How to Sell in Crisis

by Nicolae Buldumac
How to Sell in Crisis

With the current degree of globalisation, a crisis that would hit only one country, region or vertical is quite impossible to imagine. Starting with one state being hit both socially and economically, the impact has internationally spread quite as fast as the virus itself.

Social distancing, imposed quarantine and travel restrictions have led to the impossibility of face-to-face meetings. As one of the top strategies for building trust and loyalty with potential business partners, these appointments were transferred online, which is close yet not always as impactful. 

At first glance, the situation may seem quite tragic. However, a cold-hearted view will depict that the B2B world is somewhat erratic mostly due to the uncertainty, resulting in hesitation or deferral of almost-closed deals. Thusly, businesses that have been affected directly expand the impact of the pandemic-induced events to other companies as well. The insecurity and scepticism result in deals’ postponement and cancellation.

With these and many other negative effects of the pandemic on B2B companies, we decided to post our 12 suggested solutions on how to sell in crisis. The following are based on our own and our partners’ experience of keeping the company’s activity alive during market instability situations as well as previous crisis events. 

  1. Be fully conscious of the situation

Before you make your next call or send your next email, make sure that you have a clear view of what is going on. Sales pitches and techniques that you’ve relied on until now will most likely not work any more. You just cannot talk today to people you’re contacting the same way you used to before the pandemic with all its consequences.

An unprecedented situation, the pandemic and all related events are quite a shock for most businesses. When you contact someone, the voice on the other side of the call or behind the answer to your email may sound convincingly calm. However, you may be sure that the one who replies is to some degree anxious and insecure. The comprehension of this is essential. Furthermore, if you do your homework right and spend some time estimating as close as possible how affected your prospects are, as well as show that you do understand that while sending your message, can help you build trust a lot faster. 

  1. Look through your prospects’ and business partners’ eyes

To understand the best way you can present your offer, you should make the effort to take the other side’s perspective of the unfolding events. Are they worried about their supply chains? Do they have employee shortages or other HR-related concerns? Do travel restrictions affect them a lot? Is there any possibility that they are going through tech or security-related issues? May they be facing any liquidity problems or other shortages? There is a long list of questions you should be asking yourself before contacting business partners and, especially, prospects today. Once you know the answers, you’ll know what you should say.

  1. Double your homework efforts

Besides getting the full picture of the situation businesses may go through, you should double your effort to find out as much information about their current situation as you can. And don’t forget, that it’s of core importance that you base these efforts on reliable data sources. More, what is true today may be obsolete tomorrow due to the speed with which events are unfolding, hence now may be the best time to acquire company intelligence from third parties, which do a part of your homework and save your precious time. Business directories, such as Global Database, deliver up-to-the-minute data about businesses, helping salespeople speed up their pre-call planning. 

Businesses, whether affected or not, are very likely to have switched to working from home. So even if you, as a salesperson, may be used to work remotely or from a random location, your prospects or clients may well not be. There may be lots of distractions they are not used to, so keep that in mind while getting ready for your next call. Moreover, both your and their connection may be subject to interruptions, meaning that you should be ready to deliver your message as concisely as possible.

  1. Offer value, but remember that you’re talking to fellow humans

No matter what industry you’re in or who are your B2B prospects and business partners, you will still be talking to people. Humans who have emotions, who care about their businesses and employees, their future, their families and plenty of other things. Even self-control gurus care a lot more now about existing and eventual pandemic-related issues. Therefore, you must address the human side of the person you’re talking to. With good homework, you should be aware of the issues of each prospect or business partner, and take it from there. Once you’ve shown that you’re interested in them, as well as their situation and employees, you can proceed to the part where you talk about the value your offer can bring them, but…

  1. … Don’t forget to adjust your sales pitch

As we’ve already mentioned, you just cannot promote your products and solutions the same way you did before the pandemic. If you are not able to say how you can help the companies you are contacting in the context of the latest crisis events unfolding, chances are high that they’ll hang up on you or send you to the spam folder for good. This refers to all your presentation materials too. If you usually show a video showcasing products and solutions in everyday non-crisis-related circumstances, consider replacing it with something else, or just talk about them taking the current situation into account. 

Come at your prospects or clients with a unique offer that helps their businesses in these trying times, and take your offer to the next stage when they are ready to move on. This helps them make a small decision now with an easier bigger decision later.

