In a crisis, many customers are looking for advice. Their main concern is how to serve their customers best under the new circumstances. Many questions are going through their head; Are the product orders still coming in? Do we need to manage our costs differently? Are our customers and their customers receiving their goods on time?
In particular, in B2B business models, there are several middlemen involved before products end up in the consumers’ hands. The – under normal circumstances – reliable supply chains may now have hick-ups. The consistency and quality of service are under threat. In management meetings, physical or online, a question you will hear often: How do we keep this ship sailing? The crisis situation is your opportunity to show your leadership skills in sales. Your point of view matters in a crisis and should be built on the following attributes:
Your situational knowledge. In the new way of selling it always starts with the customer. Do not assume but verify. Talk to as many stakeholders as you can, from ‘the warehouse to the penthouse‘. What is the customer’s main concern? Verify the impact on their business or in their department. Your customer or prospect may now work in team shifts and hence they are looking for efficiency gains, They need transparency of workflows. Everyone needs to be up-to-date instantly. What is the new reality and how can you help?
Your attitude. In a crisis situation where you see fear and doubt writings on the wall, customers want to talk to people who show empathy for the new situation but also who are positive and have a can-do attitude. You want to show you are not afraid of doing some heavy weight lifting. You will do the work necessary to deliver because in a crisis that is how you stand out from the crowd.
Your Trustworthiness. This is not the time to call your prospects and start the conversation with your products, your company and how good you are (you will get your chance at a later stage). Instead, in the new way of selling your contact need to feel immediately that you have their success in mind. This is the new trust customers are after. Make them feel you are on their side through showing empathy, understanding and that you are there to help.
Your Business Acumen. In the old way of selling salespeople would progress after understanding the customer’s situation straight into solution selling. In the new way of selling it is not so much about your sales acumen but more about your business acumen. Are you able to take the conversation up one level and address the impact of the new and changed situation on their business? What happens if they stick with what they have? What risks do you see for their business? What is the impact on lost revenue, unforeseen costs, declining profits? How will their future look like? Has their growth strategy changed? For some the future is the next few months, others are already thinking about six to twelve months.
Your advice based on experience. It is natural for human beings to think about “Fear of missing out” and considering thoughts on “What If”?; especially in a crisis situation. Acknowledge that they are not alone with these thoughts through sharing short stories of similar customers in a similar situation. What worked for them, what didn’t work? What were their insights? Sharing your experience through stories trigger your prospect’s interest to know more details on what is possible. Selling your solution through storytelling is a lot more effective.
Your ability to gain consensus. The customer’s decision tree has grown to a giant sequoia and is one of the reasons your opportunities stall. Be aware of all the departments involved. Find a change champion and work together building your business case for change. Apply new skills to get past gatekeepers. Keep the conversations focused on the customer’s business, their growth, their profits, and their success.
This is how Trusted Advisors share their point of view. Spend time on becoming better at each of the above attributes. Your customers and prospective customers will appreciate salespeople with these leadership skills.
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