These days the big question on most sales people's minds has been: Should I prospect and try to develop new business at such a sensitive time for my prospects?

Business prospecting and pipeline management has never been more important than it is today, where the business climate we live in is creating immense uncertainty, anxiety and frustration.

Besides "taking care" of their customers, winning companies need to be, above all, competent, efficient and effective in the management of their sales processand the activity and discipline of their commercials, in order to be able to protect the business, mitigate the inherent risks and guarantee a competitive positioning when the crisis is overcome.

Various impact sizes

The first signs of Covid-19's impact on changing the behaviour of businesses, workers and consumers are already emerging. In fact, the impact is such that global and comprehensive that it is reasonable to assume that the world will never be the same again. Drastic measures are being considered to preserve jobs and prevent businesses from closing. The disruption and drop in turnover and liquidity of affected companies is staggering. 

In addition to the threat to public health, economic and social disruption threatens the well-being and livelihoods of millions of people. A International Labour Organization, for example, estimates, in a worst-case scenario, that the effect of the virus could claim almost 25 million jobs. 

In the midst of so much uncertainty and anxiety, companies have to do what they can to limit repercussions and calm their customers, suppliers, employees and stakeholders in general.

Teleworking has become essential to safeguard productivity. The psychological impact of the outbreak will thus not only be observed on stock exchanges and markets around the world, but also on individuals who will have to deal with low morale and the isolation from human contact.

Some of these trends will be short term, but others will remain and will give rise to a new wave of digital disruption and innovation that will mark the next decades.  

What is not said in words

In the age of the internet, video and digital, we are all more interconnected and, more than ever, we are turning to this technology to bring us closer to customers and prospects. However, we are losing something with this trade-off.

Meeting or interacting in person continues to influence the likelihood and speed at which an opportunity converts into a new deal. A face-to-face meeting is more personal, helps connect with the real person in a way that doesn't happen over video. It solidifies the relationship, reinforces credibility and the willingness of our interlocutor to listen to what we have to say. A simple handshake or how we dress, for example, helps to make us better known. 

We should bear in mind that in sales, interacting with our customer in person allows us to assess their actions and reactions, to understand small signs and body language that easily escape in video-conferencing mode.

Getting the prospect 's attention is a skill

Social distancing forces one to know how to make a good first impression virtually, and to initiate/manage a conversation that protects our existing business, or creates an opportunity to develop a new business (yes, even at this point). It's also important to note that we are not only more informed and connected, but, we also protect our time more vigorously.

It's difficult to reach decision-makers and get their attention. Digital marketing has innovated the way we start a conversation with a lead, but it is still essential, in B2B sales, to know how to prospect proactively, that is, to know how to interrupt someone's day and in a few seconds communicate and position enough value that justifies that person giving us their precious time.  

Mental strength

From one day to the next, many of the professionals responsible for growing the turnover of their business have seen their pipeline dramatically reduce, or disappear altogether. Identifying business where it doesn't exist, or safeguarding that which is disappearing has become a reality for sales companies and their sales people. 

Under 'normal' market conditions the main reason for lack of sales success is the lack of prospecting success.

Most sales people do not have an efficient, effective prospecting process that they are comfortable with and, in addition, they operate according to false beliefs about sales. When they do seek to improve, they only build on what they already know, and the result is small, marginal improvements. Superstar salespeople take drastic measures, with a noticeable impact on their process and therefore on their productivity. 

Negative behaviours are exacerbated

The way most sales people sin at prospecting will only get worse during a crisis, thus multiplying the negative impact on their results and their mindset, accelerating a vicious cycle. 

I love this definition of 'madness' by Albert Einstein: "Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result".

Sales madness is making the same mistakes, over and over again without realising it, and expecting a different result: 

  • Spending time with the wrong prospects and not prioritising contact with prospects and customers;
  • Not having a consistent process and not being disciplined with business activity;
  • Believe that your mission is to convince the prospect to buy your product or service;
  • Use manipulative tactics that offend and create resistance without realising it;
  • Not understanding that the prospect is not interested in you, your company or your product;
  • Not focusing on what is important or interesting to your prospect or customer;
  • Just trying to 'complete' the sale at the end of the process and not knowing the different stages of the prospect 's journey that require engagement;
  • Not knowing how to handle objections efficiently and effectively;
  • Relying too heavily on emails and not believing in the telephone as the most effective channel for successful prospecting.

Inaction or slowing down prospecting will kill your pipeline when the economy recovers and the affected companies are ready to (re)build their business. Don't be the person that when you look around you are left at the end of that queue. By the time we get through the crisis and you realise that's where you are, it will be too late.

Until then, sell with value!

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