It’s tough to be a salesperson in a down market. Jim Pancero says that business truism has existed for ages. When customers aren’t biting it can be easy for salespeople to become discouraged and disillusioned, to reduce their effort due to their reduction in sales.
And during a downturn brought on by a global health crisis? Pancero believes selling today is harder than it’s ever been. With salespeople pulled out of their territories confined to their desks (or their basements), he says engaging with customers and keeping motivation high has become a challenge for everyone.
“One thing I’ve noticed is salespeople tend to be fairly emotional,” says Pancero, a professional sales consultant and long-time CVSN collaborator. “If it’s Friday at 4:30 p.m., and they are taking orders they will stay for hours and keep working … but when business is down, people don’t work as hard.”
During a webinar Thursday hosted by the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN), Pancero offered a number of tips he’s developed over the last few months while in quarantine that he believes can help struggling sales teams reclaim their groove (and their sales volumes) in spite of the current circumstances.
- Improve Your Selling Message of Value and Uniqueness: Pancero says have a message that can’t be duplicated or reiterated by competitors. Zig when competition zags. Pancero says a unique message should avoid touching on overused sales points, such as “high-quality products, strong level of support, competitive prices” and the like, and should be instead tell customers how your company will make their lives easier and increase their profits and competitive advantages.
- Gain More Control of Your Selling Processes: It is tough for salespeople who’ve spent their careers on the road to transition to work from home selling, Pancero says. The experience is fundamentally different. But he says good salespeople can adapt if they remember every call should be structured and follow a plan. That means starting with questions that help identify a customer’s needs, followed by the presentation of solutions that should, ideally, lead to a sale.
- Focus on Bringing Solutions and Solving Problems: Pancero says this follows his prior message. Good salespeople are problem solvers. They enter phone calls with a detailed plan for what they want to say and hope to accomplish. Pancero says sales associates who make calls just to “check in” on customers and complete a task are never going to sell as a much to a customer as the latter might be willing to buy.
Strengthen Your Electronic Footprint: Your sales force isn’t the only group of people at home. Customers also are spending more time isolated and they are increasingly filling that time online. That means distributors must have an online presence that is up to customer expectations. “What is your competitor has four times the online presence you do?” Pancero asks. He adds online doesn’t just mean website. It’s also important to be active on other platforms.
- Start Using Customer Video Conferencing as A Competitive Advantage: Customers are adapting and accepting live video conferencing within their businesses, Pancero says, which means they are more likely to also accept it when interacting with suppliers. He says video conferencing is a great way to maintain some semblance of conventional sales tactics and can bring many key employees together on a single call to help serve an important customer.
- Become A Stronger Coach and Leader of Your Sales Team: On this note, Pancero says it’s important to remember the current situation is challenging for everyone. Any guidance and reassurance that can be provided to employees will likely be welcomed, particularly by younger associates. Regarding the latter, Pancero says today’s newest generation of salespeople expect their manager to act as their coach and teacher and will become frustrated if they feel isolated.
“Now is when customers can be reformatted so we can do a better job to help them,” Pancero says. “[But] if we’re going to change the way we sell, we also have to change the structure or our sales calls.”
CVSN will host another Pancero sales leadership webinar in June.