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How do you get your foot in the door when there’s no door?
Sales has always been a challenging occupation that requires unique skills, resourcefulness and motivation. The current virtual environment has done nothing to change those requirements, but it has forced the sales industry to re-think exactly how to sell.
What does a cold call or drop-in look like in the virtual world? How does a salesperson spark a client’s interest when neither party is in the same room, building or city? What skills can a sales rep turn to to bridge the distance in the age of social distancing?
Dr. Katie Hill, director of the R.M. ‘Bob’ Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State’s Neil Griffin College of Business, offers the following tips for success in the Zoom meeting era:
1. Use tech wisely
Use existing tech to its greatest effect, Hill says. This is a good time to revisit email greetings and voicemails, choosing the tone and words for their impact. If calling someone, don’t assume they have a lot of time; ask for permission to visit with them and let them know how long it will take. “This to me is very basic, but I see it and I hear it from professionals in the industry that aren’t doing this,” Hill says. Be ready for your Zoom meeting with your proposal and points to maximize your potential client’s time.
2. Be self-motivated
Sales still requires get up and go, even if you aren’t physically going anywhere. Working from home means there is no one to nudge you. Make your rounds, even if you’re doing it from your desk chair. “You have to be diligent,” Hill says. “I have some colleagues in other industries, they’re working so much more than they have in the past. Working 80- and 90-hour weeks because that’s what it takes to get it done and all of it is done virtually, sitting by yourself in a room. That’s exhausting but it takes motivation.”
3. Practice self care
It can be a short journey from looking at the same four walls to climbing them. It’s important to do things for yourself, reducing stress and improving your frame of mind. Frequent breaks, exercise or hobbies and pastimes help create a better frame of mind and boost productivity. “Especially during a time when you don’t know how long this is going last,” Hill says. “I have to make time regardless of what time it is, whether it’s really late at night before I go to bed, to exercise.”
4. Go Prospecting
Prospecting can often be a salesperson’s least favorite thing to do, Hill says. So do it. Some experts recommend doing the hard things first, which could mean starting the day with it. Regardless, it’s not a part of the job to slough off just because of social distancing. This is where your communication skills and use of tech can make a difference, Hill says.”We are not in the world now where you can just drop in on someone,” Hill says.
5. Be Visible
When you can’t hand out business cards you must find other ways to get on a potential client’s radar. Hill recommends setting aside 30 minutes daily to maintain a presence on the professional networking site LinkedIn. Don’t sell on Linkedin, she says, but post regularly so the algorithm recognizes you, use no more than five hashtags to get someone to engage and get to know the industry of the person you may be pitching to. “If your contact is an insurance agent maybe post an article that’s beneficial to them,” Hill says.
The objective hasn’t changed, even if the circumstances have. Sales people are still trying to find ways to make that vital connection, even as current events have changed the ways of getting that done.
Everyone is working in unfamiliar conditions and adapting to new methods, Hill says, and it may be reassuring to remember it’s a shared experience. That may also be good for relationships with clients.
“I think probably client maintenance at this point has become even more important,” Hill says. “Moreso, understanding what your clients might be going through. All of us have been hit by this. There is no party that has gotten off easily.”