It's been over a year and half since we were traveling to meet our operators, clients, and customers. It seemed like yesterday that we were “shaking hands and kissing babies”, traveling to tradeshows and events and breaking bread with our colleagues. Then, when the dust settled from the initial storm, we tried to make the best of the resources we had i.e. cranking out phone calls and scheduling video meetings.
Over the past month, I have had an increase in clients asking for guidance on how to shift their sales process to adapt to a global pandemic in a slower-moving industry that is eager to recover quickly.
As a foodservice sales veteran with some of the largest global CPG companies in the world, I have been fortunate to receive the best-in-class training in sales and presentation skills. From those experiences, what I learned that the sales process hasn’t changed much, pre or post pandemic but the shift is in the content, relevancy, and approach.
Food for thought:
1. What brought us here won’t take us there
2. Change the (communication) channel!
3. Collaborate don’t isolate!
What brought us here won’t take us there!
The prior value we brought to the table or even the unique value proposition of our company, products, and solutions we brought the industry might be irrelevant to the changing needs of our customers. A huge part of being successful as a salesperson is to know and understand the audience and put ourselves in their shoes. “A strong value proposition is the foundation for understanding who you are as a company, where you have a right to win, and why.” So, it’s more important now than ever to shift and reevaluate the value our products, people, and programs we offer. First by understanding the circumstances that are affecting our customers today and understanding how our customer’s priorities might have changed. Before we make another call, think critically about how your value proposition should be changed.
Change the (communication) channel!
Every day, we are hearing more about conferences being postponed and companies are already pushing their return-to-office dates to 2022. It’s likely that most of our target decision makers are working from home and many of the leadership teams at our customers have figured out a way to accommodate a flexible work schedule. So, should we be making calls to corporate offices right now? How do you “meet” new prospects when some of the channels are closed such as tradeshows and networking events? Consider digging deeper into other channels, such as LinkedIn and Facebook and focusing on B2B outreach efforts there. There are so many communication channels out there and it’s a good reminder to reevaluate the ways your company is reaching out to customer. Try to think about the right channel for your business that may work best in your situation. This will most likely change as the times change so researching, keeping up, and constantly testing new ways will be important!
Collaborate, don’t isolate!
More and more we hear “customers are not ready to meet right now”. Resources are thin and there are a tremendous number of competing priorities to juggle. Sales is not about the one meeting! It’s a good reminder that most of us have not sold in this type of environment. We need to remind ourselves that the value and innovation we bring will help the industry recover quicker. We need to make meaningful connections that add value to our customers. I was taught to use external circumstances, the state of the industry, data and insights to drive engagement and that is still the case, but we need to collaborate with our customers and not isolate them.
The "New Normal" requires a new approach. Rethinking about your unique value proposition, changing your communication channel, and collaborating with your customers are great ways to set you up for success. As a reminder, don't forget to show empathy, acknowledge that there are many competing priorities, and ask how we can best move forward, together.