According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 coronavirus has developed into a widespread pandemic. With growing outbreaks of diagnosed cases in many states in the US and several provinces in Canada and vastly larger numbers of undiagnosed cases, there’s a serious cause for concern.
Whether it is the Coronavirus, or it is another infectious disease the reality is that we are going to have to change the way we do business in order to protect our employees and customers.
Companies need to make fundamental changes in how they communicate internally and how they move customers through their buying journey. This involves using digital assets and technology in new ways to reduce human-to-human contact – especially during outbreaks.
The reality is that your current sales model probably needed to be updated to incorporate modern communication platforms anyway, so this is the perfect time to take decisive action to protect your employees and to leverage new technology to drive your business forward.
According to Dr. Gleb Tsipursky a Disaster Avoidance Expert, “forward-looking companies are already encouraging their workers to (work from home) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. You should, too. That includes financing a wide variety of secure work-from-home services for your employees.”
The trucking and heavy-duty parts business is a people business. The traditional sales model requires in-person meetings, regular sales calls to parts stores, and repair shops. It also requires attendance at tradeshows, summits, and conventions.
So much of our business relies on relationships and networking.
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky asks some pretty important questions, “How can you switch your relationship cultivation and management to virtual venues? Perhaps you can focus more on LinkedIn and other means of networking and relationship maintenance, and less on face-to-face networking events.
Can you shift your team meetings and even bigger corporate events to virtual forums? Instead of in-person conferences, consider doing virtual ones. Sure, you don’t get the intra-company networking benefits that you would get through face-to-face contact, and you’ll need to figure out ways to replace that bonding and relationship-building.”
The Steps to Protecting Employees and Modernizing the Sales Process
There are three steps to protecting your employees and modernizing the sales process by adopting digital tools that will allow your salespeople to continue working at a high level despite not being able to work with your customers personally during the pandemic.
Step 1 – Finding New Customers and Keeping in Touch with Existing Customers
Here is an interesting thing about communication and the human brain. If you are within 3 to 5 feet of a human, you are in what cognitive scientists call the Social Zone. It is a place where trust goes way up because if you don’t trust someone who enters that space you will move away.
If you crop pre-recorded videos or you position yourself in front of a camera so that it feels like you are in that social zone the brain of the person watching the video can’t differentiate between a real meeting or a virtual one. This means that if they keep watching the video, they will begin to trust you, and the more videos they watch the more trust that is developed.
What this means is that your salespeople can develop relationships with prospective new customers and maintain relationships with existing customers without ever having to meet them.
I know this seems improbable.
You might be saying to yourself, “nothing can replace that human-to-human contact.”
You would be right in saying that if you were talking about a romantic relationship. Virtual just isn’t the same in the bedroom. But we aren’t talking about romantic relationships, we are talking about business relationships. Business relationships are highly social but do not require human-to-human contact.
Anecdotally I can prove it.
My wife and I had a contracting business that we started in 2009 and sold in 2016. My wife was hired by the new owner and she continues to work for him – remotely. For the last 6-years, my wife has handled all the communications from new and existing customers and has not once met them in person.
The results have been very good. The business has grown by 3x since 2016.
I’ve been podcasting and using video in heavy-duty parts sales since 2019. After only a few months of creating content and doing video conferencing calls, I had people I had never met come up to me at tradeshows and hug me.
Why did they hug me? It wasn’t romantic I can assure you.
They felt so comfortable with me that despite this being our first in-person meeting they felt like they were meeting an “old friend.”
In the first quarter of 2020, I created $275k in deals for one of my clients using a 100% remote approach.
Now let me be clear, I still meet with some clients and I am not saying that you should completely remove person-to-person contact. As an old proverb says, “there is a time and a place for everything.”
But you could drastically reduce the amount of in-person contact and this can accelerate your overall results.
Let me walk you through the digital tools I use to communicate virtually with my prospects and customers.
LinkedIn is the social media of choice for business professionals.
Almost all my network growth has come from this platform. I love LinkedIn because it allows you to create content in all the different formats. You can write articles, post images, audio clips, and videos.
Also, you can connect with people within the trucking industry at scale.
Email with a Twist
Email was long supposed to be dead but remains the most cost-effective way to communicate with people. Once you have connected with someone on LinkedIn it’s important to move communication off the platform. Email is the best way to do this.
Now I add an element to my emails that is very important. I use Vidyard. This allows me to create personalized videos and share them in emails very quickly. This is what allows me to enter the social zone and really connect with people.
These personalized videos can be used before and after each interaction with your prospect or customer.
Taking video to the next level involves using a video conferencing tool. I use Zoom for several reasons:
1. It provides people with a one-click link and they don’t have to download and install any software.
2. Zoom allows me to have 50 people on at once if I wanted to. Normally I have no more than 3 or 4 at any time but I like that I could have more if I needed to.