  1. Listen carefully

Of course, you can collect all the possible data from news, company directories and other sources. But you cannot find accurate information about the inside view of the current situation of your prospects or business partners. Therefore listen and try to understand as much as you can when talking to them. That would allow you to adjust your offer during the conversation so that it sounds exactly as the solution to their pain points, bringing you closer to a deal. This will show that you hear what they are saying as well as that you care. Even if they will not be ready to move forward with the deal during the crisis, you still raise your chances to be the one they’ll call once the pandemic is over.

Sympathy does not generate invoices. Neither does empathy count towards the quota. If you listen closely to what they have to say, you’ll know how to act. There may be compromises, and getting to one will surely be remembered by both your prospects and clients. 

  1. Build relationships that last

There is a big difference between businesses not being ready to buy from you now, and those that will not buy your product at all. If your offer is a good fit, but they are just uncertain about the short-term, show that you do understand that it may not be the best moment. Investing your time and effort without expecting some immediate returns will build a strong foundation based on trust and respect that will surely generate great results once we get over the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. Be reasonable

Make intelligent yet reasonable offers. If you’re contacting someone and they tell you that it’s really not a good time, don’t promise and don’t actually follow-up on them in one week. Obviously, that is not enough and not much can change so fast. On the other hand, the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ still works, so if you’re sure your product is a good fit for that business, do not give up on them and most importantly don’t let them forget you. As an experienced salesperson, chances are high that you’ll manage to feel when would be the right time to check on them and will help build a partnership that would last.

Take your time and let them do the same. Don't push them for deals right here right now. While the market is down they will probably avoid taking important decisions. Instead, focus on building relationships with your prospects to increase the chances of reconnecting with them later.

  1. Close the deals you can

While empathy is very important during challenging times, you should not be going through a sales crisis. If you have deals ready to close, do your best to get your prospects there. Without creating a desperate appearance, make that additional step to meet their needs, offer smaller subscription possibilities, present freebies with your products, create adjusted bundles or any other valuable tweaks to what you currently have on tap. There are plenty of companies out there that are not and may not be affected at all by the crisis. A closed deal will benefit both of you. 

  1. Keep prospecting

A crisis is not a vacation. On the contrary, this may be the time when you have some additional spare moments to look up prospects and identify the best way to get in touch with them. Approach companies while they have time to explore new opportunities and consider solutions that would help their business both right now and when the market recovers. After all, once this blows over, few companies will have the luxury to analyse tools. They will be busy getting back on track.

  1. Never stop looking for opportunities

We’re facing a crisis now, so it’s time to rise to the challenge. We’re not talking about reselling hand sanitizer for £50 a bottle. Maybe there is an idea that you’ve long been willing to try. Or maybe you feel the need to review your supply chain as well as the verticals of your clients to find new insights. There are always opportunities: you just need to keep your eyes open and be ready to adjust quickly. Even if you’re not the one to decide, coming up with great plans and suggestions will surely be appreciated. Adapt to the situation and be ready for what’s coming. 


  1. Prepare for the worst-case scenario yet stay positive

There is no certainty whatsoever related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that does not mean that you should give up thinking that you have no idea how to sell in crisis. You should write down a couple of scenarios, including the worst possible ones, yet do not forget that we’ve all been through more than that. Nobody really knows for sure how to deal with the current outbreak, that’s a fact. But we will certainly survive it, so keep rowing until you get to the other side.

We are here to help

Due to recent changes in market activity, we wanted to offer a helping hand by providing 3 additional months on any license with Global Database during which you can focus on setting up your processes, picking the right target audiences, and building rapport with prospects. 

Global Database is a company intelligence directory which may help you perform due diligence of both your prospects and current customers, analyse the market situation, learn about the current state of your clients, stay informed on updates and a lot more. Besides, considering the switch to remote working, the phone numbers you may have used or planning to use have now become obsolete, so our database will help you find out the needed contacts of decision-makers, including their email addresses and profiles on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. 

To sum up…

While most of your actions may be short-term, you do need to keep a long-term view. This year may be bad for many, but keep in mind that anything you do now will have long-term consequences. Invest in your prospects and customers. Ask yourself: how can I be there for them now in a way they would remember? Your reputation is being built right now, and it will stay forever. If you’re using fear and unethical practices to sell through the crisis, people will not forget nor forgive that. You will pay a long-term price for bad selling practices. Instead, what you should do is find ways to build relationships.

Salespeople have now no other choice than to unveil the ‘salespreneur’ within them. They have to employ their skills at full having not only the period of the pandemic in mind. While sales can be dramatically low at this point, not giving up and building the foundation for faster recovery once this outbreak is over should be a priority. This may not the time for active sales. It is time for empathy.

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