Selling in a mask! – Has selling been affected by COVID?

Selling in a mask isn’t easy!

‘Has the way we sell, been affected by COVID?’ is a hot topic amongst sales trainers and coaches at the moment.

What has changed to the salesperson and customer relationship?

There are two clear objectives we will to cover, which are:

  1. How do you find customers in this new COVID era
  2. When you get through to them, what do you say?

Amongst the contraction of the economy with many businesses being put into the equivalent of hypersleep with furloughed staff, many salespeople have found no way to talk to customers.

Those that haven’t been subsequently furloughed have found it challenging to say the least to contact customers.

Clients of ours that have sales representatives calling in on customers have found their jobs impossible to carry out. Offices are empty, restrictions are in place and even after the lifting of the big lockdown, large swathes of customers were working from home either part-time or full time. If they have been out, they’ve been trying to communicate through the confines of a mask, which muffles voices and severely reduces the ability to read facial expressions and limits our communication abilities. Bianca’s writing an article about how to overcome body language problems when wearing a mask to sell, I’ve seen the draft, it looks excellent!

The same situation has occurred where salespeople have been using the telephone to contact customers. It’s been impossible to get hold of people, not all companies have integrated telephone systems and so it’s been difficult to reach them. If telesales staff have to wear masks at the office, it’s going to add another layer of difficulty for the majority.

As for email, the majority of customers have had access to email throughout, however, as a first point of contact, this is a very difficult method to contact customers. Firstly, you just don’t know if the email arrived in their inbox in the first place. Did the email get rejected, placed in junk or even in the new ‘Other’ folder you may have seen on Outlook (where Focused emails are given priority). Secondly, if it did get into Focused, was it seen, read or given anything other than a 2 second glance? Thirdly, even if it was given a glance and interested the client, it’s easily lost amongst the volume of messages that are coming through. Will the customer take the time to respond to your email?

The answer is very likely no for the majority of emails you send out. In fact, to get any appreciable responses, you’ll have to send out a LOT of emails and that is going to make it very tempting to write a long salesy type email that you think will explain your offering and tell the customer why they should make reading this email their immediate priority. (We’ve all had these emails, I read them because it’s my job, and frankly, the vast majority are terrible, I’m pleased to say, from a sales trainer’s perspective, of course)

So, how on earth do you get in front of customers to get your message across?

Before we look at the question of getting through to the right customers, what about what you say to the customer? Has that changed because of COVID?

Selling can be challenging at the best of times, now, with the COVID pandemic causing disruption everywhere and with businesses in ever greater financial, customers have never been more prudent and cautious in their buying decisions.

How has this affected the average salesperson? From what I have been told, it’s made their jobs much harder, many are struggling and sales results have tanked. ‘No-one’s ordering anymore’ is the plaintive cry I hear.

How does this affect the professional, highly trained, ethical salesperson?

My answer? Not a lot.

You see, the professional, highly trained, ethical salesperson is already COVID insulated by virtue of their professional, highly trained and ethical performance.

Customers are being cautious, prudent and careful with their business spends. They are still buying products and services. They are just being more careful, which means they are only buying what they really, really want to buy.

Make no mistake, it is harder for everyone. As the great Phil Berg puts it ‘The Customers haven’t gone away, you just have to dig deeper to get to them’.

Professionally trained salespeople with rock solid positive attitudes and ethically sound value systems are possibly being even more successful in this new era.

This, I put down to the fact that the salespeople showing the following traits: dodgy, in-it-for-what-they-can-get, lazy, arrogant, self-centred, tellers-not-sellers, manipulative, lying and any other number of negative traits, don’t have the strength of character to dig deeper. They are failing and the ‘good’ salespeople will flourish.

So, as mentioned at the top of the article, the two clear objectives I want to cover are how do you find customers in this new COVID era and when you get there, what do you say?

Let’s look at finding the customer:

So, we can’t drop in to see them, we can’t easily email them and we can’t necessarily get them on the phone as even if we got past the gatekeepers, we really don’t know if we can physically get through to them. Here’s three key questions:

  1. How can you bypass their email so that they definitely read the email?
  2. How can you improve the chances that they actually give your email more than a second’s glance?
  3. How can you know that they actually saw you in the first place?

