We asked Barry Rhein, CEO and Founder of Selling Through Curiosity, to share insights and advice about how to sell and build relationships with our customers during a pandemic. Barry never fails to deliver. In this case, he is providing very actionable insights and questions to help all of us authentically build customer relationships by asking more effective and relevant questions, for these times.
Curiosity and asking great questions have always been important in understanding a customer’s highest priorities and their decision-making process on how they will buy our goods or services. Building relationships develops trust and differentiation when selling.
Covid has greatly impacted the world of selling globally. Never before has selling tactics mattered more. Never before has it been more important to build meaningful relationships quickly. Never before has understanding all the potential obstacles and competing projects been more critical in working deals. Today more than ever, it’s critical to master asking questions and being authentically curious with our customers and buyers. Curiosity is a critical skill for every customer-facing employee and team member.
Why Curiosity and Why Now?
Understanding a buyer’s highest priorities is critical to help them buy. Understanding how your solution maps to a buyer’s top priorities will forecast the likelihood a deal will happen. Whether money is spent or not is based on how your solution and project fits into their highest priorities. We need to understand FROM THEM how your project fits into their highest priorities that they are going to spend money, resources, time, and energy on now – not down the road.
Remote selling can be challenging in building relationships.
- What are the ACTIONABLE ways you are connecting human-being to human-being?
- What are the questions you are going to ask to learn about them personally?
Asking Effective Personal Questions
Everyone is experiencing Covid together. It is a great time to ask personal, authentic, and effective questions to connect with people we’re doing business with, personally.
What are your team’s best practice questions to connect? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking and asking more effective questions. I’d be wondering:
- How is Covid for them?
- What are they experiencing? How are they and their family getting along?
- How has this changed their world?
- When they’re not doing this job, what are they doing for fun and to stay sane?
Now, once you learn about them, what can you do to keep in touch on that subject?
More Deals Will Get Stuck In These Times
Covid is the ultimate silent deal killer. We must become more confident and proactive in understanding Covid might impact the sale. Of course, the better the relationship, the better the information they may share with you.
Questions that come to mind are:
- What might possibly cause this to delay or get postponed?
- What are some examples of competing priorities that might get in the way of this deal moving forward?
- What has been the companies’ position on spending money on projects like this?
- What are some examples of projects that have been put on hold?
- How will this project be justified internally?
- How will they get the funds to make the purchase?
- Tell me about the people that need to approve this?
- What might possibly cause any one of them to say no or not now?
We might need to repeat these questions throughout the selling process.
Great “effective” questions are key. We must build them as a team. Nobody wins unless we all win! Practicing them so we get comfortable and confident is key. Developing a curiosity mindset is fundamental to selling. Most surprises are avoidable. Questions are not the answer. The effective use of great questions with confidence is the answer.
Additional Tips for Selling During Covid 19
In addition to Barry’s great advice above, we have some additional actionable tips of our own we wanted to share.
Selling more was simply about strategy, many people would be able to do it, but with all the factors that influence sales, sales reps are faced with a number of challenges. Decision-makers have had to make tough decisions about what they have to offer and sales reps have had to change their selling strategy to meet the trends and clients during this time.
Key factors that help with sales and increase business opportunities during Covid 19 include:
- an attempt to better understand client needs
- adapting to opportunities of the times
- trying different strategies to close deals
- switching up your usual content
- and focusing on the customer experience
While companies may not be focused on buying right now, increasing interactions with prospects can help build relationships as well as prove that the content you have to offer is valuable to them. Some specific actions that both companies and salespeople can adopt for selling during Covid-19 include:
A pipeline is a leading indicator for what the rest of the year is going to look like, so sales reps should be tracking that very closely. A pipeline can refer to a sales pipeline, which is a visual list or graph that details the stages of the businesses’ sales process. It is an organized way for sales reps and businesses to track different customers through different progress in the sales cycle. It can also refer to the different stages in the sales cycle that the sales reps go through to switch a prospect to a customer. In terms of selling during a pandemic, and even just in general, a pipeline is an important process to make prospects into sales and prospects long-term customers. During this time, your pipeline may have dried up, but some ways to increase your pipeline as salespeople and as b2b companies include:
Ramp up your prospecting
While this may seem easier said than done, prospecting for new clients is essential for keeping sales up and gaining new clients. It may seem tedious, or even pointless in the midst of a pandemic, but with the limited opportunities of this unique situation, reps need to ensure they are getting every opportunity to make a sale. That being said, there are some tips and information to take into account to help improve your prospecting strategy during the pandemic.
