7 tips for selling in the new normal

By Petra Coach Erik Frank

*This article was originally published in Biz New Orleans. 

As a business coach and speaker, I have received many questions recently asking about current obstacles and potential opportunities, specifically in sales. A common question is if you should be trying to sell to new customers right now. The answer in short is both yes and no. Now before I lose you, let me explain. The reason for this ambiguous answer is because it is a confusing time for sales. What you provide and/or how you provide it may not be relevant to your customers anymore. Although this may seem like a barrier, it could lead to chance of a lifetime, and the opportunity to break into new industries and sell to new customers. To help navigate this new world of sales, use these 7 tips to help you sell innovatively with gratitude and empathy as you create opportunities to connect even while social distancing.

1. A bird in the hand

Start with your existing customers to use the 4Q conversation method developed by Verne Harnish. This method uses 4 questions to evaluate, analyze, plan and deploy solutions to successfully close the loop with the customer.

  • How are YOU doing? (demonstrates empathy)
  • What’s going on in your industry? (allows you to plan accordingly)
  • How are WE doing? (establishes/ re -establishes rapport)
  • How can we be most helpful right now? (align priorities)

2. It starts with a SWOT

To begin to understand how to sell, let us take it back to basics. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is an exercise that your team will use for tour organization over 60 to 90- day period. The goal is to identify the top 5 in each category over, remembering that strengths and weaknesses are internal, and threats and opportunities are external. Align your team around strengths and opportunities and use them to understand what you truly have in our new reality.

3. Pick an industry

For this exercise, pinpoint the industry segments that you are looking to sell things into.  Once you have identified it, perform a SWOT as discussed above. Each team member will come up with 5 under each category. Ideally, you want to develop SWOTs for 3-5 industries.

4. Align and Refine

Now the fun begins! Place the SWOT for your company next to each industry’s SWOT to carefully review side by side. You want to see how your company’s strengths can assist in mitigating any weaknesses in each industry or can help in capturing a new opportunity.

5. Plan the Pivot

Now, if you completed step 4 and nothing lines up, it is time to plan a pivot! At this point, reexamine the opportunities for each industry and discuss what strength(s) your team must develop in order to satisfy this need.

For example, after recognizing the increased need for hand sanitizer during this time, a local brewery, NOLA Brewing, planned a pivot to switch production to hand sanitizer.

6. Don’t Sell it

Now let me explain. Considering the current circumstances, you are most likely at home reading this article, and so are your dream clients. Take advantage of this opportunity and identify your list. After researching the CEO or correct point of contact, ask for a brief 15-minute Zoom meet and greet. It is important to connect as a human being first, not a salesman. Do not lead the conversation with the intention of selling something, but rather with the intention of connecting with each person. Begin the meeting with open-ended questions like: “How is your family doing during this time?” or “Tell me more about your story?”  Be vulnerable as well as an empathetic listener as you share experience with intention of understanding their thoughts, ideas, values, and concerns. Post call send a handwritten note of appreciation; and, if appropriate, send a small gift of sentiment learned about in the conversation.

7. Over deliver and ask

When you make a new sale, your company must provide a superior experience, and exceed the client’s expectations. When they express gratitude, it is your cue to humbly ask for a referral. If you have successfully completed the steps listed above, the referral should be automatic.

As an entrepreneur or salesperson living through this crisis, it is important to understand that we have a duty and obligation to our clients to get our products or services into their hands.