The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is made up of two characters – one meaning ‘danger’ and the other ‘opportunity.’ This is the perfect description for the current situation many organisations have found themselves in over the past year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly caused a crisis. An economic downturn, fast changing rules about what is and isn’t allowed, restricted travel and new working environments will have been tough for a lot of companies to adapt to.
For many people in sales roles, these changes did bring some ‘danger,’ with many sales or contracts being either cancelled or postponed while clients reassessed their own situations. This has led to many missed targets, lower commissions, organisations dealing with reduced turnover and a string of other toppling dominoes as the effects of the pandemic are felt.
But it has also brought new ‘opportunities,’ with new methods of working opening new doors and potential avenues to explore. The worst thing you can do in times like these is to rely on the old methods simply because that’s what you’ve always done. We’ve all been talking about the ‘new normal’ for months now, so it should be obvious that things aren’t what they used to be, which means your approach to selling shouldn’t be the same either. To help you in this new remote landscape, we’ve got some advice for how to stay confident and use these changes for positive results.
1. Keep a positive mindset
Even though your method of selling has changed, one thing certainly hasn’t – it’s important to get yourself into the right mindset for success. Sales roles can be hugely rewarding and enjoyable, but they can also be difficult, even at the best of times. So, when you can’t rely on your tried and tested techniques for networking and closing deals, it can be disheartening.
For many, this may feel like starting from square one, needing to relearn how to hold meetings and how to build relationships with clients, but, as we’re going to show you, it’s not so bad and not so different. However, until you find your new rhythm, it’s crucial to remain positive.
Some of these changes will be long-term and some are just temporary, but in either case you shouldn’t let yourself become negative about it. The famous saying by Henry Ford still holds true: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
The key to remote selling is to stick at it. Go in with a positive attitude and don’t give up. It may be a slightly bumpy road before you get back into your groove and make those big sales again, but until then you must not let one missed opportunity, one bad meeting or even one bad week define you. You were brilliant at your job before and you’ll be brilliant again.
2. Stay on track by setting goals
Once you’re in the mindset to start, the next step is to know what you’re actually going to do. By setting goals for yourself, you give yourself targets to reach and something to focus on when it’s all feeling particularly tough.
You want to give yourself something to strive towards, so make your goals challenging but realistic. One of the best ways to do this is following the SMART framework, which means making your targets: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
You may already have sales targets you’re expected to reach, so make your own goals separate but connected. For example, you may want to set yourself the goal of speaking to a certain number of contacts by the end of the week. This will help you reach your overall targets by staying focused on the smaller steps to get there. Especially right now, when there is so much uncertainty in the world, breaking down bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones will help you find your way.
Once you’ve set your goals, you then need to take ownership of them. They aren’t going to complete themselves and no one else is going to do the work for you.
3. Understand what you’re selling in its new context
The pandemic has now been going on long enough that people are increasingly adapting to the changes, and many expectations have changed. A few months ago, a client may have been waiting until they were back in the office before buying your product or service, but now they might have decided that they’ll keep working from home longer-term and won’t need it again.
So, the context in which you’re selling the product or services could have radically changed. Some industries have been completely reshaped – such as live events or travel – and others are experiencing small changes, like tighter budgets, new priorities and remote working. Consequently, this may have altered, removed or added to the USP of what you’re selling. You can’t assume that because a client has always bought from you before, they’re still going to.
Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial to be able to talk about whatever you’re selling with regards to your clients’ current and future situations. This means understanding the value you can bring them, which may not be the same as it used to be. Equally, it means having an idea of what your competitors are doing. What may have once turned a client off you and on to them may now be reversed.
This also means knowing how to demonstrate something that would have been much easier to do in person. Are you able to send people a sample, give a demonstration over a video call or send them an instructional video? Have a think about what’s best for your product or service.
4. Find ways to take advantage of the new style
Going back to our earlier point about being in the right mindset, remote selling can either be a hinderance or a new opportunity. It’s certainly harder to build the same kind of rapport with someone over a video call than a face-to-face meeting. You can’t shake their hand or buy them a coffee, instead in a video call, you’re probably looking into each other’s houses, which does change the atmosphere and the tone of your relationship.
However, there are definitely advantages to remote selling. What you lose in not travelling to meet a client, you gain in time. You may only have been able to fit in one or two meetings a day before, but without travel time, it’s much easier to speak to more people in the same amount of time.
You may also take advantage of the entire situation and use it as an opportunity to get back in touch with contacts you haven’t spoken to for a while. Make sure to ask how they’re doing and how they’ve coped with the changes. It’s kind and polite, builds the relationship, and lets you hear if the new situation has changed their needs in your favour. But be careful with this, as it can quickly cross the line from being a friendly catch up to feeling like you’re taking advantage of their difficult situation.
5. Get comfortable with the new etiquette
New ways of selling mean new rules and expectations. When you used to go to a face-to-face meeting, you’d be in your best suit and you’d reserve the nicest meeting room or sit in a comfortable café. But with remote selling, comes a new way of doing things.
Some level of informality is now (generally) accepted, and perhaps even expected. People know you’re at home, so it may seem a little odd if you’re dressed to the nines for a Zoom meeting. Similarly, although it can seem awkward or embarrassing for you, they’ll understand if a pet or child starts making noises in the background. Although, there’s an important balance to find. Wearing your old hoodie or having a pile of laundry in the background isn’t going to look professional. Relaxing the old formalities is okay, but you still want to show respect and look like you’ve put in some effort.
Remember that you’re still trying to impress your client and build a relationship with them. You want to show your competence and professionalism. Finding the balance may take a bit of time and practice, and will likely be slightly different for every client you speak to.
The real key to remote selling is remembering that it’s still just selling. It’s still about building a relationship and showing off the value of your product or service. The methods have changed slightly, but as long as you stay focused and professional, you’ll be back on top in no time.
To find out more ways we can help you and your team improve your sales techniques, take a look at our Learning Solutions.