Going Back to Basics - Selling during a global pandemic
Today, the internet abounds with articles on selling during the COVID crisis. So, I thought quite deeply on whether another post about this was truly necessary. After scouring dozens of articles on the topic, I decided that I did, indeed, have a few points to make.
Without further ado, I am going to jump right into the topic. How do you sell effectively during a global pandemic? A lot of people talk about empathetic selling, but what does that really mean? How can a sales person practice this skill? Is it enough to start your email/conversation with the trite question about health and state of business? Well, yes and no. Let me explain.
I titled this article "Going Back to Basics" because I truly believe that these are the fundamentals of being a good sales person. I am simply going to list the things I believe are important as points and perhaps write a more detailed article about them one by one in the future. Or maybe not; I do not have an impressive history of being regular on this blogging thing.
1. Belief in the solution being sold
Everything begins here. A sales-person who is not completely convinced that she is selling something of value to the prospect, something that will solve a problem for the prospect, simply cannot sell. I believe that this kind of duplicity always comes through. It could be nothing you say, but your body language and non-verbal communication will give you away. Maybe you can make a sale or two, but you cannot sell consistently well.
So, first and foremost, learn about your product. Understand the value it adds. Focus on who will benefit the most from your solution. The technicalities can be handled by a product team or the technical team, but this conviction comes from a thorough knowledge of the value in what you are offering.
2. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Stephen Covey’s internationally famous bestseller, “The 7 habits of Highly effective people” is an important read for people from many diverse backgrounds. This is common knowledge. However, I think this specific habit applies to a sales role. It seems like such a simple thing to say, but such a difficult thing to implement.
It requires empathetic listening, listening that goes beyond cursory listening in order to respond. Apply this to prospects to understand what their challenges are, what their business problem truly is. Rather than your first pitch being about your product’s features or your service’s value proposition, seek first to understand if what you are offering actually will translate to value in the prospect’s mind. Because "value" has different meanings in different circumstances.
Once you understand their problems, their business goals, try to see if there is a way you can fit your offering to that particular problem. Then, put your point across in such a way that you communicate the value you perceive you can offer.
3. Seek a win-win solution
Seeking a win-win solution is extremely important always, but especially important now. It is so important to understand if the final agreement benefits both parties in the way they perceive as fair and just. It is well worth spending additional time to arrive at this agreement than to close the deal in your favour alone. In the current business world that is so interconnected, securing a deal that feels unfair to one party can mean a loss of long-term business, word about your company’s shark-tank tactics spreading and much more than the temporary win you secured.
This means one other thing. If you think that the solution you are offering is not a good fit for a prospect at a particular time, it’s alright to say so rather than letting them find out a few months down the line. These might be short-term losses but are long term gains.
When we set up our company, it took us a while to understand what kind of prospects would benefit most from our services and the ones that wouldn’t. We made some mistakes in the beginning, but as of now, we tell prospects during our first exploratory call if we feel like it is a bad fit. A lead is lost but trust is definitely won.
So my advice for selling during a global pandemic is, at the grass root level, to be genuine. Believe in your solution genuinely, seek to understand empathetically, and always win a deal fairly. If this seems like a moral science lesson with little application in real-life sales, I can tell you with confidence that it has worked for me, personally and for us, as a company more than anything else has.