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4 min read

An Unexpected COVID-19 Side Effect: Speechless Salespeople

Mar 31, 2020 8:58:45 AM

3 Ways to Shift Your Sales Approach During Crisis

For the first time in recent history, salespeople (most of whom are known for being able to give an elevator pitch at the drop of a hat) have no words. In this unprecedented sales landscape, “professional talkers” are quietly trying to figure out what to do. 

We find ourselves grasping for the “perfect” message—something that reflects an understanding of the crisis we’re all facing, yet still allows us to earn a living. 

This wasn’t in the sales playbook!  

Some companies are prospecting as if it’s business as usual because they need the revenue, but they are risking appearing tone-deaf and insensitive. Fear and uncertainty are plaguing millions of salespeople, fueling the scent of “commission breath” in many outbound messages.

Other companies are moving their prospects’ projects to the backburner to prove the company’s empathy and sincerity, with salespeople leaving messages like “I'll reach out in a few months to continue the conversation when this whole thing blows over.” Unfortunately, putting all deals on pause will only add fuel to the cycle of economic downturn.

No one knows what the right move is. We are all navigating this storm together.

One thing hasn’t changed, however: our livelihood still depends on our ability to sell. Our companies need us to sell to stay in business. America needs us to sell to keep the economy moving. Prospects need to be prospected, and salespeople need to do what they do best: sell. 

This means our sales volume shouldn’t change, but our tone should. 

The approach has to shift. We need to acknowledge the crisis we are in, change our messaging, and position our product or service as helping (rather than selling to) the prospect.

Here are three ways to shift:


  1. Change Your Formula. Everyone knows the formula: Cold call, introduction, value proposition, confirmation questions, then schedule the next step. However, if you follow the same old formula, you will come across as disingenuous and callous. Instead, try a new formula:
    1. Start with a cold call.
    2. Introduce yourself.
    3. Make a permission-based statement that acknowledges the crisis (i.e., “I understand you’re probably slammed right now with the COVID-19 situation. May I tell you why I reached out? I think I can help.”)
    4. Offer a value proposition that explains why your product or service can help during this crisis. It should include the following elements:
        1. A trigger event you read online about their industry or company.
        2. Examples of other companies you work with in their industry, to build credibility.
        3. A unique problem you solve within their industry.
        4. How you can help, specifically in relation to the current crisis.
      1. (An Example: “I’m currently working with X company and they mentioned that X industry recently laid off X employees nationwide. A lot of folks in your industry have been reaching out to combat the loss of staff members by taking manual processes and configuring them into automated workflow applications,” or, “As we are transitioning to a virtual world and relying more on technology, many people are reaching out to us for help improving their company’s emote productivity.” 
      2. A word of caution: don’t try to create a bridge between COVID-19 and your product if it doesn’t exist. If that’s the case, acknowledge it, and respect the prospect’s time. This may go something like, “due to cash flow challenges, I understand this may not be the time to invest in a new strategy. However, maybe you have the time now to lay the groundwork. Allow me to show you why this may benefit you and, if you still want to wait to pull the trigger, that’s fine.”
    5. Be curious and empathetic, and engage in genuine conversation. Find out how their business is being impacted right now.
    6. Discover the prospect’s pain points and ensure they are aligned with your solution.
    7. Schedule the next step!
  2. Focus on What You Can Do
    1. Use these new limitations as a challenge to get creative and find ways to differentiate yourself within your limitations. Some ideas:
      1. Send a prospect a GrubHub delivery and host a virtual lunch and learn.
      2. Take advantage of ZoomInfo’s whiteboard feature when presenting to a prospect. 
      3. Send a personalized selfie embedded in your virtual outreaches so your prospect can put a face to your name.
      4. To engage your prospects, try hosting a free webinar, and giving out UberEats e-gift cards. 
      5. Send a Starbucks e-gift card to a prospect, then have a virtual “coffee” with them.
      6. Host a virtual happy hour, and have fun with it!
  3. Reset & Invest: Become Indispensable
    1. During these uncertain times, focus your energy on becoming so valuable that your company will fight tooth and nail to keep you onboard. 
    2. If your business is slowing down, you should be speeding up. Take this time to invest in yourself. Try some of these ideas for growth:
      1. Become a lifelong learner by making a habit of watching a TEDTalk every day.
      2. Make a goal to finish 3 personal development books by May.
      3. Revisit your company's initial training videos and university portal.
      4. Develop new skills within a specific discipline or task to become a subject matter expert at your company.
      5. Become a student of your business and master your craft by watching videos or interviewing experts in other departments at your company.
      6. Get a new certification.
      7. Take online classes (Skillshare is currently offering two-month trial memberships for free!).
      8. Learn a new skill by watching Youtube videos.


Salespeople all over the world are halting their outreach and hesitating out of fear. Fear of what? Fear of rejection

But the story of sales hasn’t changed. Rejection happened before the crisis and it will continue to happen during (and after) the crisis. However, the person who tells you to bug off due to the pandemic probably would have told you to take a hike on a normal day, too. 

Now is not the time to be paralyzed into silence by fear. As salespeople, we are people of influence. The world needs our positive energy and grit now more than ever. We need to fight to stay in business by throwing ourselves into helping our prospects and bettering ourselves. 

Don't stop generating revenue during crisis! We've created a quick-guide to help you pivot and keep revenue flowing during these times. See it here.

Quina Feldstein

Written by Quina Feldstein