SALES 101: How to Win and Keep Customers in a Post-COVID-19 World

Unprecedented times. A new normal. Uncertain futures. Whatever current adage you subscribe to, one thing is certain; the world has changed and the economy will change with it.

As the restrictions of social distancing are being used to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have flocked to alternative options, leaving many businesses struggling to adapt to an online-only method of selling.

In the U.K., according to the Office for National Statistics, online retail sales jumped from 18.9 percent in February to 30 percent in April, while in the U.S., online grocery sales grew to 30 percent. The trend is set to continue as social distancing is expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future, even as governments around the world attempt to ease lockdown restrictions. 

While many fear that the restrictions, coupled with an imminent recession, could be the death knell for their businesses, the necessity of doing everything online could, in fact, be a huge opportunity. 

 

The Online Opportunity

“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.” A Warren Buffett quote that has undoubtedly graced your Twitter or Instagram feed on more than one occasion, yet, believe it or not, the investor does know a thing or two about selling.

While just about every business today will have an online presence, having the ability to sell almost exclusively online is becoming a necessity rather than an option. From restaurants having to turn their dine-ins into take-outs, through to project consultants delivering their pitches over Zoom or Microsoft Teams, everyone is having to adapt.  

With a world of people now needing to work, play and consume online, there is a captive audience at the end of each handset, keyboard and tablet; meaning now is possibly the best time to perfect your digital selling techniques.

 

Make Your Pitch Hands-off

Of course, the hardest part of gaining new customers is getting their attention in the first place. While there are variables across industries, one thing that remains true is that you will need to explain who you are and what you offer as succinctly as possible. Brevity is king.

We found that creating a simple, yet informative, explainer video really made a difference and helped get our key messages across. Customers very rarely want a wall of text and will either skim or ignore it altogether. Something like a video is also easily shareable across social media and is consistently ranking as the most important marketing tool, generating far more engagement year on year. 

Video also humanizes your business, which is a key facet of building rapport with your customers and can lead to that Shangri-la of selling: brand loyalty.    

 

Don’t Try To Be All Things To All People

This is a trap that many sellers fall into, they try to be all things to all people. While it might seem appealing to try and present yourself as the Swiss Army Knife of your industry, consumers don’t want you to try to do everything (unless you actually do sell Swiss Army Knives in which case, carry on).

It is far more important to do one thing truly well than to do several things poorly. Brand loyalty is built through constantly improving what you do best until you get to a point where you are synonymous with quality. Then, as you slowly branch out, that respect will follow you.

 

Build A Community And Let It Guide You

The first customers are often the hardest to acquire, but they will also be one of your best assets. While it is important to have a vision, you also have to be willing to adapt to the feedback from your customers. Is your customer service responsive enough? Are you dispatching orders on time? Are there any needs your product isn’t fulfilling? Being led by your customers is one of the most effective ways to keep them, as well as facilitate a natural referral system.

That being said, it’s also important to ensure that you are getting quality feedback. One of the best decisions we made was to make sure that we always charged for access to our SaaS, even if it was only a few dollars. Feedback from paying consumers is going to be far more valuable to you in the long term and will mean that the changes you make should help you keep the customers you’ve worked hard to win.

 

Automate The Basics As Much As Possible

As your community of customers grows and you continue to develop your online platform for sales, you will need to make use of automation as much as possible. That can range from chatbots that answer initial and predictable customer queries to sales artificial intelligence that can help organize, and queue inquiries ready for you or a member of your team to deal with. 

All these tools will allow you to do more with less, meaning you are able to keep your business lean and agile, allowing you to gradually increase capacity at a manageable rate. This lean growth is synonymous with many bootstrapping strategies and will allow you to stay true to your community, rather than having to onboard several investors and change tack to please them. 

The potential for growth when you combine AI with traditional human intelligence is significant, and the businesses that invest in this technology early on will find they have a significant advantage over others who are late adopters. 


Scott Sherwood is the founder of TestLodge an online SaaS that supports thousands of users across more than 120 countries and is widely regarded as one of the top emerging software testing tools to come out of the U.K.