How to (Not) Sell in the Time of COVID-19

Along with the rest of your country, you’ve been asked to stay home from your office and instead (try to) work from the comfort (confinement) of your home.  Maybe you’re alone in your apartment without your usual team of co-workers to talk to or share ideas with; or perhaps you’ve found yourself with a whole new team of co-workers….your loving family (eye roll) who are equally struggling to adapt to their own new work- and learn-at-home environments.   You’re carrying out more food and alcohol than usual, but you’re out of toilet paper and a month overdue on a haircut.

And it’s supposed to be business as usual?

My advice to any sales professional experiencing a similar scenario…..STOP selling. Now’s not the time.  Instead, START connecting and building good will with your customers and prospects on the most basic human levels.  Start sharing your true-life stories of first-time home schooling, missed family birthdays, cancelled proms and graduations, ailing parents, and yes, even grocery shopping adventures and toilet paper hoarding.

In the words of a close friend, “Now is the time to be the Hallmark card for your customers.”  Just talk.  You might even figure out you need and enjoy the interaction as much as they do.

Here’s an example:  Recently, I reached out by email to a customer, just to check in. During the course of the “conversation”, I learned for the first time that she lives by herself and had “celebrated” her birthday the day before.  She couldn’t share the day with anybody, and only a few people had even reached out.  The timing was right, and someone who I barely knew beyond our intermittent business transactions totally opened up.  Of course I wished her a belated birthday, and you can bet next year, I’ll be sending her birthday wishes again.  And hopefully we’ll be able to exclaim what a difference a year makes!  The value in this interaction was simply the opportunity to talk, human to human, and realize we really are all in this crazy together.  She helped define herself to me, and I hope I helped define myself to her in return.

When we come out of this – and we will – these are the conversations that will be remembered, on both ends.  So when it comes time to get back to business as usual and START selling, we’ll have these shared experiences on which to build these new customer relationships.

Mark Wodoslawsky has 21 years of professional paper and print industry experience as an account manager with Millcraft and is a perennial member of Millcraft’s President’s Circle of top performing sales representatives.