How to Sell to Customers During a Global Crisis

There’s a lot of panic in the U.S., with good reason. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, most businesses are not operating “as usual”, which means your sales tactics should be sensitive to the specific needs of your customers. So how can you keep the sales process going without seeming unthoughtful or out of touch? 

See if you pre-qualify!

Having a rough script for tough conversations is a great way to avoid going off topic and not getting the response you want on sales calls. The best way to move forward is to update those scripts. Here are a few ways to prep for continuing your operations while ensuring that you’re having genuine conversations with current and potential clients as well as employees during this difficult time.

1. Look at your industry

You’ve probably got competitors in your industry. Do some investigating to see how the pandemic has impacted your industry overall. Are there experts offering suggestions via blog posts, webinars, or articles? Review how your competitors are handling the crisis and make note of what they are doing that seems to be working…and what isn’t.

2. Research the prospect before calling

One of the biggest mistakes of any sales call - even outside of a pandemic - is not knowing what’s going on with your prospect. Look up your potential client’s website and social media, and specifically look for how the business has handled COVID-19. Did they have to shut down? Are they back to work? Only half staffed? Knowing these things beforehand can help you navigate the conversation before you even dial their number.

3. Acknowledge that things are different

Chances are, the COVID-19 pandemic has personally affected your customer in some way, outside of their business. Include an anecdote of your own in your script - Something about having to work from home or changes in your routine. Keep it simple but relatable, and don’t stress over being perceived a certain way. It’s okay that you’re not entirely sure how to approach your customers during this time. They’ll appreciate the honesty and will likely have their own story to share.

4. Redefine what value means

People love to buy, but hate to be sold. That is especially true in today’s business climate. Remember that your prospect’s definition of what is valuable has probably changed due to recent events. If they need more time, or would like you to email information, be as accommodating as possible and let them know you’re available when they’re ready to complete the sale.

5. Keep in touch with customers

It’s not all about the sales – you want to keep building your brand to stay top-of-mind for even those reluctant to spend. So how can you make current customers loyal and encourage them to keep purchasing from your business during the economic downturn?

Communicate with current (and potential) customers via newsletters, email, or your social media channels. It’s important to acknowledge the issues you’re facing and how your company is adapting. You should also let customers know you are there for them and will continue to provide stellar service.


6. Offer a price break

You might not want to think about a potential dip in revenue but your business might benefit substantially if you target customers for special offers. You can also target leads who haven't purchased yet and then continue to send them special offers to retain their business.
Find out how to improve customer retention and learn why client loyalty is so important to your business in this blog post: Improve Customer Retention by Following Our 12 Strategies.

7. Collect Customer Feedback

Collecting and analyzing customer feedback can help you identify behavior patterns during uncertain times. Make a point of asking for customer feedback about everything from satisfaction with your products and services to the ease of using your website or payment processing system. Install survey tools on your website to handle the technical aspect, and review the results to find trends. Once you identify what customers are attracted to, you can better retain your current customers.

8. Adjust Marketing Strategy

You’ll need to pivot your marketing efforts and adjust for revenue dips. Our article has helpful tips that include how to modify your budget, stay on top of your industry, and seek out grants and other financial programs to support small businesses: Small Business Marketing Strategies During COVID-19.

9. Exceed Expectations

In this new normal, business operations have been stressed across every industry. Customers want to know what to expect in terms of wait times, response times, and employee interactions. Even the most understanding customer can get frustrated, unsure of when they might hear back or what a support representative will be able to do to resolve their problem. Remove this uncertainty by making sure customer expectation have been met.

The fact that this might be something that worries you means you’re human, and that’s a good thing! Companies that lead with empathy and compassion during this crisis have an opportunity to build even stronger relationships. Here are articles that can help guide your customer service: Customer Service Skills for Success.

10. Be patient and take one day at a time

The good news is that the COVID 19 shut downs won’t last forever (although it seems like it at times). It’s easy to become impatient when things aren’t moving fast or conversion rates dip. Things may be very slow right now but put strategies in place to keep your own energy and enthusiasm up. If you notice that employees are feeling the stress, work closely with them to determine how you can help. The SmartBiz Small Business Blog has resources to give ideas you can implement to ease the stress.

Final thoughts

Times are definitely different, but this isn’t the end. It’s an epic opportunity to evolve, grow, and conquer. Don’t stop doing what you do. You just may have to adjust the way you are doing it, or who you are doing it for. Here’s to better times ahead for all small business owners.