Sales Advice in the Time of Coronavirus

By Ed Skapionok, Immediate Past Chair of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, and Amy Infante, CEO, GitGo, and member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) met along with HSMAI’s Rising Sales Leader (RSL) Council on a call to discuss the implications of the coronavirus on the industry from a sales perspective. While everything discussed during our call was accurate at the time — March 12 — the situation has evolved rapidly since then. Nevertheless, here are a few actionable items that salespeople should be discussing right now — and that should still be relevant today:

1. Work on building relationships with organizations. When the outbreak has lessened and customers are considering rebooking, they are going to remember how you treated them. One RSL member said that their job right now is focusing first on maintaining relationships and then on prospecting in the future rather than trying to do any hard sells. Several people on the call mentioned checking in on customers to see how they are doing and find out what specifically they need. “Focus on what we can control right now,” one SAB member said. “What we can control is having conversations with customers and getting their feedback by asking the right, quality questions.”

2. Be aware of new and current opportunities. While the CDC has recommended that people not travel unless necessary, airline fares are extremely low right now and people are still taking advantage of that. One SAB member recalled that after 9/11, leisure travel was one of the first segments to come back. “People are stressed and they need to get out there and blow off a little steam,” the member said.

Other SAB and RSL members said that while there have been many cancellations, they’re still seeing travel from contractors and certain industries, including consulting firms, government, workers, cleaning companies, and contingency planning companies. One SAB member mentioned that they are already seeing rebookings for April and beyond from cancellations due to the coronavirus.

3. Businesses are going to change the way they operate. “This is going to be a completely new world that our sales organizations are going to be facing,” one SAB member said. “Some of the leaders may be naive and say, ‘The virus is gone, it’s business as normal.’ It’s not going to be business as normal. We’re going to have to rearrange our whole sales strategies, our staffing levels, and our business mixes to really recover what we can on the back end of this.”

Because more people are working remotely, one person on the call brought up the idea that business travel may decrease, possibly even permanently, but because this crisis has taught them to more efficiently work from a distance, there may be more of a need for them to convene in person at conferences in the future. Another caller mentioned the possibility of renting out boardroom suites to employees who need a place to focus on their remote work instead of working from home. “I wouldn’t be surprised if coming out of this companies change how they do business, including our industry,” one caller said.

4. We’re in uncharted territory. Some people are predicting that the coronavirus will affect the industry for just a few months, while others have heard that it could last up to a year. This is something different than anything the industry has faced before. “It’s quickly become apparent that this is less SARS and a lot more 9/11 in how it feels,” one SAB member said. “People are scared to fly or they’re being restricted to fly. So that’s a different set of changes in demand and how we have to deal with that.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.

Categories: Sales
Insight Type: Articles