3. The audio and video are typically crystal clear.
4. There is a chat feature that allows you to type links and messages.
5. You can share your screen and they can share theirs if needed.
6. You can record the call.
Automating the Scheduling of Meetings
While many salespeople are still using “interruption sales calls” where there is no appointment, using the virtual strategy requires you to book appointments. To make this process as simple as possible for everyone I use Calendly.
This allows me to put my availability in the calendar, sync with my Outlook calendar, and provide people with a one-click link to book appointments with me.
You can also include the Zoom link in the appointment so that it’s a seamless easy process for your prospects.
Step 2 – The Buyers Journey
According to a recent survey of US consumers, “82% of consumers don’t want to speak to a salesperson UNTIL the sale is made.”
The reality is that things have changed.
It’s imperative that you sell the way people want to buy.
What does the above survey tell us?
Two very important things:
1. People want to research and identify what they want to buy.
2. People still want to talk to a salesperson to verify that they are buying the correct thing for their specific circumstances.
How does that relate to protecting your employees and customers from the Coronavirus or some other infectious disease?
Well, what it means is that your customers want to be provided with the information required to make a buying decision. They want a roadmap of the buying journey and they want that information on demand. They don’t want to have to talk to a salesperson to start the decision-making process of buying from you.
What would it be like if every time your salespeople spoke to a prospect, they were well informed about your products and services and were ready to buy?
If you take out all the barriers to doing business with you and provide your prospects with a logical clearly defined buying journey you can create that reality. The way to accomplish this is through video.
Video has never been easier or cheaper to produce and the best part about the video is that it is always available once it has been posted on your website, YouTube channel, and social media platforms and it communicates, not only information but emotion very well.
Imagine your website and prominently displayed on your home page is an embedded video. This is step one in your customer buying journey.
By taking that first step your potential customer starts an automated chain reaction where your prospect is provided with every piece of information required to make a buying decision. But not only have you provided the prospective customer an automated process you also provide full access to all your content and allow them to binge-watch all the videos if they choose. Who are we to slow down the buying journey?
Now, this is where the UNTIL becomes important.
At every point of contact up until this point in time, you’ve provided your prospective customer with the ability to just buy a product and the opportunity to ask for a salesperson to help them. They have now asked for a salesperson to contact them.
This is because in their mind they have made the buying decision, but they require assistance to finalize the sale. No human-to-human contact, the sales system did all the “heavy lifting” and the salesperson is now poised to close the sale.
This sales process has protected your salespeople and your customers from infectious disease, and you are selling the way people want to buy.
Step 3 – Mastering the Tools of Selling in the 21st Century
Now I want you to see how this all comes together into a strategy that protects your employees and customers and drives results.
Anecdotally, I want to again demonstrate the value of this strategy.
One of my clients tried the traditional sales model using interruption sales calls. They were able to on average close 3 – 4 deals a month per salesperson. About three years ago they shifted to the virtual sales approach and increased the number of deals each salesperson could close to 20 per month. That resulted in their company getting listed on the Fastest Growing Companies in America list.
Here is how it works from start to finish:
1. Connect on LinkedIn. The best way to connect with someone is to like and comment on a post they made on LinkedIn. Wait a day or two and send them a connection request.
2. Start sending them emails that provide value. This means that instead of writing an email that basically says, “this is who I am, this is the company I work for, we do this great thing and we have experienced people working for us, that makes us better than our competition. Let’s book an appointment.”
Instead write an email that basically says, “do you have this problem? Here is some information that demonstrates my knowledge about the problem and more importantly highlights a specific solution to the problem and communicates the value of solving the problem. If you think this is a good fit will you spend a few minutes watching this video and then we can schedule a call?”
Now keep in mind that you may have to create 7 variations of that email using the structure as an outline before the person is willing to meet with you. The videos come from your customer buying journey library.
3. Book an appointment. Once you’ve been given the green light that the person is interested and wants to speak with a salesperson you can send them a calendar link and book an appointment. Every time an appointment is booked you can make a personalized video before and after the appointment to deepen the relationship.
4. Finalize the sale. All that is left to do is answer any questions your prospect has and finalize the sale. Once the sale is made, I recommend using personalized follow-up videos delivered by email ensuring that the customer is satisfied with their purchase(s) and asking for referrals. It is also good to like and comment on LinkedIn posts that your customer has made after the sale as a show of support. This will often result in them liking, commenting, and sharing your content which boosts the algorithm and creates more results for you.
Can you change your approach to sales?
Can you protect your employees and customers from infectious diseases?
The answer is YES.
But you can do more than that. You can also transform your results by maximizing your salespeople’s results by selling the way people buy.
Would you like some help to train your salespeople?
Jamie Irvine works with forward-thinking heavy-duty companies as a consultant. Developing a Digital Sales Channel and Business Development Strategy that encompasses adopting digital technology and training salespeople to transition is the most common consulting work that Jamie does with heavy-duty truck & trailer companies.