The answer, my friends, isn’t as Dylan put it, ‘Blowin in the wind’, rather, it’s by using LinkedIn. LinkedIn connection requests are delivered to the customer’s inbox via email and via the LinkedIn App. The email server used to deliver the connection request email is almost universally considered safe, focussed and will usually get to the person sent. If they don’t read that, they will see the connection request on their app.

Furthermore, judicious use of LinkedIn will allow you to see and understand exactly who are sending your request to and make sure that you are approaching the right person with the right message.

There’s a LOT you can mess up here, in fact, you can ruin the prospective relationship almost immediately. Using LinkedIN is powerful because it’s so transparent and visible l but it is also dangerous, simply because it’s so transparent and visible. Do not rush into this! Your reputation could be forever tainted!

It’s precisely because of this that we partnered with the superb Al Tepper to create our new LevelUP LInkedIN Sales Training course, of which the next one is October 27th, 2020. Followed by a repeated session on the 26th November, for those that can’t make the 27th. These full day training events are designed to help you prepare your LinkedIn account for selling, show you exactly how to do this and what to say, what to do to support your campaigns and how to ensure you get the right result from this. For more details click here:

For those of you that can’t make the full day’s training, there’s a free webinar talking about the new LinkedIn Sales Training programmes on November 3rd, as we’ll all need something other than the US Election to think about for a couple of hours. You’re all welcome. Please click here to register:

If you’re going to make LinkedIN work for you as a powerful sales tool, there’s work you need to do before you start getting in touch with customers and quite a bit of additional work that you may have never associated with direct selling that is going to really increase your visibility, credibility and profitability, as they say in BNI. We’ll cover this in detail in our training course although we covered some of this in our previous webinar, which you can see here:

What do you say when you get there then?

We will be covering part of this in Life, The Universe & Selling free webinar on October 5th

However, if you’re reading this after that date, you will be able to find it from mid-October onwards on our blog page here:

We’ll also cover it in much more detail in our LevelUp LinkedIN sales training programmes. I can also recommend visiting Al Tepper’s website for some excellent advice on LinkedIN marketing.

I can share some advice with you here though.

The first of which is DO NOT SELL!

I mean, yes, you are selling but you are absolutely NOT to sell in the first interaction, which is the connection message.

Nothing loses credibility with a prospective customer when you sell too early. Just as Clarice Starling tried to close Hannibal Lector too early in Silence Of The Lambs, it’s Quid Pro Quo, when it comes to communicating on LinkedIN.

Take time to build the relationship, use short messages that create interest and are relevant to the customer and build a reasons for them to interact.

If you start sending long messages, you’ll risk four things happening.

  1. They don’t read it – Not great
  2. They disconnect with you – Bad
  3. They report you to LinkedIN as being in contravention of site policies – VERY BAD
  4. You get blocked from LinkedIN – An unmitigated DISASTER

So, as I said, this is a very, very powerful tool that has some negative consequences if misused. When people say ‘You can’t sell on LinkedIN, they are absolutely correct; THEY can’t sell on LInkedIN! You, on the other hand, most certainly can, if you do it right.

I’m thinking of another film quote here……..

With great power, come great responsibility.

If you’ve been reading our site’s content for a while or have taken our online sales training programme, you’ll know that our Assertive Selling Model allows you to use these powerful tools safely. (If you’ve not taken the course, you should 😉. Here’s where you can get access to this course:

Use the skills of the well trained, professional and ethical salesperson in everything you do:

  • Have the attitude of wanting to help the customer make the buying decision that is right for the customer
  • Ask the right questions to understand the customer so you know what they want and need.
  • Acknowledge everything and let the customer talk
  • Ask more questions to help the customer understand what benefits your product or service offers to them so they can see how beneficial working with you will be.
  • Continue acknowledging.
  • Ask the right closing questions.
  • Make sure that the customer fully understands your solution and is happy to buy.

Like everything, if you know what to do, it’s really easy. However, you have to want to do the right thing for the customer and you have to have a strong and honest work ethic.

Selling without these things is unpleasant for everyone and not sustainable.

Hope to see you at a webinar, training or on LinkedIN soon,




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