We’re hearing a lot of questions from sales managers and leaders about selling in an uncertain time. There’s a common theme around messaging: no one is exactly sure what to say, or how to say it, when we’re talking to prospects right now.
Some sellers feel the need to completely change up their pitch. Our advice: not so fast.
When coronavirus began sweeping the headlines, it didn’t take long for subject lines to follow. But if you’re like us, there’s a level of fatigue setting. It’s safe to say that our buyers are feeling the same way: 40% of emails with COVID-19-related language in the subject line aren’t getting opened.
On the one hand, you might be thinking: how can we not acknowledge this different world we’re living in? Doesn’t that risk coming off as tone deaf? On the other hand, no one wants to be opportunistic in a time of real struggle — if you rework your message to center around the crisis, it may look like you’re leveraging that crisis to your company’s advantage.
5 Questions to Ask Before You Switch Your Pitch
Here’s the bottom line: if your product or service can provide real value to your target market, right now, then you’ve got a reason to keep selling.
But do you need to tweak your message? That depends. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before you overhaul your pitch.
1. What are your prospects’ new pain points?
Yes, the world is different. Yes, these are strange times. Yes, many of us are working remotely. We’ve seen all of these statements — in some form or fashion — many, many times over at this point.
They’re all true. But they’re just facts, and obvious ones at that. So dig in. What impact have all of these changes had on your prospects?
There may be no change at all. Or maybe it’s simply deepened their pain: for example, at Ambition, we know sales managers struggle to hold reps accountable to goals. For teams that suddenly shifted to remote work, sales floor visibility vanished, and that pain became all the more real.
In other cases, there may be brand new pain points that you can help your prospects solve for. How do you identify those? Funny you should ask...
2. What’s the market saying?
If you want to know how your prospects are feeling, listen to what they’re saying. Kick assumptions to the curb, don’t project your own feelings — just observe.
Engage on social media: Set aside time every day to peruse LinkedIn and see what questions are being asked and answered, what content is being shared — and what seems to be popular. Pull out themes and trends among your target audience to get a better understanding of what your prospects are struggling with at this very moment.
Join virtual events: Conferences have been canceled, but webinars and virtual events are springing up everywhere. Even if the content or format is so-so, we’ve found that Q&A portion is invaluable: you’ll walk away with great insight into the issues that your prospects are having trouble solving for themselves.
Do your research: As sales professionals, it can be easy to immerse ourselves in the sales community — and now more than ever, there’s an abundance of people and resources out there to support us as sellers. But as you’re listening, make sure you’re staying plugged in to your buyers’ market. Tune in to industry news, listen to podcasts, and follow leaders in the space.
3. Where does your product fit in?
At Ambition, we love our sales TVs and leaderboards — and so do our customers. They’re big and beautiful and they provide team-wide visibility across the whole sales floor.
The problem: there are a whole lot of empty sales floors in the world right now.
So what does that mean for our product story? Well, it doesn’t necessarily change a whole lot; we always try to lead with the solutions we provide and the value we deliver — holistically, not as a set of features.
But as we dig into this side of the platform during a pitch, our sales team may be making some tweaks to their typical conversation. That is, ensuring that our prospects know that every screen and leaderboard is accessible through a URL, so distributed teams can still achieve a high level of visibility. That’s always been true, but now, it’s a point that may need to surface earlier in a conversation.
Take a moment to re-examine the product or service you’re selling. Does it still provide value in the same way? Are there “primary” features that are no longer quite as relevant? Are there benefits that you previously considered secondary but now should be brought to the forefront?
4. What can you learn from your customers?
Your customers have a wealth of knowledge about your product and platform — because, well, they’re the ones using it.
If you’ve got current customer data, use it. For example, if you happen to be a SaaS company, dive into your analytics and see what areas of the product are getting more love, and take note of recent trends. At Ambition, we found that time using sales scorecards is up — which tells us that managers are homing in on accountability levers.
Another thought: get information from your Customer Success team, or go directly to prospect-turned-customers. Get a feel for how they’re using your product or service now versus pre-coronavirus. What’s changed? What’s become more or less valuable?
5. How can you get personal?
Now more than ever, it’s important to personalize your pitch. If you weren’t doing that before: there’s truly no time like the present. This is perhaps the most fail-proof way to ensure you’re not being tone deaf or completely irrelevant.
For example: if you change up your pitch to focus solely on teams who suddenly went remote, that’s not going to resonate if you’re pitching to a company that’s had a distributed team since 2009.
It’s not just about doing your homework, though. It’s also about being a human. Sellers should always lead with empathy, and especially in a time like this, it’s the right thing to do. Find a way to deliver value — not just in your first call or email, but at every single touchpoint.
Test, optimize, repeat
Keep in mind: just because the world is a different place doesn’t necessarily mean your buyers or their needs are different. If you’re shifting your message, make sure you’re doing it based off of informed, data-driven reasons — and as always, test, iterate and optimize along the way.