the influencers and curiosity seekers. So, your first task is to determine which one is which. You can do this quickly by doing research on LinkedIn or a company’s website.

Second, you need to determine what size company (e.g., revenue, employee number) is the best one to contact first.

So true.

Third, but be careful – the company size isn’t always the best determining factor. You also need to ensure if the lead works at a company or organization that would need what you are selling. Are they a good fit?

Fourth, some inbound leads will provide bogus email addresses or phone numbers. Others will leave a generic email address like Gmail in hopes that you can’t find out where he works. Clever, but rarely effective, because you can always check on LinkedIn. And, in some cases, the inbound lead may already be on your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) under the correct company name and email address. You need to look.

If that’s the case, should you waste your time in contacting them? Again, it depends. If you can tell through your research that the lead comes from a hot prospect company that you have been trying to reach for a while, do yourself a favor and use a lead generation tool to uncover the best phone number and email address. Sure, the lead may be surprised that you contacted him. But…he also may be impressed that you were persistent enough to find him.

What you want to avoid is chasing rabbits. But that, I mean you don’t want to waste so much time tracking down every single inbound lead, that you lose sight of targeting high priority ones first.

I know it’s overwhelming to receive a lot of inbound leads simultaneously. But you need to take your time, do your research and take a steady aim.

Better to bag one big rabbit, than no rabbits at all.

If you like my post, please read my book – Jumpstart your Sales Career: Help for New Salespeople.

Should you Scan and Spam?

Scanning & Spamming your prospects could backfire on you.

One of the biggest challenges of attending a trade show or conference is gathering enough qualified leads. After all, for most companies, exhibiting at a trade show is expensive. Besides paying for exhibit booth space, you are also shelling out money for travel, hotel reservations, food, swag, and booth supplies.

To make the investment worthwhile, many salespeople are encouraged to “scan and spam.”

What does that mean?

It means that salespeople will scan everyone using a badge scanner that approaches them at a booth regardless of whether those attendees are good leads or not. So, what happens is that you return to your office with what you think is an extensive list of valuable leads, only to discover after several phone calls and emails, you ended up mostly inferior prospects.

Sure, some prospects may work at first-rate companies where you may eventually find valuable leads to contact. But for the most part, you just wasted your time and money.

Why do salespeople scan and spam?

First, because not all organizations that sponsor trade shows will provide vendors (you) with a list of attendees, thus, you are forced to acquire contact information from anyone and everyone that visits your booth.

Second, even if the organization that sponsors the trade show does provide an attendee list, the purchasing fee for that information may be too high or cost prohibitive. For example, some organizations may require you to become a sponsor to receive attendee lists. On the surface, being a sponsor isn’t a bad idea – it’s good PR – but it could be too costly for your budget.

And finally, laziness. Some salespeople are just too damn lazy to qualify attendees and decide to scan everyone’s badges and hope for the best.

Which brings me to a better solution.

Rather than scan and spam, this is what I suggest you do –

With tight budgets, some companies may feel they have no choice but to scan and spam. Photo by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash

First, qualify attendees who visit your booth. You can quickly do this by asking a series of questions to determine if you have a hot prospect or a window shopper. Questions can range from “What caught your eye at our booth?” “Why are you attending this trade show?” “What are some of the pain points you are facing at your company?”

Your goal is to quickly determine if you are speaking with a potential key decision maker or influencer, or are you speaking with an intern or a low-level employee who has no clout at his company, and thus, has little interest in what you are selling.

If the person you are speaking with fits your ideal criteria, politely ask to scan his badge. Then, if you’re not too busy, show him around your booth or do a short demo (if you have a laptop and a big screen) of what you are selling.

Second, even if you don’t have an attendee list, if you have been in the industry for a while, you should know who the major players are that you want to target. So, contact potential attendees by email and direct mail, and invite them to visit your booth. Or, better, schedule a one-on-one meeting with them at the trade show. And to make this process even more comfortable, include a link to  Calendarly in your email invitation.

Third, if you have enough employees attending a trade show, encourage them to attend workshops and other presentations, or early morning breakfast sessions, to network to find qualified leads.

And finally, don’t forget attending social networking events which are always prevalent and popular, as another means of finding good leads.

Scanning and Spamming is outdated.

It’s also counterproductive and could hurt your company’s reputation and brand. The better approach is to be more strategic by setting specific priorities on who you should speak to during and after a trade show. In the long run, you will come out ahead.

Are you a Teller or a Seller?

Running your mouth too much could hurt your sales.

Once upon a time, two salespeople worked at the same company. While both were friendly, they are competitive and hungry for new orders.

The salespeople were Mr. Teller and Mr. Seller.

After several months of hard work, Mr. Teller was depressed. He wasn’t making his quota. On the other hand, Mr. Seller was not only meeting his quota, and he was exceeding it – big time.

What was Mr. Teller doing wrong?

Here are the differences in the approaches between Mr. Teller vs. Mr. Seller.

Mr. Teller loves to talk to his customer’s about all the features of his company’s products. He was like a walking encyclopedia or brochure and telling everything he thought his clients wanted to hear. Mr. Teller was doing what is commonly referred to as a “product dump or vomit” to his clients.

Mr. Seller liked to talk too. But he learned from experience it is always better to listen more and talk less. He viewed his role as being a problem solver. But before you can solve problems, Mr. Seller first had to uncover the pain points and needs and wants of his clients.

Mr. Teller avoided asking too many questions. He was afraid of rejection, and he didn’t want to offend his clients by being too noisy or appear pushy.

Selling is better than telling when you listen and engage more with your clients.

Mr. Seller, on the other hand, enjoyed asking questions because he knew it was the only way to qualify his clients. He didn’t fear rejection or take it personally when a prospect said, “No.”  He knew it was all part of the job.

Mr. Teller was not proactive when it came to finding new clients. He was very passive. Rather than make cold or warm sales calls, or ask for referrals, Mr. Teller used social selling. Mr. Teller thought all he had to do is connect with key decision makers on LinkedIn, and like their comments or posts, and the key decision makers would magically call him or appear at this door.

Mr. Seller liked using social selling too. But he didn’t rely on it exclusively because he knew that few key decision makers would contact him because of connections and likes on LinkedIn. Mr. Seller believed in warm or cold calls. He also effectively left good voice mail messages and used interesting subject lines on his emails to gain the attention of key decision makers.

Mr. Teller always waited for the prospect to decide. He never asked for the order. He just hoped and prayed that the prospect would make the “right” decision based on all the information he presented.

Mr. Seller didn’t wait for the prospect to decide. Instead, he helped guide the prospect through the sales process by asking qualifying questions, determining needs, and pain points. Once Mr. Seller thought the client was ready,  he asked for the order. He didn’t use tricks, gimmicks, or high-pressure tactics because he knew that wasn’t necessary.

Finally, frustrated, Mr. Teller went to Mr. Seller and asked him what his secret was to get more sales.

“Stop telling and start selling,” replied Mr. Seller.

So, are you a Teller or a Seller?

You decide.