On this episode, Paul shares ideas on selling your solution even to those customers who are experiencing tough times.
Use empathy as your internal monitor when selling to customers who are struggling.
“Find new ways to support that customer.” Make the customer aware of your value-added services.
“Rigid policy does not serve you well when customers are facing tough times.” Flexibility is key.
Longevity and experience give a struggling customer peace of mind.
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How do you sell to customers who are struggling?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s show, we are going to answer a question that many of you are probably asking yourselves right now. And that question is, “How do you sell to customers who are struggling?”
So, I was having a call just the other day with one of my clients in Latin America. And in their particular country, you know, like many countries throughout the world, their customers are struggling. We’re experiencing that here in the U S. We’re experiencing it, Latin America, Europe, Asia. Anywhere, customers are struggling. So I’m going to give a couple of thoughts today on how you can sell to those customers, even when they are struggling.
Before we do that, though, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Andrea does such a great job helping us, supporting the podcast, keeping it going. If you were thinking of starting a podcast, or you just have kind of an itch to start one and you need someone to talk through it with, Andrea is a great resource. In fact, we’re going to have a link over to her website on this episode’s webpage. Make sure you reach out to her. She does a wonderful job.
Also speaking of selling to customers who are struggling, I’ve got my new book coming out this September, maybe October, we’re still kind of working on the launch date, but the book is at the editor’s right now, and I’ll tell you, it’s exciting. In this book, we’re going to have several strategies that will help you sell to customers who are struggling. The book is called Selling Through Tough Times. You guys are going to hear more about it as we get closer to the actual launch date. And actually, we’ve got a really fun promotional thing we’re going to be doing on the book. Can’t tell you about it right now; It’s still kind of a secret, but you’re going to hear about it plenty once we get that up and running. So pick up your copy when it is available. I’ll have more info on that.
Let’s get back to that question. How do you sell to customers who are struggling? So anytime our customers are struggling, it’s important that our messaging is empathetic, that it has the right tone along with the right words as well. You know, empathy is one of the greatest gifts we have in this world, and it’s especially important when people are struggling. So we want to make sure we’re crafting a message with an empathetic tone, that we’re using empathy as our internal monitor when we’re selling to our customers who are struggling. That’s just kind of an overarching principle—something to think about—is when you’re selling to customers who are struggling, you have to put yourself in their position. You have to think as they think, feel as they feel. You have to try to understand what they’re going through. And just the simple act of doing that is going to help you create a more compelling message. It’s going to help you find new ways to create value for that customer. So remember, empathy is key.
With that being said, though, there are three things I’m going to share with you today—three tips/ideas that will help you sell to customers who are struggling.
The first thing, you have to send a supportive message to the customer. Support is absolutely critical. If you truly partner with your customers and you believe that your relationship with your customers is deeper than just a transaction, then you need to support them and you need to do that in unique ways. You need to offer additional value-added services that can help your customer get through the tough time that they are experiencing.
In fact, I was thinking of the salesperson I spoke with earlier this week and they asked, “How do you sell to customers when they’re struggling?” This individual salesperson, he was so focused on the customer. He said, “You know, that’s one of the things that will differentiate our company versus other companies in the industry. They view our solution and the exchange as a mere transaction. And we view it as more of a relationship where we get to know our customers. We consult with them.”
I said, “You need to continue doing those things. And then in addition to that, find new ways to support that customer. You can offer them additional services that maybe you didn’t think of before. Think of ways you can offer them additional training. Perhaps that’s something that they need right now. But just find a way to offer more support to your customers. That means making them aware of your value-added services that you do not charge for.” Remember, during tough times, customers are looking to take full advantage of any sort of support that they can get. So if you have ways that you can do this, mention it to them again. Maybe you mentioned it earlier, but unless they have a compelling need at the moment you mentioned it, then they’re not going to move forward. They’re not going to take advantage of that service. So just go back, support your customers with additional value-added services.
