How To Sell With Sensitivity In Challenging Times

What weird and uncertain times we are in! Especially for field salespeople. The pros who live for the road, popping in on clients, building on relationships, closing deals. Being trapped at home can truly feel like a cruel and unusual punishment.

But things are different now. Our world is shifting. It is not business as usual.

People are afraid. Afraid of getting sick, losing money in their retirement, not having enough to eat, not being able to pay their mortgage, spending money, etc.     

It’s times like these in which even the most committed sales professionals might think: “I can’t sell anything right now!“

Luckily, that’s not true. In fact, what if I told you that this is actually the perfect time to sell and to prospect? What if I told you that there is a way to sell in times just like these? 

There is! It’s called kindness

Right now, businesses large and small are stepping up to the plate and helping society in creative ways. Gyms are going virtual by hosting online do-it-at-home exercise classes and routines. Restaurants are allowing online orders for curbside pickup. Hollywood is even supporting emotional health with stars streaming concerts and shows from their own homes, and comedians are also sharing some fun bits online. 

Bottom line: Kindness is memorable. And it will pay off.

Yes, life is different right now, and it appears that it will be for a while. This is the new (ab)normal. So let’s use this time to keep you on track toward your big goals! Your prospects need you. Your clients need you. Your community needs you. So let’s help them…. Here’s how.

Plan

Ok, so whose 2020 plan just flew out the window? Well, get it back! It’s not dead… It just needs a tweak! 

You can use this time to do an annual review of your plan. Look over that sales pipeline/funnel and adjust your numbers. Plan for at least 90 days of this lockdown and see how the chips fall. Recalibrate how much you will need to hustle when this is done. And if you haven’t made a plan yet – what better time to do it? 

Your clients need help planning too. Most salespeople nowadays use a consultative sales methodology. It is all about uncovering needs. Well, now is the time. A lot of businesses have Business Continuity Plans for moments just like this. So while you can’t plan for every contingency, they CAN plan for the new normal. And they need your help. Talk with them. Start with what they want further out from this pandemic. Do they want to grow their business? Pivot their focus? Or help their clients find ways to share their kindness with the world?

Use the data you have at hand. Look back three years, see the trends and then go 3 years out and work backwards. Then commit to the things that you can do in the next 90 days to bring you closer to your goal. One day at a time. 

Look for Opportunities

The stories mentioned above are great examples of people and companies looking for opportunities to help other people. And that’s exactly what it’s all about – looking for opportunities to help someone. It’s never been easier to differentiate yourself from the competition - the landscape has been disrupted. What can you offer? You may not be “selling” anything during this time… Other than yourself. 

So show people your true character in a time when empathy is needed most. Dig into your contact list and connect with clients and leads you haven’t seen in a while just to check-in. 

You don’t need much more of a script than “how are you holding up?” And when they respond… Listen. 

Listen and Establish Trust

Yes, listen. If there has ever been a time to listen to your clients, NOW is the time. Listening establishes trust and right now your clients and prospects need to know who they can trust. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how you can help. 

Brainstorm together! Have virtual coffee meetings. Use this time to help your clients get through this. If you have a prospect or a client who is having trouble seeing the forest for the trees, help them. If you have a client who is down in the dumps, help them. And the best way to help them is to LISTEN to what they are going through and find a way to provide support. 

Ask

Ok, so at this time, this one may feel a little icky. A little self-serving. A little narcissistic, even. But, that’s not the point. Remember, in my 5 Step Formula, everyone wins, so this ask is simply a way to help them get what they want…. And you get what you want. I think a lot of people are offering help but then leaving the ask on the table because they feel like now is not the right time. 

But if not now, when? When they go back to their day to day, working with the same people and suppliers they always have? Now you know emails and phones still work – so you don’t have an excuse for not being able to meet with your clients or prospects. Help your customers understand why now is a good time to partner together. Don’t be pushy, be sensitive to their fears and talk it through. But show them that you are their partner. You are here to help.

Follow Up

This is my favorite step. Even if the answer is no or not right now, you still need to follow up! I had a vendor that checked in on me every single month by text and asked me how things were going. She didn’t ask me to buy anything. She was simply maintaining a relationship. And guess what? When it’s time to buy, I’ll head her direction. In the meantime, I’ve referred a lot of people to her simply because she keeps her name in front of me – in a kind and thoughtful way.  

But most importantly: Sometimes follow-up is its own reward. Especially in challenging times like these, never forget the value of simply checking in. Following up just to let your client or colleague know you’re thinking of them. It doesn’t have to generate a cash reward, or more business - it’s just part of being human. And connecting.

About the Author: 

Better known as “Dr. Cindy,” Cindy McGovern is an expert in the areas of sales, interpersonal communication, leadership, and management. She is the author of the Wall Street Journal Best Seller, Every Job is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work, and as a popular and inspiring speaker, Cindy has presented at national and international conferences on a wide variety of sales, leadership and motivational topics. 

As the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, she has coached and guided companies and individuals to achieve professional success and sustainable revenue growth.

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