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.

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