To Sell or Not to Sell in the age of the Coronavirus Pause

Depending on who is speaking (sales, operations or marketing, your mother), you hear all kinds of advice about whether or not you should be “selling” today.

Hotel owners are generally saying, “yes please sell, we would like some income to pay our employees and investors.  And our cleaning supply bill. “

Marketers are saying  “invest in technology to reach new customers because Google is much cheaper today than it was a month ago.  It is much more efficient.”

Some salespeople are saying, “selling today is not welcome.” First of all, who has the time because hotel salespeople who are still working are working at the front desk and cleaning rooms.

Second, traditional prospecting calls seem pointless today.  “Customers aren’t currently buying, so why spend the time?  It just seems a little mercenary.”  Who wants to say to a prospect, “bring your people to my hotel, put them on a germy airplane, have that meeting, they will probably be fine because we are cleaning more!  We need the money!”

While other salespeople are saying, “I am selling every day and I have found business.“

I think everybody has a valid point.  But in many ways, nothing has changed at all.  In reality, you should always only sell to those who want to buy.  In this digital age, “selling” really only should happen at certain points in the customer lifecycle, but customer contact in different forms should be taking place continually.

I think the real question is, how should salespeople be spending their time right now?  At what points in the buyer’s path to purchase (funnel) should they be focusing?

We are trying to figure out this new “normal” within hotels.  Who will start to travel first?  When will that be?  What are their expectations?

Our clients are doing the exact same thing.  Almost every industry is being impacted in one way or another.  It really isn’t a cliché – we are all in this together.  Do you know how this pandemic is impacting your customer’s business?  Have you asked them – not just how they are doing, but what they think is going to change about the way they do business?  And of course, just like our own industry, be prepared for ever evolving answers.  I think this is probably where salespeople should be spending at least a portion of their time.

Buyers have been changing their habits for the last several years, long before this virus came to town.

What are those changes?

1 – More people are involved with even smaller purchase decisions so any sales communication needs to be more comprehensive because you are not just selling to the one person you are talking to – they are turning around and selling to the other decision influencers within their organizations.

2 – There is a lot of time spent earlier in the planning process before they ever involve a salesperson.  Members of this decision making “team” are doing their own research – and a lot of it is online.  Is there a way you can insert yourself into that process earlier?  Not as a salesperson, they aren’t yet ready to be sold.  But they would love your advice or insights if it adds some value.

And now this pandemic has brought on even a few more changes.

Innovative solutions are much more in demand.  The old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” still holds true.  Due to cost cutting, we have less employees.  We have to figure out how to get more done with less and we have to wear multiple hats – and so do many of our customers.  Also, we have had to figure out ways to meet and collaborate virtually.  We have been forced to learn more technology like Zoom or file sharing because we are no longer always in a shared office.

Another reason innovation is more popular is that working from home has allowed a little more quiet time which often results in increased creativity (and sometimes weight gain or too much wine drinking).  And that creativity has led to some innovations – and that seems to have turned a bit of a switch on.  What we used to do be successful isn’t working all the time now, so if we can figure out an innovative way how to solve a problem, we are suddenly more valuable.

What innovations have you seen in your own job?  And what innovations have your customers found?

Bottom line, how should salespeople be spending their time right now?  In my opinion, the same way they should have been doing for the last few years – building stronger client relationships through a balanced approach.

Yes, look for new business – think about the industries that still need to travel and contact them.  It is kind of irresponsible not to do that.  That should make up a portion of your time – research and prospecting.   And spend some time making sure you are making it easy for those folks to buy.

But, another good use of some of your time is finding out how your existing customer’s businesses are changing.  Not selling, and not just reaching out to say, are you okay? Although that is a good way to start but you also want to be asking, what changes are you seeing?  What new challenges and opportunities are on your radar?   Those conversations will be valuable.  Not only from the information you learn but from the ideas it will generate for you – how you can be more valuable to your customers – and your bosses.

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