Selling in a crisis: 5 Tips to Stay Productive

Finding leads, engaging with them, and converting them into customers are some of the daily sales challenges that teams face. With the sudden seismic shift in the selling environment due to the pandemic, sales challenges have taken on a whole new dimension. 

With businesses shutting down or adapting to remote selling, prospects are in no mood to talk shop as their first priority is business continuity. In my personal experience, I have learnt that doing proactive sales and having a sound sales strategy pays in the long run, even amid a crisis. Here are some hacks that can help you perform.

Address the issue

Acting like everything is normal and launching into a pitch when you manage to get a prospect on call is the worst thing you can do given the current situation. 

Instead, focus on understanding their present situation and decide how and if you should even talk about your product in the call. The goal of your call should be to build rapport and ensure that the next time you call them, they are open to talking business with you.

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Try asking your prospects how things are going with them or how they are dealing with working from home. If their response is curt, drop the subject but if they seem comfortable discussing their situation with you, try to build a good conversation around it and establish rapport.

A colleague of mine got on a call with a prospect last month and spent 15 minutes discussing tips that will help boost productivity while working from home. The call ended with him giving her a time slot for a 15 minute call the following week promising to talk business.

The key is to listen carefully and show empathy, treating prospective customers how you would like to be treated yourself. 

Even while you shoot out Linkedin messages to prospects, show some empathy before your call-to-action:

Hi {First Name}

Just wanted to check-in and see how you are coping with the pandemic. Recent developments have pushed companies to rely more heavily on their digital channels. Keeping this in mind, I would like to connect with you to understand your current priorities and explore if we can be of any help.

Regards,

{Your Name}

Remain optimistic

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, studied the relationship between optimism and success extensively. In his work, he argued that optimism breeds success, not the other way around.

Testing his findings across industries, he found that optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 20-40%.

Of course, remaining optimistic in the face of a crisis might be easier said than done. The trick is to devise a strategy that works well for you.

Some salespeople, for instance, keep notes of the positive conversations that they have had and look at this list when they come across rude prospects.

You should recognize that there are things that are under your control and things that simply aren’t. Making 50 calls a day is under your control. Your prospects’ mood or circumstances at the time of your call are simply not. Focus on what you can control and don’t let what you can’t get to you.

Remember that when the economy is poor, your competition decreases as many salespeople give up and stop outbounding due to numerous sales challenges.

However, the most successful ones don’t stop prospecting when things get tough. They just change the way they go about doing it. 

Sales leaders play a crucial role in helping their teams remain optimistic during a crisis. Arvinda Bharathi, Lead,  ANZ BDR team, Freshworks, says,

“Be consciously available. More often than not, you are the go-to person for your team and this holds particularly true when the access your team has to other leaders and colleagues is limited by not being in their physical presence.”

Work on your messaging

We have seen an unprecedented amount of change in the past few months. So, your standard messaging failing to work as well as it used to is only normal.

To ensure that you are not left in the dust, think about how the solution you are selling can add value to your prospects in the current situation and build your messaging around this. 

Focus on the problems your prospects are facing now as empathetic messaging that addresses these challenges is the key to winning now.

For example, when talking to sales leaders about Freshsales, I have started focusing on how it can help them nail working remotely as adapting to working from home is one of the biggest sales challenges right now.

Take a look at this email template to understand how to send customized emails about how your organization can help them tide through the crisis. 

Hi {First Name},

Hope you and your loved ones are safe and well. These are unprecedented times with people and businesses still learning to adapt to the situation. 

While social distancing is key, adapting to this shift to digital (WFH) while maintaining productivity is of immense significance. 

I would hate to be that guy trying to pull you into a conversation which is of least importance now. I am reaching out as I feel that we can really add value to you in the following areas: {Relevant challenge and solution}

I would love to jump on a 15 minute call with you to discuss this. Do let me know if it makes sense for us to connect regarding this now. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you, 

{Your Name}

Keeping note of common objections and the things that are resonating with your prospects and working them into your messaging can also help.

During times of crisis, it is essential that leaders monitor the kind of messaging that is going out from each individual rep, ensuring that it is sensitive and reflective of the company’s stance.

Arun Pattabhiraman, Global Vice-President, Growth and Marketing, Freshworks says,

“ Empathy is the new currency in today’s situation. From salespeople to marketers and customer service agents, it’s imperative to ensure that there is a consistent tone of empathy and authenticity in every customer interaction. CMOs must take charge and revamp messaging across all channels and train employees across levels to speak in the same voice.”

Focus on building relationships/trust 

Instead of outbounding with the sole goal of booking a meeting, focus on establishing any connection that will ensure that the next time you reach out, you won’t be talking to a cold lead. 

Check in on the prospects you’ve been in touch with since before the crisis and show that you care about them.

“Things are crazy now. Let’s reconnect when they settle down” is a common objection that reps are facing now. Here, instead of just adding these leads to a sequence that will go out in a month or two, go the extra mile.

A good proactive sales strategy would be to send over a note thanking them for taking your call and add some material that will help them work from home more effectively. These can be links to good blog posts you have read on the topic or a roundup of the tools you feel will add value to them now.

Adding a footnote at the end of your prospecting email can help overcome this sales challenge.

“I understand that these are unprecedented times, and people and businesses are still learning to cope with the situation. A lot of our customers are also asking for us to be included in their business continuity plans. If there’s an opportunity to do the same for you and {prospect’s company name} then I want to make time for us to connect. Does a brief 15 minute conversation make sense for us to discuss?”

Essentially, creating and sending over ideas and material that will help your prospects solve their problems can help trigger reciprocity and build relationships. 

Build a nurture plan

Your goal now should be to ensure that when your prospects are back in the market for whatever you are selling, your name is the first they think of. I, therefore, cannot overstate the importance of building a solid nurture plan that will keep you and your offerings fresh in your prospects’ memory. 

Creating and sending curated collateral without any call to action and conducting and inviting prospects to webinars on topics relevant to them can help accomplish this without coming off as pushy.

Prakash Bharath, Country Head, New Business at Freshworks says,

“I used to send hyper personalized newsletters, blogs and industry updates to cold and warm prospects. Hyper-personalization helps keep you on top of their mind. Many times it has helped me with good conversations.  Even the theory of reciprocity works well. If you pick a topic your prospects want to learn about and help them do that, you will win.”

Even in difficult times, if you identify and mentally prepare yourself to overcome these sales challenges, you can succeed. Persistence and positivity can help you tide over any crisis.

Sales challenge