To Sell or Not to Sell? … during Covid-19
In this video I’m talking about what a member of my Business from the Heart Membership called “the delicacy” of carrying on with usiness as usual during the current Coronavirus situation. She said: “I’m ready to continue with my business. I can pivot my offline business to serve people virtually, but I feel that it could be perceived as opportunistic if I go out and try and sell now”. This was during the first week of imposed self-isolation in the UK as a result of Covid-19.
So in this video I’m addressing the question of to sell or not to sell during these times of crisis, when there is so much sense of uncertainty.
Is it opportunistic or should I be doing it because I’m serving?
Well the answer is, it depends. It depends on lots of factors. Firstly, I can totally relate to these concerns about not wanting to appear to be opportunistic, and wanting to have that sense of delicacy. But I also think that it’s enough for us to have an awareness of that. It doesn’t need to manifest itself in “So I’m going to pull right back. I’m not going to offer anything to anybody. I’m just going to stop selling. I’m going to let my own business grind to a halt.”
So where the delicacy comes in is simply having an awareness that this could be an issue for some people. Some of you will be finding that it’s harder than usual to make sales right now. Others are making an unhelpful assumption that it’s going to be harder. In actual fact for many of you, it will be easier for you to make sales right now than it has been – maybe ever before.
So be sensitive, have an awareness – but don’t bring your business to a standstill.
I know that you could be watching this from just about anywhere in the world, but just this week in the UK, we’ve all been asked to stay at home, to self isolate. Most restaurants have closed down. My own partner is sitting at home because he’s a chef and his restaurant is closed. For many people these are huge changes.
And what we have is a range of responses. Now, the reason I’m talking about this is not only because you will have had one of these responses, But your potential clients will also fit into these categories.
Some people are feeling extremely anxious and fearful and are contracting financially and this this makes it very difficult for them to make the decision to sign up to work with you.
Some people are feeling very anxious and fearful and this is exactly the reason why they will sign up to work with you, if you are offering something that is going to help them through this difficult period.
Some people (like me) are not feeling anxious and fearful. It doesn’t mean their head is in the sand, they just don’t respond from that place, and those people are continuing “life and business as usual” – albeit with some pretty big amendments.
Some people are not fearful of their jobs but they are now working from home, and have the freedom without the watchful eye of their employer to actually work on things, to explore things that they’ve maybe had on the back burner for a very long time. So there’s a great opportunity there for some of you.
And so there is actually a genuine demand (not an opportunistic demand) created by this current situation, and many of you are perfectly set up to meet that need for people.
But we ARE going through a big change
The whole country right now is adjusting. I think we can say that without a doubt. All the members of my membership community are adjusting to new ways of working, many of them needing to swiftly pivot their work to online. My partner is adjusting because as of yesterday afternoon he is without a job. My parents are adjusting because they are very active people in their late seventies who are out and about a lot, usually looking after the grandkids, who are now being told to stay at home. We are all adjusting big time. So granted there will be a period of period of adjustmentbefore we settle into the “new normal”.
Buton the whole you are not going to be serving your clients, your own needs or the wider economy if you maintain this sort of delicacy around, “I don’t feel comfortable selling right now” for too long.
So my advice: Continue with your business and sales as usual
However, now without an awareness and sensitivity to what your potential clients might be going through:
- If you already have sales in the pipeline, continue as usual. Follow up on those sales. Get the decisions made and the deals done. Don’t let the stories you might be telling yourself stop you because the worst thing that you can ever do in sales is assume you know what the other person is thinking. You may personally be feeling very anxious and fearful and would find it difficult to make a decision this week , but it doesn’t automatically follow that it’s the same for your potential clients.
- Do have that awareness that this week for a lot of people might not feel like it’s right time – but don’t let that stop you. Here’s a case in point:
One of the ladies in my membership community, in this week alone has brought in £16,000 through one-to-one sales conversations, and about £10,000 of that was brought in yesterday. On exactly the day when many business owners are sitting there telling themselves, “I really shouldn’t be selling. You know, it’s not appropriate. What will people think?” On that very day, she wasn’t allowing any of that thinking or any of those assumptions that get in the way. Now, quite probably there were people who said no because they feel that it’s not the right time or there’s something around the sense of uncertainty that we’re facing now that will have prevented them making a decision, but she didn’t allow what’s happened this week to stop her going out and pursuing those sales opportunities.
I think it’s healthy and it’s helpful and respectful to have an awareness that this week for a lot of people it may not feel like the right time to be signing off on or making big decisions and rather than assuming that we should continue forward but be sensitive to that fact. So for example, if I apply this to my own business, I am in the process of making sales at the moment. I’m reaching out to invite people to join a new programme that is actually starting in May.
Now to begin with, I have a little bit of time, but also instead of pausing my sales activity, I’m just acknowledging to people that it may not be the right time for them to make a decision right now this week, so the way I’m approaching it is to say, “look, I’ve got this thing coming up. I think it could be great for you. I would love you to be part of it. I’m aware that this week is probably not the best week to be making a decision. All I need today is an indication of whether this is something that you’ll be interested in exploring with me over the next few weeks.” Which allows me to gauge that indication of interest.
I’ve sown the seed, people can start thinking about it and in another week or two people might be feeling a lot more ready to make these decisions and have these conversations.
That’s another really important piece I want to talk about because it helps us to be aware of how uncertainty affects decision making. There are two chaps called a Chip and Dan Heath who wrote a great book called Switch. All about how human beings have a natural tendendy to resist and avoid change.
