From developing new skills to focusing on bringing value to your customer, sales expert Fred Diamond shares his tips on sales during the pandemic.
If you embrace this change, it could be a life-changing shift that leads to an amazing sales career.
The highest-achieving sales professionals have discovered there is unique beauty in this role right now. Although the number of transactions is generally lower than expected, many sales professionals have found ways to connect more powerfully with their customers, their teammates and, yes, themselves.
What I've Learned by Hosting Four Weekly Sales Webcasts
When the global pandemic started, my organization, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, immediately began producing Sales Game Changers Webcasts for sales professionals. We have since published over 50 episodes.
Here are three critical lessons we have learned about virtual selling during the pandemic:
- If you are a sales professional, be a sales PROFESSIONAL.
- Now is the time to bring your customer TRUE VALUE.
- Be CREATIVE because everything is different now.
Let us discuss each.
If You Are a Sales Professional, Be a Sales Professional
Prior to the pandemic, most sales professionals were focused on their sales process and the action steps necessary to move through it as quickly and effectively as possible.
Unfortunately, the onset of the pandemic rendered moot most sales processes. Many industries (e.g., entertainment, leisure, hospitality and retail) were completely shut down. If you sold popcorn to movie theaters, your sales process was abruptly stopped. If you were mainly focused on transactions, you had no chance of success.
So, as a sales PROFESSIONAL, you now had an opportunity to develop skills that you might have neglected previously, such as research, communications or product demonstration excellence. It became a great time to build your portfolio as a professional by researching the history and future of your industry, for instance. It was also a prime time to work on your ability to present or speak to groups.
Now Is the Time to Bring Your Customer True Value
Sales has always been about value creation, and we have been speaking for years about how the customer no longer needs salespeople who are not bringing them value. Customers can find whatever specs or features they need on the internet or on social media. Salespeople as walking brochures are no longer needed.
Salespeople who think about the customer first will always be ahead of the game. Those who practice empathetic selling, which always puts the customer first, can find success today.
Here's how it works: We regularly train our salespeople to be better listeners, and one way we do that is by training them to ask better questions. That's a great approach, but not today.
Great sales professionals should know already how their customers would answer their questions. Salespeople for the first time ever know exactly what their customers are going through: surviving the economic turmoil caused by the global pandemic. There is little mystery. Previously, we would always strive to get inside information, a little coaching to help understand where the customer was headed. We would spend a lot of time trying to get meetings with the right people so we could understand what they were trying to accomplish.
But right now, for the first time ever, we know what they are trying to accomplish. Great salespeople are coming to their customers with ideas, solutions and suggestions without having to ask a lot of questions. Now is an incredible opportunity for you to put the time in to figure out how you can help. THINK hard. How can you help?
Be Creative Because Everything Is Different Now
As I mentioned above, your process from earlier this year was busted. Almost every customer on the planet was no longer on track for what they were trying to do. Their buying processes completely flipped. But since you are still employed by your company TO SELL, you must generate ways to show value. You must think of ways to show your customer you care.
You must be creative in how you speak to your customer, who is also challenged with home-schooling their kids, working from home and dealing with change. Successful sales professionals today are coming up with solutions out of the blue that might help their customer solve their new problems. They are also proactively building alliances and new teams to come together to solve their customer's new challenges.
Now is also an opportunity to work with your teammates in new ways. No sales manager on the planet has ever taken a "Managing During a Pandemic" class at business school. Creative sales professionals can come to management with ideas on how to bring more value to their customers to help them solve new problems.
Virtual Selling Provides a New Sunrise for Professionals to Grow
No one planned to become a world-class virtual sales professional back in March, but that's where we are. The most creative sales professionals are taking advantage of this opportunity and proactively reaching out to their customers with solutions to their problems and not product pitches. They are demonstrating empathy by showing they relate to what their customers are going through. They are not wasting time by asking unnecessary questions or presenting solutions that are irrelevant right now.
Be strong, be confident and be brave. As a sales professional, you have the skills and smarts to bring value to your customers right now to help them well into the future.
Many great sales professionals will be made during this pandemic, and many lesser skilled ones will leave the industry. Which one will you be? Make this new sunrise the opportunity that will change your life and establish you once and for all as a world-class sales professional.
Fred Diamond is the cofounder of the Institute for Excellence in Sales and the producer and host of the Sales Game Changers Webcasts and Podcasts. He is based in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. Learn more at www.i4esbd.com/events.