“We’re shutting it all down. Our sales team is working from home and they’re just not selling anything so, we’re going to shut it down.”
That’s what a customer told me last week.
The entire world has been disrupted by the current crisis but already, there are plans being made to start reopening US businesses and start returning to normal in certain areas.
So, the uncertainty will continue but, there is absolutely no reason you can’t continue to find and engage customers today, while everyone is at home.
We all know this. The entire global economy starts and stops on your ability to connect your products and services with your customers. Otherwise there is no trade, no exchange of funds, no money to pay employees. Nothing.
So, let’s pick up the phone and make it happen!
All it takes is a bit of creativity. Here are a few obstacles that our current situation presents to most businesses and some simple ideas for overcoming them.
My Customers Aren’t Buying Anything
First, this is a great time to build rapport with your customers. Let them know you care about them and you’re here for them. Your competitors are NOT.
Figure out a way to sell them what they’ll need in the future
Discounts for a Year’s worth of stuff with flexible payment terms
Signed POs or Letters of Intent with Shipment/Payment on some future date
I can’t buy materials and produce products
Keep customers informed of what you ARE doing – “We don’t have inventory to ship you today but, we’re doing this, this, and this to build inventory and/or be ready to ship ASAP when things are back to normal.
Take orders for future deliveries
Guarantee to match lowest pricing/best terms
My customers can’t come into the store
Take orders online
Ship them product
Deliver orders to them in the parking lot
Everyone is at home and not producing. I can’t manage them from home.
Zoom.us – web meeting with customers, video conferencing with the team
SalesNexus.com – everything about every customer in one place – emails, documents, notes, etc.
My Customers Aren’t Answering the Phone
Of course, everyone on your marketing, sales and customer service teams has unique needs and challenges when it comes to working from home. Below we’ve outlined specific suggestions and tools, role by role.
Leading from home may be the toughest but, it’s not impossible. This post outlines some high level strategies leaders should consider when the team is transitioning to working from home.
The short list of absolute musts is:
Meet and talk often. Leverage web meeting tools like Zoom.us. Over use it and over use your webcam. Video helps keep the personal connection with your team strong. Start a group chat using skype.com, slack.com and similar solutions. In the office, the breakroom or the water cooler is where the chit-chat happens. You can keep that going virtually and keep your finger on the pulse of morale, “inter-office” gossip/rumors, etc.
Many sales teams are already basically virtual, even though they may not think of outside sales and regional offices and distributors as a virtual team. However, if you’re running a call center in the office, the inability to literally see who is on the phone and who is not changes everything about how you lead your team.
If you’re using Excel to track account lists and status, sales forecasts, call logs, etc, try Google Sheets. It’s easy to use if you already know how to use Excel and it avoids the confusion of multiple people emailing multiple versions of an Excel file around. Instead of always working with a sheet that doesn’t include some recent change made by a team member, everyone is always using the same sheet together, in real time, AND it’s always up to date.
If you’re using Outlook for calendar, contacts, etc., then working from home may present a few challenges. If you’re not able to share calendars in Outlook when not in the office, then try moving to Office 365. It’s a relatively easy transition from Outlook/Exchange and lets everyone connect and share from anywhere.
Whether it’s the Morning Huddle with the team or the weekly sales team meeting, there is crucial intelligence about customers, deals, the marketplace and personnel issues that these meetings let you tap into. Keep it going with online meeting tools. Don’t decrease the frequency, increase it. Encourage communication and sharing and give the team more opportunities to talk, not fewer.
Your team will be using the phone and email for most of their customer communications, in place of face to face meetings. So, where you had been using meeting logs and reports to track progress, you now need a call log and an email log. Plus, your business phone system may not be available remotely. Tools like RingCentral.com are great virtual business phone systems that include reporting on all calls made and received by your team, including call recordings. So, if you’re worried about not being able to literally hear what reps are saying to customers, this can be a great option. Plus, your reps can literally click to call right from a contact record on your CRM at home.
You need to know what your team members are saying to customers and what customers are saying to them. And all of the sudden, a lot more of it is via email. Tools like SalesNexus give teams, that use Outlook or Gmail for email, an easy way to report on and view all email correspondence with customers in one place.
If you do most of your business face to face, then this is going to be a big change for you and your customers but remember, thousands of sales people have been doing 100% of their business via phone and email for years. You can too. If your company is making moves to get their operations and teams collaborating online, then be an eager participant in these efforts. Tech is going to be your friend in this transition. Even if your company is not making an attempt to keep you working during this lockdown, your customers want to hear from you and this is your opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors and others on your team that are taking advantage of the lockdown as a forced vacation.
Here are the primary challenges that you’ll want to address:
Replacing meetings with phone calls and emails isn’t impossible but, don’t make the mistake of assuming a 30 minute phone call with a customer is the same as a 30 minute meeting. The value of being in the same room with your customers is tremendous – body language, meeting members of their team, etc. Your goal in selling via the phone is to try and replace those advantages with other tactics that help you build relationships and strengthen trust.
Get organized and keep notes about unique and personal info about your customers. Remembering which college they went to is easy in the office because their diploma is on the wall. On the phone, you have to ask about those things you would notice in the office and remember them.
Learn to manage yourself instead of relying on your supervisor or manager. They’re going to be distracted and you may not get as much input as you’re used to. How do you decide who to reach out to each day? If you don’t have a todo list for the day, start one. This helps you stay focused on key objectives instead of letting the events of the day hijack your day.
Scheduling appointments is going to be more chaotic for customers due to similar changes in their work environment, use tools like calendly.com.
Get comfortable with using your webcam and tools like skype.com and zoom.us to meet with customers virtually.
Create emails and phone scripts for the sales team (calendly, etc.) – On emails, use A/B testing to see what messaging strategies are resonating most, pivot and adjust!
Switching from tradeshows to digital– hold webinars, and virtual events for your clients and prospects. Use the messages performing best in your email marketing (above) in search and display ads online.
Landing page tools – you can use Clickfunnels to easily create landing pages and use them to dial up your advertising and collect leads while other companies are slowing down (leaving YOU opportunity!)
Double down on the marketing strategies and activities that are working – now is the best time to stick to the tried and true. Reconsider current marketing objectives and make sure you’re ready to pivot or put off certain campaigns until things have blown over. Now is a great time to work on SEO – it’s probably not at the top of the priority list, and a lot of companies are letting it fall through the cracks!
As mentioned in the article above, most importantly:
Communicate your company’s benefits that have unique value right now. “Does your product give people things to do at home? Does it help people do their jobs without face-to-face interaction? Clarify your brand’s potential unique value in this cultural moment, and share it. Brands exist to provide value, and the products/services that help during this stressful time deserve the attention of those who can benefit from them. If what you do supports or enhances people’s lives while quarantined, tell that brand story.
Create helpful content– Keep people informed. Brands do need to communicate in response to the crisis, as it pertains to their business. For example, you should communicate about the proactive measures you’re taking, store closures, or policy updates related to COVID-19 Although these messages might be getting memed on social media, they do add value to customer relationships because they are informative.”
Bring Your A Game
Working remotely works for thousands of companies, and you have the tools for it to work for you too! Don’t let this mess stand in the way of coming out on top in a few months.
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