Could you be doing more harm than good? In this episode, Paul shares the common pitfalls of selling during these tough and uncertain times.
Don’t be too aggressive. Refocus your energy and effort on aggressively growing your network. It might be more harmful to push deals forward. Focus on backfilling the top of your funnel.
Don’t serve new prospects at the cost of your current partners. This might cost you more in the long run. Also, don’t go out of your way to take care of your low-margin-high-aggravation-price-shopping customers. There is a cost to serve these bottom-of-the-barrel customers. And during tough times that cost may be too great to bear.
Just because some customers and prospects are struggling doesn’t mean that every customer and prospect is struggling.
Don’t feel guilty about charging your customers a fair price.
“I’m guessing your company website ends with ‘.com’ not ‘.org’. It’s okay to profit in tough times.”
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How NOT to sell in these tough uncertain times
(Transcribed from podcast)
The podcast has now been downloaded in over 32 countries, so the message continues to spread. In fact, I got an email from one of our listeners, Jim, who’s actually in Australia. Australia has the second most downloads of all the countries, so, hey, Australia!
The question is about what not to do in tough times. This question came in an email. The salesperson, Jim, mentioned “During these times, you’re giving a lot of tips on what to do, how you can do things, your attitude, etc. What are the things we shouldn’t be doing?” That’s what we’re going to answer on today’s episode. We’re going to get into this question today: some tips, some things not to do. I’ve got some great ideas. Some of these are things that have happened even in the past 24 hours. I’m witnessing things that salespeople are doing, one of which is driving me absolutely nuts. We’ll talk about that.
Before we get into it though, a quick shout out to our sponsor, The Creative Impostor Studio. During these times where people are craving to connect with people, podcasting is one way to do that. Connect with your customers; connect with your employees. If you’re interested in building your own podcast, reach out to Andrea and her team at The Creative Impostor Studio. I know one thing, when we built this podcast, a concern I had going in was all the technical stuff—what we need to do. Andrea and her team really help you out. Reach out. Information will be on our website.
Let’s get into how NOT to sell in uncertain times. The first thing I’d recommend: Don’t be too pushy or over-aggressive. This is a good rule of thumb in good times, but especially in these tough, uncertain times. Don’t be pushy and aggressive. In fact, this often happens because salespeople sometimes feel like they’re out of control; that they don’t know what to do during these tough times. They’re constantly putting pressure on themselves to hit their number. I get all that. It’s important to remember that during these tough times, salespeople still have a number to hit.
I’m going to encourage you to do something different. Don’t focus on the number that you need to hit. Instead, switch your focus to something else. Switch your focus to expanding your network. If you’re prospecting right now, do some soft outreach to some new companies that you’re trying to get a hold of. Nothing too aggressive. Just try to connect with them; maybe on LinkedIn, maybe a phone call. Send your prospects a letter. I love a letter because, first of all, there’s no delete button on a letter. Also, it requires no action on the prospect’s part. It’s an introductory piece; it’s a positioning tool. These are some things we can do right now. We can build our network. Get your name in front of that prospect; get your company’s name in front of them. Begin familiarizing them with your message. Right now is when we can position ourselves in the mind of the buyer. We can do that without being pushy and without being aggressive.
I know many of you probably had deals you were working on in the midst of all of this. Now, there’s probably a PAUSE button on some of those deals, or the scope is changing. I would also encourage you to focus more on filling the top of your funnel versus trying to close out the bottom of it. During these tough times, we can only ask for the order so much. If it’s clear that the buyer is not going to buy right now, we don’t want to jeopardize future business by being too pushy. Don’t focus too much on trying to close out these opportunities if they’re not going to happen. Instead, work on back-filling your pipeline of opportunities, because, once we come out of this, you’re going to have a full pipeline of opportunities that you can now push through. Don’t be too pushy or aggressive.
The second thing we want to avoid during this tough time: Don’t risk your current partner relationship to take care of a brand new prospect. During these uncertain times (I mean, this is really a bizarre time to go out there and try to run a business, that’s for sure. And, also bizarre for salespeople), what is often happening, and I’m seeing this from salespeople, prospects that are having trouble with their current provider (or partner or supplier) are now reaching out to other resources. If there’s limited supply or limited quantities of what you’re selling (or limited people or resources), don’t sacrifice the relationship you have with your current partners just to take care of a prospect. I say this because what does that say to your current partner that you have a relationship with? They need to be your priority. And, although that prospect might end up being a good future opportunity, you need to take care of the people that you promised you would take care of first. Think about how that will impact the relationship afterwards. Make sure that you’re taking care of your current partners first.
