It may not happen today or tomorrow, but salespeople are going to be out there again, hopefully sooner than later. Let’s talk about what we need to do to prepare to re-enter the world of face-to-face sales.
I know that it will not be business as usual. Those of you who are kind enough to regularly read this humble column know that I have spent a great deal of time and words on that subject. You know about working remotely and selling without visiting customers. I have enjoyed both these things, and I hope you have found my advice helpful.
But now it’s onto the future—hopefully, the near future—when we consider what we are going to do when it’s time to sell by visiting customers in person. Here are seven tips to prepare for getting out on the old black ribbon highway once again.
1. Do Your Homework
As with everything in life, preparation is key. Make sure that you have stayed in touch with your customers so that you know what is going on with them. If you have not done a good job at this, shame on you, but there is still time. Reach out to them. Send them an update on how you are doing. Ask them how they are doing and, most importantly, start laying the groundwork for the time when you are going to be able to visit them in person.
2. Review What They Have Done With You and Your Company During the Shutdown
Did they continue to order as normal, or did their business wane as the pandemic lingered? Their business may have even increased. Whatever happened, make sure you know what the score is and plan your sales approach accordingly.
3. Develop Your Sales Tactics
In some cases, you will be able to pick up where you left off and get right back to the way it used to be. For other accounts, you are going to have to pick up the pieces; you might even be back to ground zero in your newer accounts, which is fine. The key is to prepare for what you are going to do.
4. Be Ready to Offer Prototyping and NPI
As we have discussed lately, today’s world is filled with new product development. The world has changed drastically, and with that kind of change comes tremendous innovation. Companies that were known for building one product may have moved to another as the world market is demanding new medical electronics products, safety and security products, and decontamination products, to name some of the most obvious. Are you ready for these changes? You’d better be if you want to succeed in the next year.
5. Develop Synergistic Partnerships
If you are a board fabricator, then you should find yourself a good design partner, as well as a very good assembly house. With innovation and NPI comes the need for speed. Your customers are going to be looking for vendors who can provide them with a fast, accurate, and technically capable one-stop shopping solution. They are going to want people who they can trust but in terms of business as well as capabilities that can get the job done faster than ever before. If you want to wow your customer base, you must better be able to provide that kind of service; for many of you, that is going to mean finding the right synergistic complementary partners. Start lining them up right now.
6. Make Sure That You and Your Company Are on the Same Page When It Comes to Approaching Customers
As we enter the last few months (hopefully) of this pandemic lockdown, you should be sitting down with your entire management team and developing your re-entry strategy—not only in terms of sales and marketing but also in terms of preparedness of the facility including your technology, flexibility, adaptability, and quality. Make sure that everyone on your team is ready to meet the needs of your customers, which includes providing a complete synergistic solution from concept to reality in a manner of days—not weeks or months.
7. Follow the Rules of the House
In this case, I’m referring to your customers’ rules. If they want you to wear a mask, wear one. If they want you to use hand sanitizer, use it. If they want you to keep a social distance, do it. Don’t make selling even harder than it has to be. Comply with your customers’ rules for safety, no matter what they are.
We all know deep in our hearts that everything is going to be okay. We are going to get back to work, and we will be able to get in front of customers soon enough. But do not think it is going to be exactly the same as it was before because it will not. But it will be great to get out on the road again to see and talk to our beloved customers face-to-face. I can’t wait!
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.