Selling Promo During a Crisis: Doing Your Job When Things Get Weird
Things are weird right now. Your customers’ businesses are probably closed or operating in reduced capacity. New orders are light, existing ones on hold or cancelled. People are adjusting to a new normal that changes by the hour. Everyone’s a little anxious.
This can all make sales calls uncomfortable at best, tone deaf at worst. But promo professionals have businesses to run. How do you balance giving your customers the space they need while still doing your job? There’s no single answer that works for everyone, but here are some ideas.
1. Check in
Call customers just to see how they’re doing on a personal level. Don’t make it a sales call—don’t even mention anything business-related. Just see how they’re holding up, ask about their families or employees, how they’re dealing with everything, etc. Wish them well and let them know you’re there and thinking of them. Keep it light or crack a joke, if you've got that sort of relationship—a little levity may be welcome right now. Remember, the sales will eventually come back. This is an opportunity to build relationships and keep showing your value as a partner. Mainly, it’s a chance to let people know you care about them.
2. Ask about business challenges
Similar to the above, but more business oriented. Again, don’t make it a sales pitch, and only go this route if your customer seems receptive to it. But ask customers how the current situation is impacting their business, so you can learn what specific challenges they’re facing. You may not be able to offer a solution then and there—and it may not even be the best time to pitch one—but it’ll give you something to work with for potential proposals in the near or far future.
3. Share ideas
If your customers are looking for solutions to business challenges, make sure you have some ideas. We covered how restaurants, bars and other small businesses are selling branded merchandise to help offset lost revenue. For other customers, one option might be work-from-home kits with notepads, pens, earbuds, etc. Another might be mailers with bookmarks (for reading), coloring books (for the kids) and can coolers (for sneaking a hazy IPA while the kids color). Sales opportunities might be scarce, but that only makes it more important to flex your creativity.
4. Use alternative communication
With offices closed, many customers are working from home. That means less or no access to their normal business phones, and also more disruptions and distractions than usual with laughing/crying kids and barking dogs around. Phone calls might not be the best option for keeping in touch. So, depending on the customer, try checking in via other channels—email, text message, social media, carrier pigeon. A quick “hey, I know things are crazy, but I just wanted check in and see how you’re doing” goes a long way. Or, just let customers know that you’re open for business if they do need anything. If you’re using email automation to update customers en masse, make sure your message is honest and to the point, and consider removing inactives from your list before mailing. That way you're not overloading anyone with info they don't need.