Covid has changed how clients buy.
The global pandemic changed the ways of working and ways of engaging for many businesses. Naturally, with sales as an essential part of business – how the sales process is conducted has also evolved. Let me be clear here – how the sales process being conducted does not mean the sales process has changed. How sales executives spend their efforts during each stage of the sales process is what has been forced to change with Covid-19. When most of the world was meeting virtually and eye contact became non-existent in these settings, that was just the beginning of how our actions along the sales process differed from before.
From the client’s perspective – having to conduct most business activities from “the comfort of their own home” from morning until odd-hours at night – the last thing they wanted to do was help another sales person meet their quarterly targets. For many sales executives, this became a blockage to progressing with the sales process. Yet – the ones that thrived took on this challenge to change the ways they were interacting with their clients. They realized that their clients wanted 2 important things:
1 / Empathy
More than ever, this has become essential to building that relationship with others. Before the pandemic even hit us, I wrote a blog on Empathy in Sales – which I discussed the importance of having this mindset when interacting with clients. Since the mass adoption of virtual meetings – taking more time to empathize with clients has become even more important. Taking time to let the client speak their mind on what is going on with their lives, or their thoughts on what the future holds for them with so many changes everyday – this helps people feel closer in this quarantined environment. For the sales executive – by understanding how the client is feeling, one would have a better appreciation of what can be done to increase the client’s comfort, or decrease their fears.
To take it a step further, empathy practiced allows others to share their views. In this world of abundant information and heavy internet usage, people are filled with information – some factual and some not. Nevertheless, this information is fed into our clients’ thinking and opinions are formed. In large, these opinions are our client’s beliefs – what/how they they see the future from their perspective. By understanding our client’s beliefs, we can better gauge how we should engage with the client – what to do more of or avoid doing. While we cannot easily change a client’s beliefs, by understanding them we can have more clarity of their background and what has formed their beliefs. People hold their beliefs closely to their hearts and it drives much of their future decisions. Beliefs guide what one would be receptive of, or reject. By empathizing with the client and discovering what beliefs are in common – the foundation of a relationship is formed. People of similar beliefs tend to connect better. Hope you believe it.
2 / Pleasure, not Pain
In a previous article, I wrote about how “Old School Selling is not fitting for the New Economy”. The old school way of selling was to uncover a client’s “pain” and dig into it, so the client feels so much pain they are asking you to help relieve it. I often think how many sales executives who practice this today have become masochists.
Yes, pain is what clients want to avoid, but in a pandemic-hit world, there are many forms of pain around us. Not being able to easily travel, shake hands or commute to the office, etc. One could go on and on about their pains… but that wouldn’t be as progressive as talking about what they wanted – what would bring them pleasure. Human nature is to run away from pain, and run towards pleasure – and for clients – their pleasures can take the form of reducing workload, optimizing revenue or simply bringing convenience to their personal lives. Applying empathy through a dialog which brings the client to speak about how they want their future to look and feel like – these are dialogs which brings a client to focus on what they do want. Perhaps their organization is looking to make a big transformation as a result of Covid-19. Maybe they want to re-capture market share which was lost due to the change in business environment. Whatever they are setting as an aspiration/goal, if that’s what your offering can deliver to the client – Congratulations!
For both the points above – what lies in common is that we need to invite the client to speak and share more to have a closer connection. While this is not new, what has changed is the importance of it. If one thing this pandemic has taught us – is that social connection is invaluable. When working with clients – let’s make that connection the beginning of an invaluable relationship.