Besides the obvious impact of the pandemic, there are significant trends emerging you may not recognize yet. These will require us to change how we sell.
The world learned how to buy almost everything online during the lockdowns, and there is a huge shift towards “self-service” that threatens to commoditize even the most complex services and solutions. Even before the pandemic, clients were already engaging salespeople later in the sales process, having done their research on their own first.
The “uberization” of everything is threatening traditional purchasing models. Why buy when you can rent? And the virtual workforce is not only changing how we sell, but many of our internal processes. But the biggest trend impacting sales is the uncertainty many of our clients face today regarding their market environments and the future. The economy, global supply chains, decarbonization and electrification, digitalization and 5G, Brexit, the policies of the new U.S. Administration, and vaccine delivery are a few of the issues creating uncertainty for many clients now.
There are three critical skills strategic salespeople must master to successfully sell through the uncertainty of today’s pandemic era.
1. Develop and Maintain Virtual Relationships.
Most sales organizations are focused on the shift to virtual selling. While it is essential the entire sales, delivery, and support processes must be optimized for a virtual environment, the biggest challenge we are seeing strategic salespeople struggle with is how to develop and maintain relationships virtually. It is shocking how many successful salespeople are challenged with this. It is even more shocking how many still decline to even turn on their webcams when they sell.
This only speeds up the trend towards commoditization, as salespeople who lack the skill to manage virtual relationships will typically resort to focusing only on solution and price. Remember: People buy, companies don’t.
It is equally possible to create, manage, and retain strong relationships virtually at every level, especially if you consider every client encounter as a relationship building opportunity first. Do not allow your discomfort to stop you from being “human” and authentic. Take the time to get to know the people you are working with. Once you master virtual relationships, you will be surprised at how productive you can be without leaving home!
2. Create New Demand.
The salespeople still engaged in a traditional demand capture selling approach, waiting for the client to share their pain points or for the RFI to show up, risk being outsold by more savvy competitors or being replaced by online. Salespeople must become experts in leveraging thought leadership based on the current changing market conditions to create demand – before the client starts shopping.
Strive to understand the opportunities and risks the pandemic and other market trends represent to your client. Think about the strategies they might employ to respond. Consider the business and personal benefits they can achieve powered by your solution or service. These are the keys to creating new demand.
3. Collaboratively Solution.
With all the change and uncertainty, many clients have no idea what they need or whether those needs will change tomorrow. What they really need are options and flexibility, which can only be provided through a collaborative approach to solution development. Salespeople and clients must construct today’s solutions together, solving today’s problems and leveraging today’s opportunities, while baking in flexibility and scalability for tomorrow. Instead of focusing on what we sell, we must focus instead on client outcomes and the value we can help create for them. There are two powerful questions we should ask our clients, “What if we could help you do this?” and “How much would that be worth to the business?” Only then can we construct our solution bundle and build our business case.
Certainly, everyone recognizes the need for change. However, in this world of uncertainty, selling better is no longer good enough. We must sell differently, which means focusing on how we sell, not what we sell.
Our clients are counting on us to get it right.
Choose an important contact in a current sales pursuit or in an existing client whose relationship you want to develop virtually. Research them through their company website, LinkedIn, and Crystal Knows, along with people who might know them. Develop a thought leadership message (not a sales message) that links to their Business Priorities and/or Personal Agendas and can become the basis of your next virtual conversation.