The Crux of Selling during COVID-19 is Relationships

Changing Sales and Design in Construction

COVID-19 has caused the construction industry to update not only the way it sells real estate projects, but the way it designs them as well.
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As we’ve seen in recent months, corporations across industries are having to restructure, make cuts, and re-forecast as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the shape of Canada’s economy. For many industries that may have already been cash-strapped—forestry and agriculture, for example—the screws are growing ever tighter and such vulnerable industries are being joined by typical bull-market industries like manufacturing, construction, and the wholesale and retail trades.1 We all know what this means: cost cutting. For sales teams and sales managers, trends like this present a dynamic and challenging obstacle to overcome. How do you sell when no one is buying?

Create Added Value in Sales Relationships

Like any wealth advisor worth their salt will say, it’s about the long game. We are seeing an economic downturn and, by extension, a multi-industry slowdown, but it won’t always be this way.2 So while it may be difficult to close sales or grow new relationships in this climate, there is still invaluable work to be invested in customer relationships at this juncture. This work constitutes a value-added service or product which functions, quite literally, as an investment: making customers feel heard, considered, and cared for will all but ensure their continued business as the economy picks up again. There are several best practices that sales teams can implement to make the most of this uncertain period.

Customers Respond to Sales Managers that Understand Personalized Care

This might be the only number required to illustrate the immense value created by personalized care in customer relationships: according to a Segment survey, a whopping 49% of customers were likely to make an impulse purchase after receiving tailored and personalized attention in a shopping environment.3 What’s more, 44% of those purchasers are likely to become repeat buyers after a personalized experience.3 As customer investment grows in industries such as manufacturing or construction, this percentage is likely to grow—this is where the crux of excellent sales teams becomes clear. Capitalizing on the strength of a customer relationship—not merely peddling the latest company offerings, but by creating a meaningful connection—is perhaps the single most powerful tool in a sales team’s toolbox. 

What is Personalized Customer Care?

The trope of the experienced salesman is a familiar one: in the Rolodex atop a mahogany desk rest hundreds of customer business cards; on the back of each card, scrawled in black ink, is personal information. Daughter, Sarah, age 7. Wife, Margie, loves baking. This shorthand was, and in some ways still is, key to maintaining strong relationships with customers over time. But the game of sales has changed and how we relate to our customers has changed too.

“You should approach your customers like you’re a partner in their business,” says Kris Krol, industrial sales veteran. “Beyond the sales portion of the relationship, you should be trying to help them find better, more efficient ways to run their business.”4 

For Krol, this might mean helping to develop specific storage systems for parts, or spending time helping a customer’s parts manager organize their tools.4 Going the extra mile by investing in a customer’s longevity stands out, especially right now. 

This is why personalized care is so important. Unlike other “value added” services which often involve a larger investment from the customer, personalized care reflects a free-of-charge benefit which is merely a perk of a business relationship. When so many companies are cutting costs, this can make all the difference.

For Bill Condon, a sales manager at nVent, the greatest tool in his repertoire is a simple one: transparency.

“It comes down to understanding the specific needs of each market and each customer. The more transparent we can be with a given market, the better off our customers are,” he says. “You earn trust from your customers by building credibility with them; by being honest and transparent and by demonstrating how you can advocate for their business.”5 

For Condon, this might mean breaking the hard news that a given part or product won’t be available for another six months—but, in bringing this to his customer’s attention early, he can help them plan for that reality. “If you’ve got that track record of communication, of transparency, of trust, it’s the best chance you have,” he says. “The best I can do is give as much information as I can to the people that need it and to give them the tools to prepare their own business.”5

With these considerations in mind, customers will feel like your team has their back. What is a better selling point than that? 

1 OEM Off-Highway. “Global Construction Markets Slowing Due to Impacts of COVID,” July 14, 2020.
2 Deloitte Canada. “COVID-19: Economic Recovery Dashboard.” Accessed August 14, 2020.
3 Segment. “Segment Survey Finds Consumers Will Spend More When Their Shopping Experience Is Personalized, but Most Retailers Are Missing the Mark.” GlobeNewswire News Room, October 25, 2017.
4 Personal communication between Rose Agency and Kris Krol, industrial sales veteran, August 2020.
5 Personal communication between Rose Agency and Bill Condon of nVent, August 2020.