One of the realities of the still-ongoing COVID-19 crisis is that many sales professionals and organizations can face greater challenges in locating viable sales opportunities. Budgets are cut, contacts are more difficult to get a hold of, and there’s logistical hurdles for many product displays and demonstrations. All of these factors make for a much more challenging sales world overall. Thus, today we’ll be discussing how to find sales opportunities in a difficult selling environment. Note: While we’ll refer at times to the present pandemic, consider this advice in the context of any rough period.
- Research how quickly and frequently the situation is changing in your space.
This is arguably the first thing you should do. As we mentioned in a blog earlier this year, there was a case study of a business that found their sales landscape was changing literally weekly. Sales strategies that succeeded would suddenly stop doing so a few days later, necessitating another shift.
Should you find yourself in a volatile, rapidly changing environment like this, respond by holding sales strategy meetings more frequently – whether it’s weekly instead of monthly, monthly instead of quarterly, etc. This will help sales professionals stay agile, flexible, and responsive to the changing tides. In those meetings, discuss what changes sales reps are seeing and how to adapt to those changes.
- Talk to buyers about how their priorities and pain points have changed.
Normally when there’s an economic downturn and buyers become more cautious and risk-adverse, it’s because they themselves are experiencing sales difficulties similar to yours. That makes it an excellent strategy to talk to them about how their own changed environment has reordered their priority list and brought new difficulties that they need to address. You may well find in this conversation an opportunity to present your offerings from another angle, or recommend an option outside of what you would offer them in more fruitful periods.
- Monitor your target markets’ social media discussions for in-depth research.
If you can’t even get conversations with buyers, or if you want even more information in addition to what they’ve told you about their new priorities and issues, go online. See what conversations your markets and industries are having about their business in the current tough times. This can, similar to the direct conversations, give new insights to possible approaches and necessary sales strategy shifts.
- Investigate new or underutilized target markets and industries.
If your primary markets are running low on leads and opportunities, this might well be the time to explore if there’s sectors you haven’t tapped yet that might prove more fruitful. This can be geographic (such as another state or country) or industry-based. For example, say you’re a sales rep for a shipping company that caters to event and expo markets. Perhaps this is the time to explore reaching out to industries, such as wholesale and distribution or other businesses that experience an increased demand in moving goods around the country.
- Develop your sales skills and get more training.
This might seem counter intuitive at first. Why, when times are tough, would you want to invest in sales training, and how is that going to help you locate more opportunities? Very good questions. The reality is, during rough stretches, it’s the top performers who really stand out and are often able to find leads where less skilled sales reps don’t see any or see them but aren’t able to shift them further down the pipeline.
There’s also this to consider: even if the training doesn’t immediately translate into more opportunities during the drought – and it very well could – investing in knowledge and skill development puts sales professionals in position to have an even more brilliant rebound once the economic situation recovers.
Finding strong leads and good opportunities can be difficult in economic climates like the one we’re experiencing now in a pandemic. But by developing sales agility, responding quickly to changes and being open to buyers, engaging in research, and focusing on honing skills, sales professionals can turn things around and have success even in these environments – priming themselves for new heights when things pick up to a more standard situation.