Sales teams often experience seasonal ups and downs throughout the year. But the current global health crisis is hitting businesses especially hard.
People are being forced to change their lifestyles, adjust to working from home and reevaluate their needs. With all of this uncertainty, it’s important to communicate with your customers and your team with empathy and compassion.
Your customers have plenty of questions right now. They're wondering how this crisis will affect their business. Meanwhile, your team is looking for guidance on how to manage and retain their leads and clients.
In this article, we’re going to give you practical solutions that will help you keep your team informed, and help them keep your customers reassured.
What’s in this article:
What to communicate to your customers and when
First and foremost, your customers are looking to the companies they rely on for guidance and clarity. The best way to calm anxiety and nerves is to communicate periodically to keep them informed.
When communicating with customers and clients about your business’s actions during the pandemic, it’s important to practice empathy and express your company’s collective support to your customer base. The tone should be relatable and communicate that we are all in this together.
Next, provide detailed, actionable information that will be useful to your customers right now. Inform them of any new policies that your business is adopting at this time to weather the storm and help your customers do the same.
For example, highlight any temporary offerings you are promoting, like an extension to payment deadlines or a free upgrade to a subscription. Make sure to explain how cancellations will be handled. Relay your updated company policy in detail (i.e. if you’ll be giving refunds or offering credits to be used at a later time).
Sales is at its best when helping customers to succeed. Now more than ever your priority should be supporting your customers, not trying to make a sale. The last thing you want to convey is that you’re still trying to hit your quota, make your commission and satisfy your personal needs.
How to update your cold outreach policies
Naturally, standard cold outreach won’t be appropriate at this time. At “time of writing”, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and to reach out with your usual messaging may come across as tone-deaf.
Read the market and stay attuned to social shifts. Everyone is entering uncharted territory so there will be an adjustment period. Timing, as is always the case with cold emails and calls, is crucial.
When a sense of normalcy begins to set in, it’s more appropriate to reach out. Your messaging should be adjusted accordingly, however. Acknowledge that this climate may be the new normal for some time and assure your customers that you’re going to do your best to adapt and continue providing a service.
We are all in this together and you are here to help. Therefore, the best cold emails and calls will be those that truly add value in a time when your prospects need it. Ask yourself what businesses need the most right now. Then follow through with valuable, targeted messaging.
For example, if you have a product or service that can help remote-work teams boost productivity, now is a great time to highlight that solution, or the features specific to solving this pain point. Consider offering a special promotion on that product and include those details in the outreach.
By taking this approach, you are able to serve and sell in tandem, creating an ideal scenario for both your business and your customers in need.
How to help salespeople manage their customers with the right messaging
The best way to help your salespeople manage their customers is by taking a top-down approach. Your internal communications should be as compassionate as your external outreach.
Remember that your reps will have varying reactions to this health crisis. Some may be struggling more than others and in need of additional support. Set the tone by acting as a pillar of strength and offer guidance. Your reps are likely to mirror this behavior with their customers and represent your business as a reliable, trusted resource.
Relay to your team that messaging must focus on safety first and business second. Reassure your reps that their pipelines may struggle for a while, and that it’s ok. They will bounce back stronger than ever if they show their customers that they can serve them when they need it most.
Additionally, make sure that your digital channels are up to date and accurate. This way, your reps can easily direct their customers to the products and services that align with their most immediate needs.
What do you have in your wheelhouse that can help your clients get through this time? Perhaps a product, service, feature or piece of content from the past is the most relevant and important to aid customers through the present situation.
Re-engineer your solutions to consider your product’s most crucial benefits, and then optimize and refocus your messaging to fit the current need.
View this as an opportunity to try new things or revisit older solutions with minimal risk. If what you try fails, at least you acted—offering unique and creative solutions to do what you could to help.
How to track and support B2B clients that could be struggling financially
In this health emergency, some businesses are being forced to close, others are struggling financially and many are still conducting business as usual.
Check in with your customers to separate the most negatively affected from the pack. You can do this via personalized email outreach or over the phone. You can narrow this list down by reaching out to customers who have missed a payment, work for SMEs or in industries likely to be the worst affected, first. Once you know who needs your help the most offer video calls to discuss their situation. Now is the time to excel at inside sales.
Salespeople are often used to working independently and from home, but your clients may not be. View this as a teachable moment.
If you take the time to objectively listen to your client’s issues and offer advice, they will be thankful. Show them that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to continue a conversation with them and help them along their journey and out of this challenging period.
Now is also a great opportunity for managers to roll up their sleeves and get into the trenches—especially in service-based companies. This action will show both your clients and your teams that you can be depended on in the long-term.
Be prepared to encounter customers who are more stressed and frustrated than usual. Everybody is on edge, so prepare for this response and don’t take it personally. If your reps use a script on calls, or you have specific responses for overcoming objections, adapt them to take this into consideration. For example, if a lead or customer says they don’t have the budget right now to pay for your product, acknowledge that this is likely in some part caused by the financial crisis.
Additionally, you may have clients who don’t have the means or bandwidth to stay with you right now. If they don’t tell you outright, they may be avoiding this reality because it’s a decision they don’t want to make.
As a result, they may start to avoid communication and/or miss payments. Recognize these behaviors and reach out with compassion. Get creative and give them a better option than a hard cancellation. Perhaps you can freeze a subscription or payment on a feature until they’re back on their feet. Leave the door open for them to come back when this is over.
Practice humility, leave ego at the door and do the work you need to make life easier for everyone during this time.
How to communicate your own business challenges
Everybody is struggling. Be open and transparent about your own setbacks as well as your ongoing capabilities in these new circumstances.
Most importantly, do not over-promise if you need to scale down. Your customers will adjust their expectations based on your messaging and, more than likely, appreciate your honesty. Avoid overselling and under-delivering at all costs. Tensions are high and that will not be tolerated by your customers right now.
Your customers are relying on you. If you have a product or service you’ve been working on that could ease their struggles, share your progress and efforts with them.
This effort may mean, however, that you need to shift resources away from a new feature that was due to be released soon. Again, transparency is key. Your customers will understand the challenges you are facing as long as you admit to them, explain your status and update accordingly.
You can also communicate your challenges, tips and advice through engaging and encouraging content. You can do this through a blog, a newsletter, email or phone outreach, social media, LinkedIn posts and other online platforms. Get creative with the ways your company can be of service and share any important updates with your customers.
The whole world is adjusting to a new temporary reality. The most important part of your job as a sales manager or business owner is to support your customers and team.
Step up to the plate in a crisis and lead by example for your reps.
Adjust your messaging to acknowledge the current climate and do what you can to provide solutions that will help your customers immediately. Be open and transparent about your own struggles and explain what you’re doing to help others.
Your customers and team will remember how you responded to this crisis, so keep your chin up and put your best foot forward.