Detangling Covid, WFH and a Surprise Recession To Help Buying Teams Buy Remotely

Here in late March 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, there’s been plenty of discussion on how to sell remotely. It’s great advice, and it will all help sales teams adjust to the new normal.

But not many sales leaders are talking about how to buy remotely.

Looking at the challenges facing buyers will help sellers serve their buyers better, which will result in more sales. 

So let’s do it.

Buyers are facing three separate but intertwining issues right now.   

  1. Panic about the immediate crisis of Covid
  2. Difficulties of working from home
  3. Surviving in a down economy 

 

All three issues impact Buyers and make it harder for them to do their job, which by extension, makes it harder for them to say yes to a seller. 

If we untangle the intertwining, we can learn (1) what do buyers actually want and (2) what can sellers do about that in a way that also helps us sell.

One note before we dive in:  Top sellers already did most of this even before the crisis, but with all three issues hitting buyers simultaneously, we all need to get better thinking from our customers’ perspective, analyzing what’s changed, and focus on achieving our goals.

Covid-19

We’re all panicked about Covid. I don’t know how many people are going to die, or if we’re hurtling into a full scale depression, or when I can leave my basement and see my team.

The people who are your customers & prospects have all the same concerns.

 

What Buyers Actually Want

Unless you sell PPE or remote work software, there’s not much you can do directly about Covid-19 for your customers.

In fact, from vendors, they only want one thing:

“I have enough problems. Don’t stress me out ”

 

But at the same time they want a trusted advisor to provide perspective and certainty and help them make a plan…

  1. Help me see the future
  2. Help me remember my priorities
  3. Help me figure out if I need to change those priorities
  4. Whether I need to change or not, help me get a game plan to navigate the crisis and succeed on my priorities.

 

Here’s what a Seller can do

Some of these apply more to sellers mid-cycle then someone who has zero trust built up, but keep in mind this is about the buyer, not you, so if you have something of value to offer, then offer it.

 

Share Perspective from the Outside

People desperate for information about their industry, and as a sales person, you know more about what’s happening outside their company than they do. Offer to share what you’re hearing, and don’t be afraid to offer opinion, as long as you stick to subjects you actually know about.

You know who keeps their job in a crisis? The people who remain focused, evaluate what’s actually changed, adjust as necessary and then execute. Remind them of that and make yourself part of their process.

 

Offer a Reset Strategy Session

After you show value with the above, help your buyers evaluate if their priorities are the same as they were a month ago. Chances are they don’t know themselves, but if you create a space for them to think then they’ll learn something and you will too. You don’t need to provide all the answers, just help them do some rubber ducking.

Once they’ve re-established their priorities, help them get a game plan for making it happen (here is where you include your solution as part of that game plan to success).

A plan calms everyone down. It lets everyone focus on their part, safe in the knowledge that the other parts are being taken care of. A plan enables action instead of panicked paralysis. Your buyer wants a plan.

 

Chill

You might not hit quota this quarter. Don’t wreck the value you’re giving by projecting your stress and your needs on your prospect.  After your Reset sessions, you’ll have an accurate forecast. Be honest and transparent: the sooner senior management knows the company is going to miss target, the sooner they can act.

Yes, that act could be to fire everyone, but if you work at a smart company, they’ll pivot or re-message or make some other proactive move, and if it’s a dumb company, then they’d fire you in 2 months anyway and you’re behind the 8-ball trying to find a new position.

 

 

Working from Home

Sellers have been working remote since the telephone was invented, but buying teams have never been remote. Buyers are used to huddling in a conference room after the vendor is packed up and gone, addressing objections by catching a skeptic colleague in the break room, and reading the boss’s body language before they go all in vouching for a vendor. 

The principal challenge with working from home is the isolation. People are disconnected from colleagues socially, they’re disconnected from decision making, and they’re distracted.  

I don’t how long WFH will last, but it could be 3-6 months. So let’s talk it through. 

What Buyers Actually Want

  1. Better communication
  2. More structure to combat disorganization & distraction
  3. Name to a face
  4. Ammo to make the case 

 

Here’s what a Seller can do

In the office, a senior decision maker might drop into a conference room to say hello and catch 10 minutes of a vendor meeting, prints of your proposal will move from surface to surface in your champ’s office for weeks; she might even leave a copy on her CEO’s desk with margin notes. That can’t happen when everyone is at home.

