12 Ways Coronavirus Can Hurt Sales Unless You Prepare

Mark HolmesSales Management Coaching, Sales strategy

Short of COVID-19 vaccine development in the near term, as much as we’d like that to happen, we must prepare for how the Coronavirus will disrupt sales revenues around the globe.

There will be no accelerated come back. No ‘flip the switch” on, and the economy is back and running, full throttle.

If we have a rolling recovery economic plan that gets implemented, then common sense says customers won’t return entirely to their previous purchasing patterns or behaviors.

So, what’s going to change? How will it impact selling and business overall? Will selling cease to exist, or be replaced entirely with virtual meetings, email, and phone communication? How will it affect my sales numbers and personal compensation?

I’ve been giving these questions (and many others) a lot of thought. My business is impacted, along with millions of others. Clients have asked my take on things. My wife asks me. (Even the dog asked me the other day!)

Seriously, what changes could/will happen? Here are 12 ways (in three categories) I think selling could/will be impacted in the short and potentially the longer-term.

The selling environment will alter in 5 ways: (1) Longer sales decision cycles. (2) More caution over meeting in-person will increase emphasis on other communication methods such as virtual meetings, emails, and phone calls. (3) Intense demands for more clearly differentiated and quantified value to justify the price – and we’re not talking about marketing messaging and platitudes, but real, tangible differences. (4) Psychological safety & emotion-based decision making (fears, skepticisms) with decision drivers swayed more than ever by factors such as buyer-seller trust, peace of mind and understanding what the customer really wants. (5) Less ‘live’ tradeshows. Many major events will shift to shorter virtual meetings held more often during the year.

Selling skills will shift more heavily to 4 core skills: (6) Question/discovery stage will be crucial and must include more (and improved) questions from salespeople regarding emotional drivers instead of mainly focusing on logic-centered decision criteria. (7) Articulating a compelling value message tailored to fit the client is critical, but even more so in this environment. Plus, messaging will need to be communicated in stages, intentionally plopped into various milestone stages of the sales process. (8) The ability to create “trust” and “like” with the buyers will be much more important in the future. If you can’t create trust earlier and deeper earlier in your sales approach, you’re going to have a hard time landing sales. (9) An improved communication style using persuasive emails and phone skills, as well as virtual meetings that engage not just inform buyers, should be a part of all sales training and coaching. Many, if not most salespeople struggle with effective email and phone communication selling.

Sales Managers must become coaches too, with 3 skills paramount in the future: (10) The ability to create trusting, positive relationships with sales reps working remotely. Managers should avoid overloading their approach with “policing the CRM” but also focus on creating trusting, honest relationships and open communications with each rep.  (11) Coaching salespeople through the sales cycle and problem-solving where they need help will pay off because the selling environment is going to be more complex. Having someone the salesperson trusts to bounce things off of safely, is important. (12) Handling one-on-one monthly meetings to validate the effective use of time/opportunity management, to develop a sales strategy and ensure sales call preparation and successful execution is mandatory if you want to grow sales consistently. Smart sales managers will use sales huddles effectively as we head into an iffy sales environment where uncertainty may rule the day.

Preparedness is the key. Selling has changed more in the last ten years than the previous fifty, and now the Coronavirus wreaks its havoc.

Smart sellers and sales managers are preparing themselves right now for changes that could become permanent.


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