How to sell, even in a pandemic! Pivoting for success.
So it's been a while since I've blogged on sales. It's funny as I was so busy selling and working prior to Covid. Everything stopped right after. It was a real shock. People don't want to be sold to, I hear people say, we're in a pandemic. Is that really the truth? I would say it depends on how and what you are selling.
Both my industries ( Hospitality & Retail) were badly bit by the virus and recovery will take many years I'm sure, however, it has been a joy to see how a variety of businesses have been strong and pivoted quickly to change offerings and tweak their businesses.
The pandemic has taught many of us to be resilient, and recognise what is essential and what isnt. I dont think in all of our history we've ever had a time where the word 'essential' was used so much! So I thought to put out there a few sales tips to keep us all in a positive sales mindset whilst business life starts to get back on track again!
1) Selling takes time so selling is timeless
I've never been a big fan of the hard sell, for the simple reason that no one likes a hard sell. ( Hard sells give sales a bad name sadly! ) So for me, my motto has always been that sales is about building relationships, and making relationships take time.
So selling can be timeless, as in theres no good or bad time. For instance, I was on a mailing list for a particular holiday place by the sea. During the pandemic, I would get emails with recipes, check in's to see how I'm doing - even though I'm on their mailing list it didn't feel so, as the content and tone of the letter was very personal. When I'm ready and allowed to book a holiday, who am I going to check out? Yep. You've guessed it.
I feel connected to their tribe whether they are actively selling or not!
I recently did a sales talk in Shona Chamber's ( she's an exceptional marketing expert) group called Self Employed Club and one thing I mentioned was that the beauty of calling or speaking to a potential customer means folk can get to 'hear out' what we are like as a business. When we say 'I like the sound of them?' Did you notice the word 'sound'? At some point your prospects liked the sound of you. Your customers got to sound you out and then liked the vibe of what you are proposing. Sometimes a call (communication by voice) can convey so much more than an email. By all means follow up with that email!
So selling can be done at any time, in fact little bits of action done consistency is a good sales habit to have.
Nowadays, it could be a simple voice message checking in on a past client, email or even a physical mailer. There's a buzz when we hear from anyone since we've been grounded at home for so long in lockdown. The flip side is people may also be furloughed so have time to browse and shop, or get all those jobs that need doing. My thought would be if I dont know where my customers are at - I'd find out, and for me, that's picking up the phone!
I believe sales should get it's own 'time slot' in a business. As a business owner, we dedicate time to do our accounts, marketing, social media but how much time do we dedicate to active sales? Lots of bigger companies have dedicated sales teams, why shouldn't smaller businesses get a sales section booked in?
2) Being mindful of the customer experience journey
Being a customer is a great way to understand more about sales, one exercise I gave in the sales talk was to take an example of when you bought something amazing, how did you buy it? Was the assistant helpful? Did they provide all the information that you needed? Was it a good price? How did the customer service make you feel? When you've gathered this information, why not create your own customer experience journey for your business?
Sometimes it's worth doing an audit to say my business does x but doesnt do y. Then the message is crystal clear for yourself as well as your customers. As the old adage says 'the riches are in the niches', and it's good to be clear on the personality of your businesses with what value you give and believe in. The next exercise was to think of an example of a bad sale that you have experienced and to be mindful of eliminating those parts out of our customer journeys! Making the most of this time of lull can help us fine tune the parts of our businesses that we never had time for before. ( more on that later...)!
3) Check-in on existing customers and clients
If you're not writing to your clients regularly or set up an option for people to sign up for your services then there's money left on the table, I'll give you an example, I bought a necklace about 2 years ago, I recently wanted to buy another one as a gift, however, I have no idea who that lady was. I have no email or correspondence. I was a one-time customer, and I could have been a 'many time' customer. So whilst yes, even though you are like me and have too many emails to sort in my inbox, I do find some emails super valuable - and I never know when I need to buy something or book a service.
When it comes to a business that supplies a service, it is also worth checking on existing customers, supposing you are a wellness expert, having gone through the last 12 months is enough to tell us that wellness is a popular industry right now. Simply checking in with a recipe or a relaxing wellness tip would be welcomed I'm sure! Being visible and presenting to your existing customers regularly means that you are available 'to be of service' and can finally
close that sale whenever they come in!
After reading the book 'Pivot' by Jenny Blake, whose strapline is 'The only move that matters is your next one!' Jenny had a successful career at Google, I mean she was successful, had worked there for a long time, and was very comfortable, The 'comfortable' bit made her realize that she wanted something more way bigger for her career. Jenny talks of creating a 'runway which is a plan on how to 'pivot' move into the next period of her career.
What does that have to do with sales in a pandemic I hear you say? Well, many businesses have had to move change or 'pivot' to do business differently.
One of the local farm shops near me ( Flower Farm) at the beginning of lockdown in 2020, offered a 'ration box and delivered literally to us within a few days (just when delivery slots were impossible). It was a £50 box of a weeks supply of meat milk eggs and fruit and vegetables. The efficient service was amazing, these boxes were all put together for complied by the team and the only thing that they couldnt do in these boxes were select individal groceries. This was wonderful as saved me time to deal with what I call 'house admin' and having to put each item through on-line. They totally get their ideal customer with their little regular newsletters, they are fun to read. They are always running competitions and for subsequent food orders they throw in the odd pack of sausages, or milk as a promotion and as a customer we feel valued.
Another sector that has pivoted are the food & grocery suppliers to the hospitaltiy industry, As many restaurants and caterers were forced to close, I felt it was remarkable how many pivoted to supply direct to consumers and became thriving businesses in a different way. Pivoting became a resilient way to keep businesses afloat. Moving with the times is a key to good businesses and pandemics are no different. How can you pivot in your business to make more sales?
5) Be busy for the future
So we're getting out of a pandemic (I'm being positive here!) and while businesses can be slower and less busy ( ok it does depend on what businesses you have here as some are super busy!). It is a good idea to make the most of the down time. Is there a product or offering that can be improved? What about sharpening processes or your content and brand language? There is so much to do, maybe now is the time to do all those things that you didnt have time for before? Why not send a quiz or questionnaire to your customers and see how you can improve your offering?
One day the pandemic will be totally over, why not zoom into the future and envision where you want your busienss to be and start planning now? Which means you can speak to prospects now in readiness for the boom time again? Think back to your last sale. That started somewhere and creating your next sale can be now.
Hope you enjoy these tips and if you are looking for some sales help for your busienss why not join my 'Sales without being salesy workshop' on the 31st March 21?
Here's to great business sales success!