Post-Pandemic Selling Skills

Business today is different, and those who have not adapted are running into a lot of trouble. Some people are determined to wait it out. And while I’d like to think that we can all just return to business as usual when the pandemic is over, I am far from convinced that will be the case. For that reason, I believe the skills that we learn and implement now will be critical to our selling efforts going forward.

David: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today cohost Chris Templeton and I will be discussing pandemic and post-pandemic selling skills. Welcome Chris.

Chris: Hi David. We are living in some interesting times, aren’t we? If you had told me at the beginning of this year that we’d be doing a podcast on selling skills for a pandemic, I probably would have said, “David, you’re losing it.” But here we are. So what are some of the skills that you have in mind?

David: Well, it really is crazy. You know, just the idea that for so long, so many salespeople have traditionally counted on in person networking referrals, canvassing, drop-ins, other methods that have historically been done in person. And now a lot of that stuff has been taken away. And I think a lot of people are viewing it like, okay, well I can’t wait till we get back to that, and maybe we will and I’m hoping we will. I’m hoping that all those things that were previously available will be available to us again. But if they’re not, then the skills that hopefully we’ve been learning over the course of the past several weeks and months, will come in handy on the other side. And the way that I’m viewing this is that if we can sort of layer in additional skills that will help us to be able to continue to get customers, regardless of whether or not we can be in front of them, we’re going to be in much better shape than people who are simply waiting for things to get back to normal. Because the truth of the matter is, we may get back to “normal” in a couple of weeks or a month or so and then we could potentially have it all taken away again. If they decide, okay, well we’ve got to do social distancing again, then all of that’s gone. And I think it will be very difficult for people if they’re banking on the fact that things are going to go back to normal. If they don’t and they don’t develop those skills, I think they’re going to be in some real trouble. So essentially what I’m talking about are alternatives to face to face prospecting and figuring out the types of things that we can do, regardless of whether or not we’re able to get in front of people.

Chris: It is a big order, isn’t it, David? The good news is there’s so many things that help us with prospecting that doesn’t have to be face to face, but still I think having the attitude of “I need to make changes now based on how this could come and go…

David: Right.

Chris: …is really the most important thing, isn’t it?

David: I think so. And so when I look at, okay, what are some of the skills that we need to develop (or hopefully that we have developed,) a lot of them really go to things that people have been doing online for quite some time now, and a lot of things that internet marketers have done to get business, right. And I think I’ve been fortunate in my sales career, I was never too married to the whole idea of having to be face to face, to sell to someone. I was always comfortable with the idea of being able to sell to someone on the phone. I was always comfortable with different aspects of being able to communicate, whether it’s through email or whatever and through social media or messaging and all these different types of things. So for me it hasn’t been disastrous in terms of being able to continue moving forward, but for people who have really only ever done face to face selling, this has been really challenging. So when I think in terms of the skills that are necessary, a good first one to start with would be can you prospect using social media? And it’s either a yes or no. Either yes you can do it or no you can’t. Or maybe you’ve tried different things on social media and some of it has worked or some of it hasn’t, but that’s a good place to start. Can you do that? Can you do some of your prospecting using social media?

Chris: Right, exactly. And you know what? I think that a lot of people, especially if you’re used to selling face to face, are gonna say, well no, how could I possibly do that? And I think that the bigger question is, are you sure? Are you sure this isn’t one of the ways that you can generate that flow into the top of the funnel?

David: Right, and if you can’t, then can you develop the skills to start making that happen? And I think that’s going to really be the challenge of a lot of what we’re going to be talking about in this podcast, and very likely the next one as well, if we continue on this topic. It’s not just about “can you do these things,” it’s “are you willing to learn these things? Are you open enough to adapt to be able to change an approach when a change in approach is necessary?” So just starting with this one, prospecting using social media, a lot of people have been sort of dabbling with this for a long time. And by dabbling, what I mean is they go on social media, they know they should be able to use it to attract customers, but they’re not quite sure how. So they’re on there and they’re doing typical social media things like just sort of whatever, posting cat videos or posting different things that people tend to do on social media and they’re not doing it strategically. Because if you’re going to be going online and using social media to prospect, you’re going to have to be taking a different approach than if you’re just going on there to interact with people and to use it for social purposes as opposed to business purposes.

Chris: Right. And from that standpoint, do you think that there needs to be a separate account that salespeople have that splits their personal and their business into two different approaches?

David: I used to think that, and it’s a great question. Let’s say we’re talking Facebook for example. You need to have a business page, right? You have to have a business page on Facebook, right? The problem with business pages these days is that they get no distribution. You can set up a business page, you can have thousands of followers on your business page and you can post something there, and maybe a dozen people are going to see it because Facebook wants you to have to pay to get your page content shown.

