Should You Sell in the Middle of a Pandemic? 3 Ways to Do it Right

Should you be pushing for sales right now?

Should we be selling in the middle of a pandemic?

That’s the growing debate in the sales community. Some sales pundits think “no” while others disagree. I think they are both right. 

The correct answer to the “should you sell during COVID-19 crisis” question all depends on your answer to a different question:

What is your motive?

If it’s to touch base and see if your customer forgot to call you, don’t sell.

If you are reaching out to offer a discount, don’t sell.

If you need to outflank the impending recession, working hard to ensure you still hit your number this year, don’t sell

If you are just trying to practice Selling Virtually, don’t sell.  Practice on friends.

If your primary reason for calling is to keep management off your back… well, you may want to fake it.   

If it’s because you are honestly worried that you may not be able to pay your bills over the next few months, I get it.  I’m with you, but it’s not the right reason to call your customers and/or prospects right now. When the top two headlines every morning are the number of deaths and the number of people losing their jobs, there’s only one reason to sell: to serve

If your number one priority is to help your customers and prospects solve relevant business problems, this is the best time to “sell.”  

Inherent in the “should you sell” question is the belief that selling equals manipulation at worst, aggressive marketing at best. This may be a common perception of a seller’s motive, but here is the truth: 

If you have something to offer in this time of crisis, you are being selfish by letting the fear of judgment keep you from serving those in need.

If you need to be on the frontlines, selling remotely, refocus your energy from:

“Should I engage?” to “How should I engage?” 

Here are three simple tips to help both you and your customer see your role as an “ambulance driver” not an “ambulance chaser.”

1. What you do before the call will have more impact than what you do during the call. 

Why? Because motive is ultimately transparent. If your true intent is about your survival and you are calling out of sheer desperation, then your tone, word choice, and your behavior will reveal your motive. Therefore, stop before every meeting and make a decision: who is first

If you fail to do so, you will default to self. The gravitational pull is just too strong. If you aren’t intentional about answering this critical question, you will unwittingly become the hero of the story. 

Conversely, if you resist reaching out for fear of how the call or email might be perceived, spend the time necessary to answer the question, 

“Why is it in the customer’s best interest to meet with me?” 

Once you are confident in the role you play in helping them achieve their objectives, a calm and confident demeanor will replace a tentative, “Sorry to call you, but I’m supposed to be selling remotely” vibe.

2.  Declare your motive

Every call or email should begin with the customer’s problem and your desire and ability to address that problem; not the problem that was on their whiteboard a few months ago, but the problem they are facing today. 

Your Other-Centered® motive may be evident to you, but not to your customer. So, lead with the desire to help. The more specific, the better:

“I know you are expanding into Ware County, and want to talk to you about a potential shortage of inventory on XYZ product” is much better than, “I’m just calling to see if you need anything right now.” 

The first approach positions you as a partner, while the second makes you out to be a desperate seller with commission breath.  

If you struggle to articulate why it’s in the customer’s best interest to stop what they are doing and meet with you, revisit Step 1 above.

3. Drop the Rope®

Instead of playing tug of war with the customer by attempting to pull them into a meeting or conversation about a new solution, product, or service, release the pressure and “drop the rope.” Genuinely communicate that you aren’t sure what they need, should do, or if they have time to talk right now. Your goal is simply to serve, not force your way into a meeting or get an order. 

This approach eliminates an adversarial relationship and allows both you and the customer to relax and work together to solve real problems (virtually) or agree to meet after the pandemic crisis is over. Either way, you will distinguish yourself from the pack, moving from the “rep to avoid” category to someone they will always want to meet with: friend, partner, and trusted ally.

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As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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