The third thing: Don’t assume business is bad everywhere. I know that during these tough times when you’re calling your existing customers and maybe some of the prospects you are interacting with, you might have three, four, five, ten calls in a row where the buyers just say, “We’re not doing anything right now. This is terrible. We’re furloughing employees. We’re having trouble keeping the doors open.” That might be the general tone, and if you hear that ten times in a row, that’s going to affect your attitude when you make that eleventh call. Before every single sales call that we make, we need to remind ourselves, “Okay. Just because business is bad in some areas doesn’t mean that it’s bad in other areas.” I was talking to a VP of sales just yesterday, talking about their business. This is a very large, multi-billion dollar organization. Yes, some areas of their business are impacted: the automotive space—yes, that is impacted by what’s going on. But, other areas of their business that are tied to medical products is doing very well. So, we never want to assume that just because business is bad in one area that it’s going to be bad in all the other areas. When we accept that—a negative mindset—it obscures our view to the opportunities that lay in front of us.
Point number four: Don’t prioritize price-shopping customers. When I work with organizations, it’s pretty clear, they usually have their top customers. These are going to be your partners, the ones that are there for you, the ones that are the most profitable that are good to work with; It’s the customers you want more of. Then, you’ve got that group of customers in the middle. Still good business, but they’re not as good as your top partners. Then, you have that group at the bottom. These are typically the price shopping customers; they complain more, they return goods more often, they ask for more concessions, they’re always complaining about price. This is the business that you want the competition to have. Well, during these uncertain times, these customers might complain a little bit more. They might ask for more concessions. They might ask you to extend their terms. Don’t do it. Use this as an opportunity to send those price-shopping, high-aggravation, low-margin customers to the competitor. Don’t make any sort of concession, because during these tough times, you can’t afford to make bad business decisions. You can’t afford to take away your company’s resources to serve a customer that always complains; that pays late; that’s not very profitable. We don’t want that business right now. Send that business to the competition, and certainly, don’t make them a priority. Make your top partners a priority. Make that middle group a priority, but not your price-shopping customers.
Number five: Don’t feel guilty about the price you’re charging. During these tough times, I understand that people are looking to help out their customers. Especially the customers we’re close to, that we have a strong bond with. But, keep in mind that it’s okay to make money during these tough times. You’ve got to remember, you don’t run a charity. If you’re listening to this podcast, I’m guessing that your company’s website ends in .com, not .org. It’s okay to make money!
Now, if you’re concerned about the price you’re charging (if you feel guilty about the price you’re charging), I would ask another question. Are you feeling guilty about the price or are you feeling guilty about the lack of value that you personally bring? Think about that for a moment. If you don’t believe that what you provide—your total solution, meaning the product, the company, and then you as the salesperson—if you don’t believe that is worth the price, then, maybe you do feel a little guilty. Maybe you should re-harness that energy and say, “This is our price. How can I personally create more value? What can I do to help this customer solve more problems? What can I do to follow through? How can I coordinate better on our end? How can I make their life easier?” Ask yourself those questions. Don’t look directly at cutting the price or even feeling guilty about that price. That’s a negative attitude toward the solution that we’re presenting.
The final tip: Don’t be a moron in your messaging. Right now, salespeople panic. And maybe some of them, in the midst of all this panic, are trying new things. Just don’t be a moron in your customer messaging. I’ll give you an example of this. Just the other day, I’ve been getting a few emails from this one organization who I’ve never met with, have no interest in, have never heard of them. They got my email address somewhere. They keep reaching out to me; they keep bugging me. This final email came out this morning. Here’s the headline… The subject says,
“The Pope sends his regards.” Then, it goes on to say, “Seriously. It’s harder to get a hold of you than the Pope. LOL. I totally understand that you’re busy and wouldn’t take any offense if you told me to stop emailing you. Well, maybe just a little.”
This is how the message started off. I have no interest in ever doing business with someone that communicates like that.
Don’t be a moron in your messaging as we go through these tough times. You want to read your message and edit it, not only for typos and grammar, etc., but the emotional side of it. Any message you send to your customers or to your prospects right now, you need to emotionally proofread that message. Figure out how this person is going to receive that message. What tone does this send? Every message—everything you do, everything you say—sends a message to your prospects and to your customers. What kind of message are you trying to send? That has to be the acid test. How would they receive this?
If you’re doubting, if you’re concerned about the message that you’re getting ready to send, send it to a few of your colleagues; send it to a sales manager; send it to a high-level decision maker within your organization. Say to that high-level decision maker, “Mr. VP, or Ms. VP. I’m getting ready to send this message to one of my high-level decision makers at a prospect. If you got a message like this, how would you receive it? What are your thoughts? What is your feedback?” Get feedback from different levels within your own organization. Because, every time you send a message to your customer or prospect, you’re starting to build an image of yourself and your company in their mind. Is that a positive image? Is it the image you want to project?
Make it a big day!