 

Provide a digital-native value proposition that pops

Champions were never that good at selling. When everyone is working from home, that influence ability is going to get even worse. You need to arm your advocates with something snazzy that’s easy and natural to share with the other decision makers.

Be mindful & specific about what you share: a high-level deck for the C-Suite, a white paper on smooth implementation practices for a technical influencer. Just make sure it pops and works on screen and is easy for everyone to get to (more important than ever that you’re not relaying everything through one person).

 

Provide a game plan to keep everyone on track

Since corridor conversations are gone, you need to provide the buying team with a game plan for who’s doing what so everyone can see what’s happening. Structure also builds confidence in you as a vendor, but the main thing you’re doing for remote workers is making sure no one drops the ball.

Your structure / game plan should be available to everyone, with enough detail to satisfy objections without losing sight of the value to the buyer. More on how to do this here… 

 

Share team member profiles on both sides

Let the buying team know who their counterparts are on your team. Photos & bios can’t replace the rapport of a conference room or a dinner, but it’s better than nothing.  Remember though that buyers don’t really care that much about you, so Profiles should be discoverable, but not the first slide in your deck.

 

 

Working in a Down Economy

“We’ve got a total freeze on spending”

We’re headed into a down economy: probably a recession, hopefully not a depression, but still it’s down. This one is brought on by Covid, but the cause is less important than the now, which is that people just want to keep their heads down, do their jobs, not be the hero and not get laid off.

Unfortunately, that means they don’t want to rock the boat by vouching for a vendor or asking for new budget.  

What Buyers Actually Want

  1. Total focus on their initiative (which may or may not have just changed)
  2. No risk — to fail is to be fired
  3. Nothing that add risk or cost
  4. Safety + certainty + the safe choice

(note the pattern here)

Here’s what a Seller can do

Be the safe path to their initiative, with zero risk & zero squeak

You’re not asking for new budget if what you offer is in support of their priority,  you’re recommending a shift in budget to maximize the success of their initiative. It’s not squeaking, it’s executing the initiative per instruction with the safest path to success. The key tho is that you understand what that initiative is.
 

Offer total focus on achieving the buyer’s objective

Present everything with that objective as the end point. Your solution is a means to their end, and that end could easily be 90 or 180 days or longer after the contract is signed. Keep their eyes on their objective, and your solution becomes just one of the steps needed to make it happen.

 

Promise & deliver smooth smooth process

Learning new stuff is the opposite of being heads down. Your sales process & the proposed change process required to implement your solution need to be teflon. Every step needs to be crystal clear & non-disruptive. Nothing that could add risk, no space for surprises, every contingency thought through.

 

Simplify consensus

Don’t rely on one point of contact. They’re not going to go to bat for you. Make it risk-free to build consensus without spending political capital by talking to more people on the buyer team.

Normally, going to others can be seen as threatening to your point of contact, but you can be explicit that your champion’s political safety is why you’re doing it.

 

Don’t waste their time

You know if you’re a good fit for someone. In the good times, buyers can afford to give your solution a shot, but in a down economy, people have to give 100% into just surviving, and by wasting their time, or even worse, convincing them of something that’s not true just to get the sale, you could literally kill their company. And people remember that stuff for a long long time.

 

 

Summary:
Don’t Carpet Bag

Here at DealPoint, we’re made a mindful decision not to be Covid carpet baggers. 

No one cares what our contingency plans are, and we don’t have machines to make masks or vaccines. Maybe we could re-message and get the keywords into the subject line. It doesn’t matter: as CEO I believe it’s inappropriate to profit from other people’s misery and panic, and we’re not going to do it.

But selling to solve the problems that arise from Covid is totally appropriate. Cloud-based mutual action plans would totally help sales teams in a new normal of isolated buyers operating in a down economy, so let’s do what we can. 

Point is, look at this stuff through the eyes of your customers, and you’ll do a lot better than just thinking about yourself. 

 

OK. Keep rational and carry on

Tom W.