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Selling Through a Pandemic

Everyone on the planet has been touched and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a homestay father I have students that I have hosted all over the globe, and I have spent a great deal of time everyday checking on the pandemic across the world.

Here in North America I have been contacted a lot over the past few months to help companies out with filling their sales funnels in the after shock of self quarantine and work from home.

For those of us in marketing and sales this “new normal” has presented us with a few challenges. Firstly with people having lost their jobs through lay offs corporations are tightening their belts and watching every dollar that they have. How does someone continue to generate leads (especially qualified leads) knowing that companies are hurting financially and have reduced staff? We get back to basics.

The Sales Funnel During a Pandemic

1. Awareness (Responding to a customer’s needs) – We know that during the pandemic there has been an increase in internet use by almost every household in North America. That tells those of use in sales and marketing that we have to be seen where the customer is looking. Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, Blogs etc. The customer has to be aware that your company understands the current situation and is here to help solve their problems. I have personally found that a nicely worded email to customers in your database to check on them during this pandemic has had positive results in engaging clients and quickly move them down the lead generation funnel. There are still customer needs out there in every vertical; the key is in how the customer is engaged, and how quickly they can be moved to converting into a potential sale.

2. Generate Interest and Engagement – With increased internet use comes the need for ads and videos to have an interesting and compelling message. These ads are literally all over Facebook. They are selling online courses at a discount, and electronics as discounted bundles. Quick and easily digestible ads that play on impulse buying by clicking. I know that my personal YouTube usage is up as I am finding some time to complete home repairs in my student rooms. Since there are travel bans on in almost every country, I have the opportunity to fix a few things without bothering my students. For those who know me, I am not handy, so I will watch any video that shows me how to prepare a room for painting, and then gives me a shopping list of exactly what I need to complete my DIY project. The same process can be used for selling software, IO devices, or PLCs. The trick is to get an interested customer to convert by clicking a call to action. In my example about home repairs the call to action was “give us your email to get the list of everything that is required to complete the project”. I have now clicked and provided the supplying company with my email as a qualified lead because I demonstrated interest in their products. A follow-up email, or phone call is sure to follow.

3. Request relevant data and prompt further call to action Now it is time for the follow up call or email. Keeping in mind that we are all still living in the time of a pandemic, so the need for soft selling (being the trusted advisor who just wants to help) is critical. The last thing that anyone dealing with the pandemic wants is to be sold too and have to make a big financial decision. They need to make a solution solving decision.

4. Evaluate data and direct the customer to the appropriate solution – Now that you have all the data required to formulate a quote it is time to give the client several options. I personally prefer giving them only three options. Knowing that funds are tight I provide one basic solution quote, one mid range quote (where I can upgrade them to a longer running solution), and one solution for down the road. At this point your customer is your champion and as a trusted advisor you are there to help make a qualified buying decision. Given the pandemic, as sales person really needs to illustrate how the purchase of the solution will improve the chances of getting their company back to normal and improve their bottom line.

5. Offer a demonstration, consultation (via Zoom) and work the hard sell if required – Your customer may have to include a supervisor or someone with signing authority in a demo or consultation. During the pandemic a hard sell has to be done tactfully, tastefully, and illustrate the value of the solution to solve your customer’s problem. Reinforcing the solution is critical. If the customer is still not ready then follow-up is the key. Never give up. Some of my best sales took almost a year of follow-up and on occasion have led to the sale of a totally different solution. This occurred because the client trusted me as an advisor who helps and not a salesperson who closes. Emotions run high during a pandemic, and it’s easy to lose a customer to factors that you can’t control. Follow up no matter what.

6. Close – This is the ideal situation where your client signs off on the deal and you get to provide a solution where you can continue to groom a repeat client.

I have been working with these tactics for the past month and my funnel is filling up fast. So is my summer for training and consulting. Making yourself the answer to someone’s problem during a pandemic is a great way to become a trusted advisor. After reading this article you should ask yourself “What’s in your Funnel?”

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