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Sales Strategy

3 Common Selling Scenarios You’ll Face in the Pandemic (and How To Respond)

Even today it's not impossible to get those deals done.

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Your customer recently had layoffs. Their chief financial officer (CFO) now needs to sign off on every contract — no matter how small. You’re still trying to figure out this Zoom thing. Bottom line: things are going sideways and your deals are about to fall through. You need to fix this.

You’re not alone. Seventy-nine percent of the sales professionals surveyed for the State of Sales report said they had to adapt quickly to new ways of selling. “Chitchat that we would normally have at a restaurant, in an elevator, on a car ride with our customers is gone,” said Jeremy Thies, area vice president for Sales at Salesforce. “People join and drop off Zoom calls with very little fanfare. Deals are more volatile than they were before COVID-19.” What previously worked for his reps might not yield the same results now. 

To cope with the uncertainty, sales leaders are turning to coaching and role-playing exercises to help their reps and account executives prepare for whatever situations pop up. The challenge now is to keep prospects moving through the sales funnel or upsell existing customers. 

The following are three common selling scenarios, as well as strategies for speeding up those deals. 

Scenario #1: Buyer is dealing with budget cuts

Tighter budgets can mean uncertain sales cycles. About half of U.S. B-to-B decision makers reduced budgets as of April, according to data from McKinsey. 

Thies said his sales reps hear objections like, “We know that we need to buy things, but due to cash flow or other concerns, we need to be much more rigorous about what we spend,how we spend it, and who we spend it with.” 

Purchases may face more scrutiny than they have in the past. Even managers and director-level customers may be surprised when priorities change and deals fall through. 

Chaudhry set up Salesforce Anywhere alerts on his phone, so he gets notified when an account has changes to the pipeline or when a key interaction occurs so he can react quickly.

How to respond: Adnan Chaudhry, senior vice president for Commercial Sales at Salesforce, does role-playing exercises with his team via video where reps pretend they are presenting to a customer’s C-suite and receive direct feedback from an internal panel. “This has been really helpful and has both sped up the internal work streams and also provided a greater sense of confidence to the reps to take this message directly to the customer,” he said. The collaboration for this meeting occurs in a Salesforce Anywhere account chat room. Chaudhry set up Salesforce Anywhere alerts on his phone, so he gets notified when an account has changes to the pipeline or when a key interaction occurs so he can react quickly.  

Within the guidelines of their organization, sellers can keep deals moving by getting creative and offering customers more favorable terms. “I work with companies in the travel and hospitality space, where they have offered greater value for upfront payment and booking,” Chaudhry said. For instance, one company he works with incentivizes customers to choose a future credit rather than a refund on preexisting books by issuing their credit plus an extra 25%. 

Meeting customers partway can help reps build goodwill and maintain relationships even in challenging situations like these. Respondents to our State of Sales survey ranked  increased flexibility with customers as their most important success tactic over the next 12 months. 

Sales leaders’ top 5 tactics for success*

  1. Increased flexibility with customers
  2. Improved data quality and accessibility
  3. Simplified sales processes
  4. Personalized outreach
  5. Improved cross-functional partnerships

*Source: State of Sales, 2020

Scenario #2: Buyer’s company is struggling to adapt to remote work

For companies still figuring out how to collaborate and sell remotely, finding solutions for those pain points may take precedence over other solutions. Seventy-seven percent of sales leaders said their digital transformation has accelerated since last year, according to our State of Sales report

“We are accustomed to managing projects by having week-long workouts, always in the same room and coming to decisions as a team,” said Henry Wellbelove, senior global project leader at Cytiva, a leading supplier of technologies and services in the life sciences.With the travel restrictions brought about by COVID-19, we have pivoted to a wholly remote way of working, like so many others.” 

How to respond: Empathy is key to connecting with customers, especially now. Lenore Lang, Salesforce area vice president of enterprise sales, and her team connect with customers and their challenges by sharing how Salesforce does virtual collaboration. “We actually walk them through what our internal processes are,” Lang said. 

Rather than peddling just their own product, her team shares other tools that can ease the transition to remote work, too. “[Customers are] not looking for a single solution,” Lang said. “They want to understand what the holistic picture is and have an end-to-end solution to do all of their work.” 

Among the top sales tools that have become most valuable this year? Video conferencing, artificial intelligence, mobile sales apps, and CRM systems.

Top 5 sales tools that have become more valuable since 2019**

  1. Video conferencing
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  3. Mobile sales apps for employees
  4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
  5. Sales prospecting tools

**Source: State of Sales, 2020

Wellbelove said his company rolled out Salesforce Anywhere for a variety of use cases. “We now have regionally diverse Cytiva organisations using Salesforce Anywhere for their account plans, group chats, agenda management, meeting notes, and project management,” he added. 

Scenario #3: Buyer recently had layoffs

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the past six months. Unemployment in the United States hit nearly 15% in April according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the overall economic outlook has improved since then, unemployment remains above pre-pandemic levels and some companies are still laying off employees. 

What does this mean for reps who are still employed? Unfortunately, they may find deals stalled if their buyer has left the company following a layoff and can no longer champion that purchase. Software sellers may also see deals shrink if their buyers suddenly need fewer licenses due to downsizing. 

How to respond: While one strong relationship with a customer might have been enough in the past, Thies now stresses the importance of nurturing multiple relationships. “Being connected to your customer in a variety of different ways is critical,” he said. “There are some things that the CFO knows that the COO doesn’t know.” 

Even if your buyer doesn’t leave their company, multiple relationships can help give you a deeper understanding of the customer’s organization. You can share that information across teams and surface customer insights using Salesforce Anywhere, which enables virtual sales teams to collaborate from anywhere using real-time alerts, suggested actions, and more. 

Why not be productive anywhere and get that next deal across the finish line? Take the new Salesforce Anywhere beta for a spin yourself.

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