- Find prospects continually. Keeping a consistent flow of new prospects can give you different people that may be looking for specific content. Even though it may seem like some industries are not doing well, reaching out to potential customers can help build a relationship for a future sale. While remote selling may not be optimal, there are numerous ways such as through emails, social media, and calls to reach new clients.
- Have a good understanding of what you can offer. As decision-makers, and leaders in the company you may need to switch up your table of contents to meet the specific trends and needs of the time. To make effective sales, reps also need to understand fully what they are able to offer to the client. While this may differ due to selling during Covid-19, this can help reps provide adequate solutions and resources for the buyer.
- Take advantage of certain trends. This is an important adaptive strategy that you can use for selling during Covid-19. The ability to shift your services or product will increase sales since buyers may be looking for a solution that is specific to a post-covid world. Businesses may need to host regular meetings with the sales team to ensure that new goals and strategies are constantly being updated.
- Focus on relationships. One main takeaway to increasing your pipeline during COVID-19 is that making sales is not the only way to increase sales. Waiting for the right opportunity and focusing on building relationships with clients through constant meetings can help with future sales.
Pick up the phone and call
- Stay consistent. Since more people have moved to a work-from-home environment instead of being out in the field, it may seem like a lost cause to keep calling and calling. Still, it is important to keep reaching out for meetings to ensure that you are able to reach the prospect. Reps should have a goal of how many people they want to reach out to, whether it goes through or not.
- Leverage Virtual Events. Virtual events require less for attendees to join. This can help get your information out to a wider buying committee and make sure more customers have access to doing business with you. Since those attending virtual events may also be looking to buy a specific solution or product, it is a great place to build relationships and gain prospective clients.
- Finding the right customer. While it may seem like a desperate time to get any sale in, finding the right customer that fits well with what you have to offer pays out in the long run. While many would jump on the first opportunity, reps that take their time to sell to the right prospects can help build stronger and more fruitful relationships.
- Changing up your usual tactics. What may have worked for you before not work anymore due to the change in trends from the pandemic. Even the best, scripted templates and emails that your company had before may prove to be completely ineffective now. Along with changing up the questions, you ask, and the strategy you have for reeling clients in, it is also important to change up your mindset and the way you approach business at this time. It may help to be more empathetic during times like these. While salespeople often look to close out a deal, figuring out what is best for your client can help you understand their specific needs. While offering a discount or deferred payment option is not always reliable, it can show a rep’s willingness to adapt and put the customer first.
Be more efficient
Selling during Covid 19 has affected the sales world due to remote meetings and a change in customer behavior. Customer interactions may be limited, making it difficult to follow up with your prospects. One of the most important tactics for selling during Covid 19 includes having the ability to be more efficient and hop on opportunities despite the changes. Some changes that reps can make to be more efficient include:
Inbound lead handling needs to be rock solid.
- Every lead needs to be routed quickly and conversion needs to stay high, especially for customers moving away from outbound selling. Since communications channels have changed business during these times, you may need to switch up communications channels to produce better results. Selling used to be done mainly through calls and emails, but now many have dedicated their phone lines to other work-related tasks. Inbound leads are a great way to gain valuable prospects because they may already be interested in what you have to offer.
