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Selling in Difficult/Tough Times of Covid-19 Economy.


This pandemic is affecting us all globally and so we’ve updated this post.

We’re helping our clients and their salespeople think about what they can be doing while they are working from home and thought it might be useful to share some of this.

I’ve seen lots of blog posts about working from home, which say “get dressed in the morning”.  If that’s the sort of advice you need, don’t waste your time reading the rest of this, this is for people who are thinking about managing both the short and longer-term.

So if you are in field sales or a business owner and you find yourself having to work from home, here’s our top five things to think about so that you can come up with a plan of action which makes sure you’re effective in the short term, and puts your in the best possible position for when things get better, and they will.

1) How can you help your customers and clients?

What value can you add right now?

What insights or services can you offer that can help them?

We’ve seen businesses pivot overnight to cope with the crisis.

Reynolds Catering Supplies who supply fresh fruit and vegetables to all your high street restaurants saw their customers close overnight. They’ve set up a website and are supplying bulk boxes of fruit and vegetables in a click and collect service / delivery service to communities to split with their neighbours. Not only that they are donating free boxes of fruit and vegetables for NHS workers.  We’re slightly biased because we worked with their contact centre. These are good people, working hard to sustain their business but really wanting to help the country.

We’ve seen dental practices delivering medicines and getting shopping for their patients – making sure they are at the heart of the community.

Ineos are building a hand sanitiser factory near Middlesbrough to produce 1,000,000 bottles of hand sanitiser a month. They plan to build it in 10 days. 10 DAYS.

BOC another client of ours are responding rapidly to keep vital Oxygen supplies flowing.

And we’re putting our courses on line far faster than we had planned to at the beginning of the year, changing the way we work overnight.

We are all living the change curve at the moment, and in these emergency times offering help and insight to your customers sets you apart.

Not only that, being and feeling helpful is good for you.

Your own resilience is affected by the contributions you make, and so if you are feeling frustrated by the fact that you can’t do the things you would normally do, or help your community or family in the way you want to be able to,  think about the things you can do and focus on them.

What can you do right now to help your customers?

We have been facilitating meetings, helping sales teams to think through what they can do from home and what kind of conversations they can have with their customers on Zoom / Skype or on the good old telephone.

2) Speak to your customers

This is a time to have conversations that are real, supportive and helpful.

I would caveat that as a business owner you might want those calls to focus on bringing cash into your business. Credit control is always essential to your cashflow, but right now it will be vital. Remember, that after this passes ( and it will ) you will still want to keep a relationship with your clients and customers, so don’t get angry ( where fear lives anger is often close behind…….. sadly not listening to social distancing advice ), practice your calls before you make them and be clear what you want to achieve from the call.

We sought out some advice from Nicki Kinton, the  cashflow guru behind Confident Cashflow who has this sound advice:

“Many of us don’t like asking for payment, but it’s important that, at this time, we make sure we have talked (not emailed) to every one of our clients that owes us money. We’re all feeling the stress of the current situation but try not to approach the call emotionally, which will only provoke an emotional response and can lead to confrontation. There may be a temptation to feel obliged to go easy on everyone because we’re all in the same situation, but you need to have a clear picture of where you are financially before you can be supportive to others, it’s not something you should be doing at the expense of your own businesses survival. Finally, consider setting up payment plans for those struggling to pay, little and often is better than nothing at all”

Your customers will be under all kinds of pressures with cashflow, sickness and worry. DO NOT TRY TO PUSH YOUR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES – we know you might  feel the need to do that, but this isn’t a time to push, this is a time to help, listen, advise and agree a way forward – the next step that works for your customer and you.

If your customers are working from home, we’re finding they welcome a conversation with someone who understands their world, has industry knowledge and insight and a take on what is happening in it right now.

Let me give you a practical example of staying alongside a customer.

One hire controller we were working with in a lifting equipment company, understood this and phoned her key customers regularly.

She didn’t push product, she tried to understand things from her customers point of view. She did talk about things that were right for the customer. And when one major shipyard lost a big contract, she kept calling, to see how people were, not necessarily to make the sale, but to keep the relationship. She was looking long term. She knew pushing product wasn’t going to help this relationship, she knew that she wanted to be in the best position when things did improve, and she knew which of her accounts she could still sell to.

And when the contract came back, who got the call, who got the work?

You’ve guessed it – Julie.

Why? because she was alongside her customers as an equal partner in the supplier / customer relationship.

And when she got the work, she was told, she was the only person who called during that down time, and the buyer valued that. Everyone else stopped calling, but when things picked up, they all started again.

3) Rethink your sales messages

The sales messages you used two weeks ago might not be the ones for right now.

Keep them helpful, keep them relevant, keep them sensitive.

Make sure before you pick up the phone you are clear about what you are going to say and why you want to say it,  build the relationship with the quality of your conversation.

4) Use this time to plan and learn

Remember all those jobs that used to drop off your to-do list because you were so busy? Sitting on the M6 wishing you could be at home ( don’t tell me that was just me?)

Take the time to think, plan and learn.

From updating your CRM, to developing your sales plan.

Research potential new customers.

Get social and engage with people on Linkedin.

Read those business books you never get around to.

Listen to podcasts.

Take some training about how to lead and structure a telephone conversation – it’s very different to a face to face meeting.

5) Keep positive

We don’t know what is ahead of us, but that was true this time last year as much as it is now.

What we do have is a choice about how we approach what is going on. I know you might be juggling children and worrying about family, but you can use this time to focus on what is important and control the things you can control.

You don’t need to check social media 50 times a day to see what rumours there are about the spread of viruses on petrol pumps or how many toilet rolls there are in the Shoprite.  You won’t feel better doing that.

The good news is that despite all that’s going on, after any crisis there is usually a bounce back, – a surge of growth – how can you position yourself to be in the right place to make the most of that?

Stay well, keep washing your hands and when going out for essentials stay 2 metres apart.

To your success….

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