The Importance of a Marketing Strategy during COVID-19 and Beyond: Part 3
Smart Selling in the Midst of a Pandemic
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The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses of all types to think differently about their bottom lines, profit projections, revenues, and sales strategies. On a global scale, sales representatives are finding it impossible to sell the way they used to—face-to-face meetings are difficult, many prospects haven’t yet returned to their offices, and businesses and consumers remain on high alert about a likely resurgence in cases as the economy starts to reopen. Although marketing and sales strategies have been forced to change, there are some best practices for smart selling in these uncertain times.
Sales Best Practices during COVID-19
Some have said that the ongoing pandemic has brought the printing industry (and many others) into a time of pause. Now is a great time for sales reps to re-establish their relationships with clients and develop a better understanding of what they are going through. Empathy is becoming a recurring theme; smart selling involves identifying clients’ current needs versus what they were before the pandemic hit, as well as determining how you can help them going forward. Face-to-face meetings might not be an option, but sales reps can still demonstrate that they are listening to their clients via online conversations, phone calls, or e-mails. Solidifying these relationships now will better position sales reps to start providing direction to these clients when it comes time to start taking orders again.
Regardless of whether they are stated or not, all sales reps have revenue goals. COVID-19 has made it very daunting for salespeople to reach out to their clients because many of them have entered “survival mode” and might not be open to sales pitches. For the time being, sales reps must resist the urge to push sales and, instead, focus on their clients’ current needs and modes of operation.
Attributes of Top Sales Reps
It is important to remember that although the methodology and approach to sales has changed, the qualifications for market leaders have remained largely unchanged. Sales organizations that continue to demonstrate growth typically have a very defined and strategic focus. Meanwhile, many of those that are struggling will have a loose or poorly defined marketing strategy. Now more than ever, it is important for businesses to develop personas, understand what their best customers look like, and determine where these customers play in the industry. A strong focus on a specific market, product, or industry enables sales reps to better understand the issues in that industry, the problems their clients are facing, and what they can do to help solve those problems.
Top sales reps generally have a defined and well-understood sales process in place. The sales cycle can stall at any point in the process, but many firms struggle to pinpoint where most of their sales opportunities are lost. By following a specific and well-defined sales process, thriving firms can develop a better understanding of where the sales cycle commonly breaks down and develop strategies to keep it moving forward.
A good sales process will always be aligned to the specific customer’s journey. Accomplishing this goal means conducting research ahead of time and being prepared to have conversations with the right types of customers. Today’s sales reps have many responsibilities and are pulled in a number of different directions, but they still must take the time to prepare themselves for their sales conversations. They need to understand their clients’ business challenges and what their specific industry is facing as a whole. Sales reps who are well-prepared for their conversations have a much higher success rate than those who don’t plan ahead. Fortunately, the Internet is a great tool for learning about prospects and customers, so reps can ensure that they’re getting in touch with the right people (even during these pandemic times).
There has never been a better time for salespeople to do their research; those who set themselves up for success now will be able to capitalize on opportunities when clients are ready to meet in person again. When it comes to getting an accurate read on a prospect, nothing can replace a face-to-face sales call. These in-person encounters might be difficult today, but this shouldn’t stop sales reps from preparing themselves and planning for the future.
The sales process doesn’t end with preparation, though; the next step is determining how to engage a particular prospect. It is important to start every sales interaction with a statement, question, or observation that will make them understand how your business can help them. Once they’ve developed an understanding of their clients needs, sales reps will be better positioned to present the right business case and properly implement it.
Although the best sales process may be slightly different for every organization, the most successful strategies will always incorporate a well-defined process with consistent, repeatable steps. Sales reps who come to rely on a predictable process will be better able to define any breakdowns in communication and overcome them before they derail the entire sale.
Sales Mistakes to Avoid
Just as growing firms have their own sales best practices, Keypoint Intelligence’s sales training indicates that struggling organizations often make similar mistakes. For example:
- Not enough focus: It is important to have a strategy because trying to be all things to all clients and viewing every customer as an opportunity rather than concentrating on the right types of customers can backfire.
- Lack of a sales process: Declining print service providers (PSPs) are considerably less likely to have a well-defined sales process in place than their more successful counterparts. Research from Keypoint Intelligence has consistently shown that thriving PSPs are more likely to have a defined and repeatable sales process in place than their struggling counterparts.
- No dedicated sales manager: Even the best reps will struggle from time to time, so it’s very important to have a dedicated sales manager for reps to fall back on when they need guidance or support.
Addressing Current and Future Challenges
According to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent research data, the top three areas that sales organizations are struggling with include:
- Finding new customers
- Selling more to existing customers
- Increasing sales with value-added services
During this time of inaction, salespeople would be well-advised to focus on all of these areas. Perhaps there are new customers to reach out to that might benefit from your services. Maybe there are existing customers who may not be aware of all of your capabilities. Finally, consider whether there are some value-added services that you currently aren’t exploring that you might be able to deliver to clients.
Although the pandemic has temporarily slowed things down, other things will likely accelerate and shift as we enter the “new normal.” One of the most dramatic changes will likely be to the approach to sales. Although the steps of a solid sales process will likely remain the same, entering sales conversations with an empathetic ear will be more important than ever. Rather than focusing on their solutions and their strategies, sales reps must shift the conversation to their clients’ needs so they can establish a relationship. Although the most successful sales reps are those who bring new ideas to their clients, it is difficult to develop these new ideas if you haven’t first invested the time in truly getting to know your clients and their specific challenges.
The Bottom Line
There is no denying that COVID-19 changed our world forever, and the sales process must also evolve as a result. Sales are what make a business run, so they remain important even in these uncertain times. Sales reps should take this time to listen to their customers with an empathetic ear so they can determine how they can truly help them. People need help making sense of all the information that’s out there, and sales reps are well-positioned to support them in this regard. It’s certainly great that people have access to a limitless supply of knowledge, but all of this information can be overwhelming and confusing. Sales reps should approach their clients with authority and help them make sense of everything. This approach helps foster the empathy and understanding that can lead to a loyal and valued partnership.