In the current COVID-19 economic situation, we’re all in the same boat. No matter who we are or what we do, getting back to doing business hinges on having customers.
Although it may be disconcerting, there’s no guarantee customers will show up. Some clients will decide they don’t need us. Their situation has changed and they’ve moved on. Others will have found new solutions. The competition will be fierce with new, appealing options popping up everywhere.
Many will be far less accepting and far more demanding than they were in the past. They’ve had time to rethink what’s important to them and established new priorities. Others are so stressed and preoccupied with their situation, they’re unable to make decisions, let alone move forward.
This isn’t where we would like our customers to be, but it’s where they are. As frightening as it may appear, we can’t expect them to dust themselves off and pick up where they left off.
Just saying these words sounds—dare I say it—pessimistic. This isn’t the way we see ourselves. We’re optimists down to our DNA. We face danger squarely and we welcome challenges. To even suggest that a virus could possibly disrupt our lives goes against the grain.
So, what are we to do? How will we deal with the cards we’re left holding? Hope for the best? Keep our fingers crossed? Rather than trying to pick up where we left off, we will be better served by recognizing that we’ve all been through a lot and a lot has changed.
Here’s a checklist for reaffirming relationships with existing clients and building new ones with prospects:
1) Set the tone. Referencing a study by Growth from Knowledge on consumer behavior in the wake of the coronavirus, Marketing Insider’s Stacy Bereck says that “85% of U.S. consumers feel that the way brands behave during the COVID-19 crisis will affect their desire to do business with those companies in the future.”
2) Let clients know we want to understand their situation. Call it empathy or whatever you like. Consumers want to feel they are doing business with those who are interested in them and not just making a sale.
3) Introduce ways for customers to stretch their money. Here’s how the folks at Betty Crocker are responding to this obvious challenge. “Impossibly easy dinners for $2.50 per serving. Dinner doesn't have to be spendy to be delicious. These fuss-free recipes are big on flavor and easy on your wallet.” Right upfront, they make it clear why their recipes are a good fit. They use the right keywords: easy, inexpensive and delicious. A winning combination.
4) Help clients avoid making purchasing mistakes. I can hear someone say, “That’s not a salesperson’s job. I’m there to make a sale.” But it’s the smart salesperson who takes the time to help prospects arrive at an informed buying decision, and who ultimately gets the business—and it is remembered.
5) Focus on helping people. Explore options with them. Not good, better and best; not low, medium and high prices; but options you and your customer develop together, such as poor fit, good fit and best fit. In other words, options that make sense to them.
6) Pull rather than push. This will take a lot more listening than talking, a lot more patience than persuasion, and a lot more understanding than ever before.
7) Don’t think we can pick up where we left off. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than being slowed down, sidelined and told to stay home. We may be charged up and chomping at the bit to get going, but even so, it’s not like coming back from vacation. Give both yourself and your customers time to adjust to a new and different situation.
8) Clients will stay with us if we let them know we’re depending on them. Some will see this as a sign of weakness and take advantage of us. But if we believe in building relationships, it’s a chance worth taking.
In the past months, we have learned that a lot of things are out of our control. Even so, that’s not the last word. What we do next when it comes to our clients and prospects is up to us.
John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.”