Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and arrest on February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.
Every business has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in one way or another. Employees getting sick, a rapid shift to remote work, labor shortages, and supply chain issues are just a few of the challenges companies have dealt with these last two years.
Just as businesses have changed, so must sales. If you're not making changes in your sales processes, you're probably leaving money on the table. Here are a few strategies to help you continue to effectively do sales and marketing in the pandemic and beyond:
Have Deep Empathy
There's a good chance that the person you're trying to sell to is struggling somehow. Maybe a loved one is currently sick, or they're stressed from trying to work from home while their three kids attend school on Zoom.
A little bit of humanity goes a long way right now. Just as people have a desire to genuinely connect with others, they're also burnt out and more easily triggered. Lazy and callous sales or marketing outreach is much more likely to get marked as spam, so it's more important than ever to be thoughtful and targeted.
Embody Patient Persistence
Before the pandemic, maximizing your chances of getting a response from a potential customer required a series of eight sales prospecting emails. That's because on average, one-third of the total responses would come from emails five through eight. In other words, if you only sent four emails, you'd be missing out on a third of potential customers.
But now, there are even more chances that your email will go unread, especially as new Covid-19 cases surge amidst variant mutations. People might be sick themselves, busy with caretaking for another family member, or just distracted and demotivated at work.
And the same is true for when you get ghosted by a prospective customer: is this person just not interested in what you're selling, or might they be in the hospital themselves?
Overall, there are just more distractions for the many employees who are now working from home. So you have to work even harder to reach them and keep the conversation going through close.
Don't give up or get discouraged if people aren't responding immediately or ghost you. Realize they might be dealing with their own crises, but continue to reach out with thoughtful and pleasant persistence.
Many things have drastically changed since the pandemic started, and that needs to be recognized. Beyond the lifestyle changes of the people you're selling to, organizations' priorities and ways of operating have also transformed.
For example, it's going to be a lot harder to sell sponsorship deals to in-person conferences. Likewise, previously popular "office perks" like gourmet snacks and other gimmicks are suddenly irrelevant for the many companies that have shifted to remote work.
There are many other subtle ways business priorities have shifted and reordered, and this needs to be addressed in order to keep selling effectively. The value propositions or pain points that used to quickly close deals may no longer be relevant to buyers, or at least not as compelling as in the past. If you haven't already, it's a good idea to overhaul and refresh your sales messaging and strategies to make sure they still make sense.
Now is also more important than ever to have a highly targeted sales approach. Lumping together all your leads into one generic and un-targeted email campaign isn't going to work. You don't necessarily have to write a personalized email for every prospective customer, but you should at least be creating detailed "Buyer Personas" with specific titles and firmographic criteria to segment your email lists. And you need a specific and compelling message to resonate with each of those audiences.
Inboxes are fuller than ever and attention spans are at their shortest. This means using old canned email templates or regurgitating buzzword-filled slogans isn't going to cut it.
If you want your sales pitch to truly be heard and seriously considered, you need to work harder to stand out and stay top of mind with buyers.
Begin taking steps to regularly exercise your "creative muscles" at work, as well as in everyday life. Try writing new pitches and email templates every day, or at least once a week. Test new mediums and platforms to connect with buyers, even if your business hasn't done so before. You never know what might become a new winning strategy or tactic until you try.
Things have been changing fast since the pandemic started, and unfortunately, it's still not over yet. While the worst is hopefully behind us, it's not unlikely that we will experience more rapid transformations within society and business in the near future.
You need to stay curious and keep experimenting with new messaging, tactics, and processes if you want to continue to be successful. What works really well for you today might not be an option tomorrow, so you should never rely on any one thing. Be aware of new industry trends--whether driven by societal shifts, new technology, or government policy changes.
What changes might affect your buyers positively or negatively? Try to think ahead, and continue to prepare yourself for both best-case and worst-case scenarios.
For example, maybe things will re-open in the spring and you'll be able to attend industry conferences and close a bunch of deals. But what if they don't? Or what if there's an economic crash? Likewise, how could labor and supply shortages benefit or harm your business efforts?
If you stay agile, and keep growing and learning while thinking ahead, you'll be ready for everything.