“How do you sell to a client who’s been buying from you for years but their business is struggling because of COVID-19?”
The answer: You don’t.
When you have a situation like this, or even a situation in which your loyal client wants to buy from you but they’re trying to figure out how to survive in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s time to make help calls, not sales calls.
This is the advice I recently heard from expert sales coach, Phil M. Jones. Via a webinar, Jones was explaining how this is an opportunity for small businesses to figure out how they can add value in their industry, to their customers, in their communities, and anyone they usually do business with. By lending a helping hand, you prove that you’re a true partner and not just there for the good times.
Your business may be struggling just like your clients’ businesses and you’ve got sales on your mind. But by making help calls and asking what you can do to help your clients in this time of need, you may uncover something that you could be doing and get paid for now, but you didn’t think of.
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How Service Businesses Can Help Struggling Clients
This is especially true if your business provides a service. If a client’s business has significantly slowed down, they likely need help finding their pivot so they can find their way to making sales again to continue using your service, paying employees, etc. Examples of pivots I’ve seen in my own neighborhood include:
- D’Avocado Guy is an avocado distributor who normally sells to restaurants all over NYC. Due to the pandemic, demand has gone way down, so the company pivoted to selling direct to consumer. D’Avocado Guy now has an elaborate delivery route by zip code delivering fresh, delicious avocados — and, by doing so, is saving its business.
- Dine in restaurants who normally have no takeout, found a way to stay in business by pivoting quickly to offer this service when in-house dining shut down. Those who had a list of regular customers let them know how to support them.
- Any business that relied on the travel industry came to a screeching halt with the COVID-19 outbreak. This part of our economy may not get back to significant levels for a long while, as we wait on a vaccine. In the meantime, these businesses can find their pivot. Are people who normally travel and are now home all the time looking to be served at home instead of on the road? Have their needs changed? Give them a call and find out what they need.
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Businesses in need of this pivot may need help to figure out their pivot strategy and the revenue model that goes along with it.
Focusing on the details of the revenue model can have a significant impact on their cash flow.
This exercise may help them re-examine their overall business and how they can apply years’ worth of operating experience to making things even better than they were before. It may not be an overnight come back, but with the right plan in place, over time, healthy businesses that apply strategies like this will survive now — and be set up to flourish in the future.
What Does a Help Call Look Like?
Here are ways you may be able to provide solutions as a result of making help calls:
- You have a mailing list of thousands of people in the same industry as your client and you agree to communicate their offer to a new clientele by sending it out your list.
- You have data or other information on specific market activities that could provide useful analyses for how your client could repackage their offer that businesses would want to buy.
- You have insights into how the market works and you help them develop a new strategy to adjust to their changing needs.
- You have contacts in the industry that could help them and you make introductions.
The only way to know for sure how you can best help right now is to call and ask.
By the same token, if your business is struggling and you’re the one who needs the help call, you can still make the call, but you would be the one asking for help instead of the one offering it.
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If you’ve been in business for years, you’ve built certain business relationships that you can leverage in a new way.
Business professionals including your insurance broker, CPA, bookkeeper, various attorneys, consultants, and even your clients all have experience and would likely be willing to spend time on a call with you to help you think through your options and strategies for a pivot.
The Uncertainty Is High for Everyone Right Now
As cities across the United States and the world figure out how and when to open back up after months of being shut down, much uncertainty remains:
- Will kids go back to school or will parents need to continue working from home to be there to help teach their kids and work at the same time?
- Which businesses will reopen sooner or later?
- Will government officials give us the guidance we need to protect our workers, customers, and ourselves — or do we need to figure this out on our own?
- Will the public wear masks or not?
- Will closure orders from our mayors and governors prevent certain businesses from operating in person?
We’re all in this together. The stronger we are together in our communities, helping one another, the stronger we’ll emerge.