In times of uncertainty we find it hard to make decisions
In particular, humans resist and avoid change if they are feeling a level of uncertainty about any area of their life. And what the researchers discovered is that this affects decision making. If a person is facing uncertainty in one area of their life, so let’s say that they are maybe going through the beginnings of a divorce, they become pretty much psychologically paralysed from being able to make decisions about anything else, even if it’s in a completely unrelated area of their life. So of course we’d expect someone to think “I’m thinking of getting a divorce so I I can’t make a decision about booking a dream holiday with my partner.”
But what also happens is this: “I’m in the process of getting a divorce and so I feel incapable to make a decision about investing and mentoring in my business.” Or, “I feel incapable of making a decision about improving my health and wellbeing.”
And I think it’s important that we’re aware of that because what that means is that if you are pursuing business as usual, which I hope you are, and you get any “No’s” this week, please understand that this does not mean that your business is about to implode.
It does not mean that your sales pipeline has dried up forever. All it means is that a large number of people are feeling really uncertain and unstable right now and they’re not able to make a decision right here, right now, today, this week. But this is going to change and give them another few weeks and the landscape will be very different.
Now this is what I’m expecting
My instinct is that while this crisis may extend for a number of months, psychologically we’re going to get used to the situation quite quickly and we adjust to a “new normal”over the next 2-3 weeks and for many of you “business as usual” will pick back up.
Now, of course there may still be people who are in your target market who are unable to make a decision because, for example, if they are in an industry sector that’s been badly financially affected by this crisis.
But for the majority of people, the sense of uncertainty will settle back down into a new normal relatively quickly. Of course I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have a natural instinct for human psychology and that’s what I’m expecting:
So some key lessons for me to summarise:
- Don’t hold back from making sales or doing your business development
Especially where your audience or client base will directly benefit from working with you right now. It will not serve your customers and it will not serve you. So an example of this is my own acupuncturist whowas telling me about Chinese herbal medicine and how in China they’ve been having success in treating the virus. And she has the same formulations – one for prevention and one for treatment. And guess what she told me?
That she doesn’t want to tell her customers about it because she doesn’t want to be perceived as opportunistic! So if you are also offering something that will directly benefit people right now, please be careful of the stories you are telling yourself. Instead do the work to connect back into why you do this work in the first place, and reach out from a place of service knowing you have something of value to bring. And knowing that it’s up to your potential clients whether they feel they want to make a decision or not.
- Do be sensitive to the fact that these are uncertain times
Don’t panic if people are not ready to go ahead and make a decision right now. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask them. But if people are reluctant to evenenter into the conversation about working with you right now please don’t let that mean anything more than that is a no right now, today, this week. It’s not a “forever no”. It’s just a “no right now”. And absolutely pick back up with everybody in another two to three weeks, when we’ve settled into our “new normal”.
- Always acknowledge the concern
This is what I teach in my sales programme. Always acknowledge the person’s concern even if you don’t agree with it. One thing that I’m aware of is that all of us are filtering this information differently. We’re all having different emotional responses, depending on our level of emotinal resilience and our personal circumstances. You might feel that your client gives you a reason for not going ahead with you right now, connected to the current situation around the virus and you just think that it’s crazy of them to react like that. Try not to show that to your clients as it will push them away. Instead acknowledge the concern and then continue the conversation from that place.
- What to do if you feel that actively making offers to your client group isn’t appropriate right now?
Still reach out to let people know you’ve got something coming up and just ask for expressions of interest right now. Then you can follow up and get calls booked in the diary next week or the week after when it does start to feel a little bit more appropriate for you. But do be careful not to let that drag on too long. And be very careful to ask yourself the question: “Am I just making assumptions based on how I personally am feeling right now?” Because that there are potential clients for out there right now who are not feeling the way you are and are perfectly ready to move forward with buyin services or programmes.
- Don’t be over “delicate”
Don’t be so over delicate that you miss out on opportunities. Some of my clients right now are facing are the opportunity of a lifetime within their businesses because the services that they offer directly meets a current need. So for example, anybody who is supporting people to learn how to get used to homeworking or homeschooling, help with managing virtual teams, boosting the immune system or helping with symptoms of Covid-19, helping small business owners move online, or helping people to deal with stress and anxiety, and helping new home-workers to pursue dreams and goals while away from the office.
- Directly address the uncertainty
Explain this phenomenon to your clients. Some of your clients, when they understand that they are just psychologically paralysed because of the sense of uncertainty might well decide to go ahead.There’s also a couple of other questions that you could be asking at this point. “If things were not feeling so uncertain for you right now, do you think you would be going ahead?” or “If we didn’t have this virus situation right now, do you think you’d be able to make a decision more easily? . And depending on their answer you may proceed with the sale, or follow up in another couple of weeks time.
- Be careful not to filter everything through your own experience
Be aware that for many of your potential clients, their income right now remains unaffected and their new homeworking situation,will be the perfect opportunity for them to do work with you while they’re not being closely monitored. Many of your corporate clients will absolutely be keen to continue business as usual, as long as you can offer them virtual solutions. And for many of you selling to small business owners will find many are seeing this as a great opportunity to put things in place they’ve been putting off for a long time, or are realising that they need additional support to pivot to make the most of this situation.
So just as you would when it comes to heart-centred sales at any time don’t be afraid to make your offers, but be sensitive to people’s concerns. Yet don’t be afraid to gently challenge them if you think it’s needed. Just like any normal sales conversation.
And if you haven’t yet learned how to have an authentic sales conversation that does respect the clients natural concerns, you can do that through my free training, catherinewatkin.com/7steps