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Customers have memories like elephants

MARK KEATING, SalesGuru

What IT sales teams should be doing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken business across the board, with dramatic impacts on forecasts and sales projections. So what should IT sales teams be doing now to keep revenues coming in and assure future business growth?

Sales expert and public speaker Mark Keating, CEO of Sales Guru, says for the IT sector, relationships with customers are now more important than ever. This is not the time to be pushing products customers don’t need, and it’s definitely not the time to take advantage of demand by pushing up prices, he says. “Customers have memories like elephants. Pushing sales that benefit you – and not them – will hurt you in the long run.”

Keating says while companies are focusing on remote work and staying afloat through the lockdown, the best thing IT sales teams can do right now is to maintain good relationships with their customers, and – if possible – help them through the current crisis.


Find solutions

Keating recommends reaching out to existing customers, and those already in the sales pipeline to offer support. Keating recommends reaching out to existing customers, and those already in the sales pipeline to offer support.

IT companies should be assessing the market’s most pressing challenges – such as connectivity and remote workforce security – and focusing on solutions they can offer to address these challenges.

Keating says this is a good opportunity for companies to add real value to their customers: “Don’t be the dodgy hand sanitiser company that marks up prices when everyone needs the product. If you can, offer free or reduced pricing on vital business tools and better payment terms.”


Focus on your pipeline

Both account managers and sales teams tasked with driving new business should be focusing on existing contacts now, Keating says. “You need to be building relationships and adding real value to your existing customers and reaching out to those in the pipeline – those you have already met, and submitted proposals to, for example.

“This is the first place I’d start, looking to see what projects it would make sense to move ahead with immediately,” he says.

 

“Second, I’d look at which companies are in a position to buy from us right now, and whether they need our product. But it’s important to be real about what products and services people actually need. Pushing something that is not mission-critical for customers would harm your own brand and staff morale.”


Stay in touch

With most office workers now working from home and monitoring increasingly worrying news headlines, Keating recommends reaching out to existing customers, and those already in the sales pipeline to offer support.

“The starting point is understanding that, actually, people will appreciate a call from you,” he says.

“You need to show empathy and concern, ask the customer how they are doing, mention that many other customers are looking at certain solutions and ask if they too could benefit from them. Salespeople need to be calling to help the customer, not simply to sell.”

He notes that it’s important for sales to be disciplined in contacting a set number of customers each day, and to serve as a positive voice offering concrete solutions to immediate problems. “You must stay positive and productive. In this time of dramatic uncertainty, you can either lie down and roll over, or you can stand up and make more of a concerted effort to penetrate into your target market.

“It’s important to remember that even if customers aren’t in a position to buy from you right now, you need to make your voice heard, stay in touch and don’t hibernate. This too will pass, and showing concern and support will be valuable for the long-term relationship,” he notes.

 

 

Use the phone

The phone is Keating’s first choice for communications at the moment. “Pick up the phone and get hold of people. The phone is the most valuable sales tool now, as it creates two-way engagement. Don’t be afraid to WhatsApp either, or to send an SMS. You could also email, but if you do, keep it short.”

He says online tools such as LinkedIn could also be used, but not to push sales. “If you’re using LinkedIn to try to sell something immediately, you are doing yourself a disservice. Rather use it to build a long-term network.”


Stay focused

In uncertain times, more than ever before, companies need a clear focus on their value proposition and strategy. “Companies and sales leadership must have a clear and simple sales strategy that can be shared and implemented immediately by everyone in the business – now is the time to drive the best customer service and the best sales experience,” he says.


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