COVID-19 insights. Part 2: Selling

Updated: May 15, 2020

Recently, the general mindset has shifted to looking at the opportunity the near future holds, especially in companies where excessive furloughing has been avoided. The most common topic I've seen is how to re-build the sales pipeline.  

Many people will not be wanting to talk to salespeople now or be sold to. So its more critical now than ever for pipeline generation to be invested in by a broader community within the business. It also needs to be relevant, understanding that revenue is in the future, not now, and focus on building relationships first, based on value, before selling can happen.  

So I thought I’d share some practical tips, that have stood the test of time for me, and whilst aren't intended to be a comprehensive guide, will hopefully provide some easily understandable principles that everyone can adopt, whether they are in sales or not. 

Existing pipeline – how do you drive that compelling reason to act?

DON’T, resort to price conversations.

Unless you know that their position hasn’t changed. Have you re-qualified the position the client is in and got a clear sequence of events to close? If not, and then it’s probably not the time to talk money.

DO consider how procurement may have changed.

Your prospect may not be aware of this. Your salespeople should be earning their crust here and be able to help them, firstly by finding out and understanding what has to be done. 4C Associates provide a very informative document, which I’ve added into the comments that gives some real structure to the different areas of this crisis.  

DO as the founder/leader/owner, support your sales team.

Messages to specific contacts (where relevant), which are well crafted, honest and genuinely authentic, can have a tremendous impact on kick-starting a sales cycle again. (Get in touch with me if you'd like to see some of my examples.)

DO consider your customer pain.

Has it changed? What is constantly breaking for your customers? How can you and the team fix it?

DO consider broader conversation starters with your client/prospect.

Take them away from the specifics of pitching and qualifying to open them up and see your considerate side, eg; is your vision for a solution the same now as when you started - if not, what’s changed? If you were to start again with this cycle, what would you look at differently? What are your future plans and how have they changed?

DO think about the long term value of a relationship with your client.

At Sempre, the whole company works hard to get to know our customers and become friends with them. It's one of our values; treat colleagues like family and customers like friends. We look after them and in return, they look after us.

By the way,

DON’T think of your customer or prospect as a ‘logo’.

This is a real pet hate for me and this type of mindset was one of the reasons I left a former employer before going on to set up Sempre. It drives the wrong mentality in your team. If you treat your customers with the respect they deserve and look after them correctly, they will look after you in the long term. Simple.

Prospecting - How do you find new prospects?

DON’T pitch to people – at least, not until they are ready.  

DO consider WIIFM.

What’s In It For Me. Every time you talk to a prospect or client, they ask this question in their heads (whether they know it or not). For me, this is one of the most powerful questions in life, let alone in sales. When I started in sales over 20 years ago, things we take for granted today like social media and marketing automation didn’t exist; this became my mantra when cold calling, enabling me to outperform year after year. It is just as important today. 

 WIIFM: Whats In It for me

If you don’t answer this, As an old boss of mine said, if you don’t answer WIIFM, you’ll get BOHICA instead – Bend Over Here It Comes Again.

How do you avoid getting BOHICA’d? Get to know them and help them identify their pains. Due diligence first. Add value (help them) second, then only think about pitching.

DO review your prospect communication.

Calls, presentations, and emails – how is the balance of 'I', 'we', 'us', compared to 'you', 'yours'? Are you finding out about them or just talking about yourself?

DO understand the buying cycle that everyone goes through.

First and foremost, is the customer even problem aware? No point selling your offering to them if they don't know they have the problem. Single Grain and the fantastic Eric Siu have a great article on this, which I’ve posted in the comments detailing examples of what content to use at the TOFU, MOFU & BOFU / AIDA stages of a marketing funnel - relevant also for prospecting.

DO be authentic.

Automation is great, but with so much digital noise, human to human interaction is increasingly crucial. The best communications I have demonstrated initial research, are personally written (or at least 25% of the message), are relevant and genuinely looking to help, with no intention of any further commitment. Unfortunately, authenticity is still very rare. Whilst Covid-19 does present an opportunity in certain markets as some competitors are hibernating, spraying and praying will still not work.

DO use technology.

There are loads of free tools that can analyse: your content – you should be aiming for readability of an 8-year-old, your headlines to make sure they are impactful, as well as tools that make it easy for people to speak to you. I’ve put a list of these in the comments 

Many have comprehensive integration capabilities even in their free versions, so there really is no excuse for any sellers or even anyone communicating with customers not to take advantage of these. You can even get the lovely bot, Jen to be your scheduling assistant.

By the way,

DON’T send your customer a “we’re here to help” message

Unless you know them well, and they know you, they are unlikely to have a positive impact.  

And last, but by no means least, if in doubt, less is almost always more. Always think KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.

If you have any other tips and techniques I’d love to hear them.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn

Associated documents:

4C Associates Procurement document:

Single Grain Marketing Funnel:

Content support:

Headline analyser -

Reading age checker – free versions give you instant insight into the complexity of your content - /

Grammar checker – free version integrates with your desktop and online working -

Email & Calendar automation:

Automate when you send your emails -

Free versions enable you to integrate with your calendars. Chatbots also available. -   /

Why not add in a personal assistant – you own jen bot -

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