Some 20 months after America agreed to shut down for 15 days to slow the spread of coronavirus, our economy is still feeling the impact of the virus and its dreaded disease companion, COVID-19. Things still aren’t back to normal in many sectors of the economy. As such, everything is different – including B2B sales. It has been suggested that now is a better time to lead clients rather than trying to sell to them.
BenefitMall, a Dallas-based general agency, suggested leading clients instead of selling to them in a blog post published over the summer of 2021. The post was intended to help insurance brokers figure out how to lead their clients in the final months before open enrollment launched. The post is thought-provoking, if for no other reason than to seriously consider how valid traditional sales practices are right now.
Make the Sale at All Costs
Prior to the onset of COVID-19, the sales mentality was pretty simple. No matter what you sold, you did so at all costs. The sales professional’s number one priority was to close the deal. That may no longer be the case.
Data published in late 2020 showed that small businesses were struggling with cash flow. The vast majority of businesses surveyed during the spring of 2020 only had enough cash to keep themselves going for two months. Eighteen months later, many of those businesses are still struggling.
Those not struggling with cash flow are unable to fill open positions. So many people have elected to not return to work that companies are finding it hard to maintain staff levels. And it is not only small businesses that are suffering. Major corporations like Southwest Airlines, that laid off and/or furloughed large segments of their workforce in 2020, are still struggling to get those workers back.
If you are a broker selling health insurance benefits, how do you sell to companies that don’t know what their workforce is going to look like 3 to 6 months from now? If you sell semi-conductors to car companies, how do you make a sale when you don’t know whether you will have the chips to fill the orders?
Leading Clients through the Storm
It is apparent that the traditional sales game has been turned on its head. It may be turned back at some point, but things are different right now. It might be better to help lead clients through the storm rather than trying to close deals. At least that way, the chances of losing them entirely go way down.
The example BenefitMall provided was one of the insurance brokers helping their clients in the months leading up to open enrollment. The idea was to help them establish their benefits budgets. It was to help them start looking at health insurance and other benefits through the employee’s perspective. In the meantime, insurance brokers would be looking for new products that more accurately reflect client needs.
Leading clients in the current atmosphere is all about helping them make the best of whatever situation they are in. If they are not ready to buy, hitting them with a heavy-handed sales pitch is not going to change anything. And if they are not going to buy now, it is still in the sales professional’s best interest to lead so that, when clients are ready to buy, they don’t go elsewhere.
There is no telling how long COVID-19 will continue affecting the economy. But as long as it does, sales professionals have to be careful about how hard they push. Now might be a better time to lead clients rather than selling to them.