Lifelong salesman, Stephen Leishman, talks about how, just like many others, it’s been a time for adjustment to his daily business life during the coronavirus pandemic and offers his tips for selling in the world after lockdown.
Normally during the working week, I would be flying around Europe or some part of the world visiting and training distributors and selling and marketing products to my target customers.
The customers are still there, but they are no longer accessible to see in person. Surprisingly though, during the pandemic, my customer contact has increased. The demand for training needs has grown and an increase in new customer contact has resulted.
You may ask ‘why?’, well, I personally feel there is still plenty of opportunity to increase your sales and marketing efforts and reach a wider audience. People are ‘living’ online more than ever, and are very receptive to new ideas and new means of support.
E-commerce and online stores have had a surge in orders. People stuck indoors during lockdown who previously shied away from shopping online are now converted to ordering goods on the internet to satisfy their consumer needs. So, the same concept should be considered for business-to-business selling.
How has selling changed since COVID-19?
Meeting the customer
The main change in selling methods is customer contact. Virtual meetings are now commonplace. In the past few months, I have been on more virtual meetings than ever in my entire career. It’s the new normal, people are open to using it and no longer adverse to being seen online.
In fact, when I used to travel around Europe to visit all my customers it would take me a month to meet them all. Now I can now do it all in just a couple of days.
Having meetings with your customers via conference calling is the new normal.
Good old fashioned phone calls
I have spoken more over the phone during lockdown than ever since I started selling over 35 years ago. Use the phone to keep in regular contact with existing customers, (email is OK, but it’s less personal).
Phone customers once or twice per month, ask how their business is doing, what challenges they are facing and how you can help. They will appreciate your calls, your interest in their current situation and more importantly, your offer to help them.
Make calling your customers regularly part of your daily sales activity.
Is it the right time for cold calling?
If you ever wondered if this is a time to gain new customers, I have a surprise for you: “Yes” is the answer!
My prospecting activity has increased by over 60% during the pandemic. I have gained new clients, new projects and informed potential new customers about my products and services that they can benefit from during this current time.
There has never been a more opportune time than now to get to difficult to reach people.
Why? It is due to the different ways in which people are now working. People working from home are managing their own calls and contact and are more receptive to being contacted online via LinkedIn and other social channels as well.
So, during the lockdown I have managed to reach people I have wanted to contact and I have even obtained several new customers and increased orders.
There is a downside though. Many people you may want to reach are perhaps on reduced hours or on different shift patterns due to the pandemic, so it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about these changes before cold calling.
What is important is to make sure you keep in regular contact with your customers and keep building on your new business contacts and maintaining regular lines of communication.
Stephen Leishman is owner and founder of several businesses including Selling Sells, a sales training, customer service training company and Creotempus Engineering, a business that sells and markets products for manufacturing companies wishing to grow their business into international markets.
Stephen is a Boost ‘sales specialist’ mentor and also presents a range of online Boost workshops.
Read Stephen’s previous article: It’s time to diversify!