The second tip is flexibility. Flexibility is absolutely critical, especially for you larger companies out there. So if you’re a salesperson for a Fortune 500 company or a large organization, flexibility hasn’t always been your strong suit. And I can tell you this, I’ve worked with companies of all shapes and sizes, and when I work with small companies, small-to-medium-sized businesses, they ask me, “How do I compete with the large companies?” And when I work with the large Fortune 500 companies, they’ll tell me, “Man, I got this one competitor in our area. It’s a small business, but man, they are eating our lunch.” So, each company has different advantages when it comes to flexibility. This is where smaller companies have an advantage.
So you need to look for ways to become more flexible in your policies. Rigid policy does not serve you well when customers are facing tough times, and so you need to look at different ways that you can adapt. Look for ways to tweak your solutions; look for ways to enhance some of your services to be more flexible for the customer. You need to give your salespeople an opportunity to step outside the line, We all have lines, the policies, the procedures, all that, that guide the general business. But during tough times, we cannot treat those policies and procedures as gospel. Instead, we need to be flexible with them. Give your salespeople some autonomy. Be able to step outside the line to serve your customers better. Flexibility is critical.
And the third thing, longevity. And here’s what I mean by longevity. If your company has been around for a long time, that’s important, and here’s why. When customers are facing uncertainty, when they make decisions under a cloud of uncertainty, they want to know there’s a company there that has been through tough times before that has navigated uncertainty. Those are the companies that customers want to partner with because you’ve proven yourself. You’ve proven that you can stand the test of time.
So one company I was working with, they were in business for over 125 years. And one of the salespeople at break asked me a great question. He said, “Do our customers really care if we’ve been around that long?” I said, “During times of uncertainty, yes. Unequivocally, yes, they do care. And the reason why is if you’ve been around through tough times before, you’re going to make it through the one that you’re currently experiencing.” So if you’re a salesperson right now, make sure you emphasize your experience. If you’ve got 30+ years of experience in the industry, mention that. If your company has a 100 years of experience, mention that, and mention it in a supportive tone and let the customer know, “Hey, we’ve been through tough times before. Our company knows how to handle these. We’ve been through the Great Depression, countless recessions. We’ve experienced downturns before, we’re going to be here to support you as we go through this downturn.” That’s the key.
Again, the three things—remember, offer some support; be flexible in how you support your customer; and then finally, emphasize your longevity. If you’ve been around, you’re going to stay around. In fact, experience is so important it plays into longevity. In fact, I remember, gosh, I was on a flight, this was probably three years ago, three or four years ago going down to New Orleans from St. Louis. We boarded the plane and got on the flight. You know, the captain did their thing and talked about, We’re cruising at 36,000 feet, blah, blah, blah. It should be about an hour and 20 minute-30 minute flight.” Did all that stuff. He said, “We might run into a little bit of weather on the way down there. So just be prepared for that.”
So we get up there, and man, the plane is bouncing in the air. Man, these turbulence were horrible. And what was interesting, when we landed in New Orleans, the flight attendant got on the PA system and said, “We wanted to congratulate Captain So-and-So for his very first solo flight,” and everyone cheered and all that. And I jokingly said to the person next to me, “Notice how they told us after we landed that it was his very first solo flight as captain?”
Now, the other thing I think about, one thing my dad said to me one time, he said, “You know, when I used to fly a bunch,” he said, “and there was a lot of turbulence, I liked to see some gray hair there in the cockpit. I like to see a captain who’s got a lot of gray hairs, who’s been through turbulence before,” and it just made me think that’s what customers want. When they face turbulent times, they want someone with experience. They want you, if you have experience.
Now, if you’re a new salesperson, don’t get frustrated by that. Just leverage the experience you have on your team. But the key is, customers want longevity. It gives them some comfort knowing. It gives them peace of mind, so find a way to give it to them.
Make it a big day.