Chris: Boost that post!

David: Exactly. Boost the post. That’s what they want you to do, and if you don’t boost it, then very few people are going to see it. So I do think it’s good to have that. I think it’s important to have that. But if you want to look at things holistically, then I think the reality is that you’re going to need to be able to have your page for your business. You’re still going to need to have a personal account for yourself, and you might want to have something like a group where you can have your people get together. Because if you post something in a group, then the people who are members of the group are more likely to see it. In a group setting, Facebook actually allows people to see the stuff. In a page setting, they don’t. Also in your personal Facebook settings, they will normally allow more people to see what you’re posting. So to answer your question, I think in a sense the answer is “all of the above.” You want to have a page for your business, you want to have a personal account for yourself and you want to potentially have a group for your customers to be able to follow you in so that you can get material out to them that may not be available to the general public. And as far as the real question you asked, which is “should I post business stuff on my personal profile,” I’m afraid the answer to that is going to have to be moving more and more toward “yes.” And the reason for that is, even if you don’t do that, let’s say you have a business page and you’ve got a group for your people. If you’re just posting personal stuff on your personal page, well one of the first things that people are going to do, when they come to your business page is they’re going to see that you’re the person who’s leading this discussion and they’re going to want to check you out, right? So they’re going to go to your personal profile anyway. And if your personal profile doesn’t demonstrate some sort of authority or some sort of positioning in terms of “this is what I’m all about, this is what I do, this is how I help people.” Then there’s going to be a disconnect in their mind. So my feeling is that now you pretty much are going to need to be sort of cross pollinating between your page and your groups and your personal profile.

Chris: It brings up a number of things that I think we should talk about here that are really important. Number one, you better take some time before you start going down this road and take a look at the posts that you have personally, to make sure that you’re putting an image for that you want and that what you have posted isn’t going to just distract people. Boy, that can sabotage your quicker than anything going you think.

David: Oh no question, and you can immediately alienate half of your potential audience by saying something political. It doesn’t matter which way you lean, what your opinions are. If you’ve got something political on there, you’re either going to alienate half your audience or you’re going to simply target the other half. There is a client that I have who is very political on Facebook, but he does a lot of work with one particular political party, so he’s sort of expected to be partisan. So he can sort of get away with it, because people from the other party are not going to buy from him. He knows that. So unless you’re in a situation like that where you’ve got a very highly targeted, developed niche where people expect that from you, you’re far better off being Switzerland in that regard.

Chris: And that’s a great point. Especially in today’s polarized environment. It’s really worthwhile to take the time and look and see. And like you said, if you’re somebody who’s on one side or the other and your job makes sense for that to be there, then by all means I think it’s fine. But in general, my sense is no politics, eh?

David: Well, that’s what I would recommend if you want to be able to appeal to the widest possible audience.

Chris: Yup.

David: And some people feel very strongly about it. Some people feel less strongly. I personally feel that not everything that I think needs to be expressed on social media. My every thought does not have to be made public.

Chris: What are you making for dinner tonight, David?

David: Right. I mean, I’m happy to have conversations with people about various topics, but I think that when we put stuff like that out there, we need to do it strategically.

Chris: Absolutely. The other thing that I want to just talk about a little bit is groups and tell people what groups are and how you see them being used in business. Because I think this is a super powerful way to create value as a sales guy or gal.

David: Yeah, groups are just basically sort of a private area that someone can set up for the people that they want to… Set it up for. You can reserve that for paying clients. You can reserve it for your prospects. You can reserve it for people who you just want to have some idea of what you’re able to do from a business standpoint. You can also have multiple groups for multiple purposes. In a previous podcast, I had talked about three different levels of content. And the three different levels of content that we talked about were: Free content — content that’s available to everyone. Protected content — content that’s only available to people who have made themselves known to you. And then Paid content — content that’s only available to people who pay you.

Chris: Got it.

David: And I have personally found that approach to be extremely helpful, because there are things that you would tell your clients that you wouldn’t necessarily tell to your prospects. And there are things that you would say to a prospect that you don’t have to say to a client because they’re already clients. So by segmenting things out, and recognizing that my personal profile — it can be public, or you can say, “all right, I’m only going to limit these particular posts to people who have already friended me.”

Chris: Right.

