As a milleninial, COVID-19 is the first major economic crisis I've directly experienced. I was too young during the dotcom bust, and I only remember small pieces of 9/11. When the real estate market crashed in 2008, I was starting high school. Luckily, I work for leaders that led companies through all those difficult times.
Within the first few days of the pandemic shutdowns and announcements, everyone at Butler Street agreed on two things: "Double the effort for half the return" and "Prospecting is the key to surviving."
I had to build new touch plans that doubled my efforts and allowed me to prospect in a time when the idea of spending money on training did not exist. Fast forward to today, I have added 21 new companies to my book of business – during this crisis!.
Three factors contributed to this success:
1. Adjustments for the New Business World
COVID-19 has changed and is still changing the way everyone does business. At one point, there was a new announcement or regulation every 4-5 hours. Fear and uncertainty were everywhere, and no one wanted to schedule a meeting to discuss training. I quickly realized that my value propositions, email templates, and phone scripts I had created over the last 18 months held little to no value. The only option I had was to learn the new business world and focus on being in my prospects operating reality. What were their current challenges and potential future challenges? Once I was able to place myself in my prospect's operating reality, I could rewrite my value propositions, email templates, and phone scripts and speak directly to current issues they were facing. And convey the value I was bringing. Being in their operating reality is key to prospecting today.
Tip –Make the time to determine what challenges your prospects are facing or may face. If you have strong relationships with certain clients, call and ask them for insight. Once established, spend another 30-60 minutes developing messaging around those specific problems. The goal is to let your prospect know, "I understand what you are going through, and this is how I have helped others in your situation." Every reach-out should have the goal of increasing the value that you bring to the table.
2. Staying Top of Mind for the Long Game
I quickly recognized a pattern when I started my new touch plan ten weeks ago. Company leaders would answer my call or email but share that training and spending money was not an option. For 3-4 weeks, I was unable to schedule an actual sales meeting with any new prospect. But during those 3-4 weeks, I learned something. The goal was not to sell (although I would have welcomed any deals). The goal was to stay top of mind with my prospects while consistently being in their operating reality. By implementing my touch plan, I am positioning myself to be someone they will reach when the timing is right. There is no silver bullet; you must follow up with consistent touches (emails, voicemails, LinkedIn) as well as consistently and effectively messaging your value. Remind yourself, "No response does not mean no; It just means not right now." Now, I am scheduling meetings and closing deals with prospects I initially reached out to 10 weeks ago. Something to also keep in mind…some of these prospects did not answer my call or email for the first seven weeks of my touch plan.
Tip – Build a touch plan that allows you to be consistent – with the timing of your communications as well as your messaging. Continuously put yourself in your prospect's operating reality and make sure every voicemail, email, LinkedIn message, etc. convey how you can add value for them. Do not get discouraged if you don't hear from them and remember that "no response does not mean no."
3. Bring Value, Value, Value
The last thing that I realized during prospecting through COVID-19 was if someone answers your call, you better be prepared. People were worrying from a health perspective but also trying to figure out how to operate their business, navigate downsizing, loans, state shutdowns, etc. The last thing they wanted was a sales rep calling to "help." Instead of joining the herd, I was sure to differentiate myself and share how I was helping others in their position. This involved role practicing, so I was quick and efficient while remembering to be in their operating reality.
Tip – Spend 15-20 minutes role practicing with another individual. Go through various prospecting scenarios. Role practice previous calls you have "bombed" so you can turn them into successful failures and learn what you could have done differently. Make role-practice sessions as realistic as possible. The more difficult, the better prepared you will be for the actual situation. Create and get comfortable with scripts that allow you to differentiate yourself from other sales reps, and make sure that they convey value.
There will always be challenges when it comes to prospecting, but it is more important than ever to raise your game and hone your skills. Post-COVID-19 will be different than Pre-COVID-19, and in order to Build Back Better, you need to take action now. To be successful, you must understand your prospects operating reality, build strong touch plans that allow you to stay top of mind for the long term, and always be prepared when a prospect answers your call or email! If prospecting & social selling is an area of opportunity for you and your group, we welcome your time to connect with us! Stay safe and stay healthy!