- It is important to capture the attention of those already interested since they are more willing to listen. In order to capture their attention, you may want to listen closely to what they need in order to show that what you have to offer is valuable. It is also important to keep up with the news so that you are able to offer time-relevant solutions. It is also important to know exactly what resources and the product you have to offer, in order to make sure they are a fitting customer.
Prepare more – do more research.
- Change up scheduling your meetings. While many have a similar meeting template or timetable they want to meet for client meetings, scheduling shorter meetings can help you stand apart. Not only can this be more efficient, but you are also acknowledging ghat are you are using the client’s time as well. This shows empathy and understanding, while still getting your point across.
- Know your prospects beforehand. This is one of many of the most important aspects of selling during this time. You may want to add certain terms that the prospect can relate to, or use the news to be more relatable to the customer. Reading more about the customer and topics or products they are interested in can help you close out deals faster and more reliably.
- Understand the situation they are in. Most industries have been affected during this time, so it is important to research and understand the state the company is in, in order to make the best deals and close more sales. This way you are able to better adapt to their needs an
Think about your customer’s customer.
- Your customer’s offices may have moved to a remote setting as well, so their customers may be looking for something different as well. It is important to understand that what your customer needs to offer may need to change as well. This can help you be a part of their solution and give them a higher number of sales as well.
To keep closing deals during pandemics you have to be more strategic and get out of your comfort zone.
This is a great time to experiment with life sciences and adapt to customer behavior by changing up your strategy. Some tips to help you find what works for you during this time include:
- Reinforce (or create) an incentivized referral program to mine warm leads within your customers. Creating incentives during this time can level the playing field and encourage buyers to buy since it would be a great deal for them. A referral program is important so your reach can extend further and your customers can help find other customers for you. While not every deal may go through, you are still building your pipeline and taking part in improving sales during this time.
- Increase revenue through upselling. Upselling is a popular sales technique in which a sales rep invites and encourages the customer to purchase more expensive upgrades, or add-ons to the product or solution to generate more revenue. This is a great strategy, especially for selling during Covid-19 because you may have fewer customers or prospects that are willing to buy right now. Even you have a few quality customers that are looking for the premium solutions you have to offer, you are still able to keep up with revenue and sales goals.
- Sell longer contracts. While some customers may not be looking for long-term contracts, you can show them the value of a longer commitment. Since it is a bit risky, longer commitments can help both parties receive a steady flow of income. While some may like the flexibility or a shorter contract, there are benefits of a longer contract.
- Experiment with your outreach, sales scripts, and email templates and identify winners. This is one of the most important aspects of keeping up with the changes of a global pandemic. You should experiment with different templates and scripts and try to get constant feedback on what works and does not work. A useful tool is the SALESHOOD platform that allows for consistent feedback and group input on the updated master templates, pitches, and scripts. Feedback and coming up with a solution as a group can help bring better results.
- Examine Geographical Impact of Covid 19. The location of your typical buyer’s list may have changed due to the effects of COVID. Even though Covid-19 has affected most of the world, there are areas where it has had a greater negative effect. Understanding this data can help you find prospects in other areas, or find solutions for the affected areas.
What NOT to do:
While there are many things that need to be changed during this time, there are definitely things that should definitely not be done. Some of these Don’ts include:
- Do not allow your pipeline to dry up. This can happen easily, especially during these times, but that makes it even more important to make sure that try even harder to build prospect relationships. While it can seem discouraging to get rejected, you can get feedback on how to improve your approach.
- Don’t spam leads. While it can help to be persistent, spamming your lead can ruin the relationship and make the prospect not want to buy.
- Discounting your offer. While it may close deals faster, it could also attract customers that are only looking to save. When thinking about offering a discount or promotional offer, it needs to be done methodically.
Selling during Covid-19 can be a daunting task, but can be a great time to experiment with different methods as well. While changes will need to be made, sales and revenue goals can still be made during this time. To keep closing sales it is important to get feedback from customers on how to improve.