David: And you could look at it as, if anybody can see it, it’s public. If just the people that I’ve determined can see it because they friended me, then it’s protected (because they’ve had to friend me, I know who they are.) And then if they bought something from me, if I want to move to paid content, then I could set up a group just for the people who have paid. So if you think of it like this, then you can decide where you want to interact with people. Do you want to interact with them in a public forum where everybody can see it? Do you want to interact and more of a protected area, or do you want to, with your clients, interact in a paid area? And I think the answer for anybody who has clients is you probably should have an area for your paid clients so that you can share more with them than you would with other people.

Chris: You know, it really brings up a good point, David, and just like in this podcast, we’re talking about how to be effective in the pandemic. What a perfect way to start to go to all your clients and invite them to a Facebook group — that your focus is how to get through the pandemic from whatever your items are that you sell, that sort of thing. Does that make sense?

David: Yeah, and I think that’s going to appeal to a certain segment of the market. If there’s one thing that I’ve discovered over the course of the past few weeks and months, it’s that some people are just not open to that idea at all. In other words, there are people who are just like, “okay, there’s a pandemic. Nobody’s buying anything and therefore I’m not doing anything.” They’re just frozen, they’re paralyzed into inaction. And it’s very difficult to help someone with a mindset like that. So by doing what you suggest, one of the things that you do, which I think is really helpful to both yourself and your clients, is you allow them to self identify, you allow them to determine, “am I up for that?” Am I interested in having a conversation about what to do and what my next steps are or am I still going to continue to bury my head in the sand and wait for it to pass?

Chris: Well, I can tell you the approach that I’d be taking.

David: Yeah, me too!

Chris: And it’s not sitting back and waiting for this thing to be over.

David: Yeah. Well that’s one of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately as well, is that at some point, when this thing ends (and at some point it will end,) things might not go back to the same, but it will end.

Chris: Right.

David: And when that happens, my guess is that certain aspects of business are going to be coming back very quickly. And so if you’re not positioning yourself now to be able to move when the time comes, then you’re going to be scrambling around at the last minute and saying, “what should I do?” And what we’ve been doing with our clients is we’ve been doing that preparation now we’ve been focused on three primary things. First thing is stay healthy and safe. Second thing is minimize short term damage to the business. And third thing is position yourself as the leader, as the authority, right now, so that when things get better, you are the one they think of first.
Chris: One of the things that occurred to me at the beginning of this podcast when you talked about people, they’re used to doing business face to face, they’re going to have to learn some new skills. And some people are going to say, you know what? I just can’t do this face to face. And I can tell you from personal experience for 20 years in my business, I rarely do things face to face, and I have great relationships with my clients, with vendors, that sort of thing. And so I would encourage anybody who says, “uh, I can’t do it this way.” Think about… maybe you just can. And creating relationships from afar is not as difficult as some people would be led to believe.

David: Absolutely. In my promotional products business, most of the work that I did was with public television stations all over the country. And I had never met most of those people.

Chris: Right.

David: When I hired a sales person who became my sales manager and eventually our general manager, and eventually he bought the business from me. When I first met him, he was a face to face, in person sales person. And I remember him saying that the only way you can sell stuff is face to face, belly to belly… That was his big thing, belly to belly. It really paints a picture, doesn’t it? And I remember disagreeing with him, because our entire business had been built NOT face to face. I knew that wasn’t correct, but for him, it was correct. That’s the way that he preferred to sell and that’s the way that she decided to sell. And that’s the way he sold very effectively. He was very good at face to face, in person selling. But at that point, that was a luxury, right? At that particular point in time you could do that. You could say, “I’m only going to sell in person” or “I’m only going to sell on the phone.” When only a percentage of the market is buying, a lot of those choices go out the window, and you have to start to say, “okay, how am I going to adapt? Am I willing to adapt?” And if so, then you know, these might be some ways to do it. Now originally led off this podcast, so we’re going to be talking about a bunch of different skills that you need so far. We’ve talked about one, which is a new prospect using social media and hopefully you can, hopefully you got some good ideas on that. But obviously we have plenty more to talk about as well.

Chris: You know, David, it seems like there’s an awful lot to cover, just in terms of how we can really be more effective using social media. We haven’t talked about LinkedIn, we haven’t talked about YouTube, podcasting, all these different things. So why don’t we pick that up in the next podcast.

David: Sounds like a plan.

Chris: In the meantime, if you need help minimizing short term damage to your business and positioning yourself as the “go-to” person in the recovery, go to topsecrets.com/call to schedule a strategy session to find out if David and his team can help you. That’s topsecrets.com/call. David, it’s a big, big topic we’re dealing with and I think it’s probably one of the most important ones we’ve ever done and will continue to do in the next podcast and probably a couple more, eh?

David: Sounds good. Chris, thank you so much.

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