Virtual Sales Networking: Seize the Day from COVID-19, Part 1

Published: May 08, 2020

Virtual Sales Networking

By AMA Staff

How you sell has always depended on what you sell and where and to whom you sell it. Before customers had answering machines, computers, or the Internet, salespeople went door-to-door selling everything from vacuum cleaners to encyclopedias to potato chips (and certain types of products and services are still sold that way). Before social media, print advertising and early forms of online marketing were supplemented with telemarketing and in-person calls. The goal was more than establishing product awareness; it was to form relationships with customers and prospects.

Now, even with an overwhelming array of marketing options at our disposal—including tools such as optimized websites, social media channels, email marketing, etc., as well as the long-established traditional methods—strong customer relationships are still at the heart of sales success. Even with today’s technology, in-person selling can still have powerful advantages, particularly with services like financial management and insurance.

So, what happens when in-person sales transactions become impractical or even impossible due to a pandemic? Naturally, anyone in sales shifts most or all of their focus to online transactions, including virtual lead generation and prospecting, virtual sales meetings, increased networking through LinkedIn and various social media sites, as well as more direct online product sales... all depending on the industry. That means times like these can be a great opportunity for some fast, creative thinking to virtually expand your network, qualify new leads, and strengthen connections with customers and accounts you value.

Here are some tips for taking positive action, making the best of a tough situation, and expanding your sales toolkit in order to grow your prospects and business:

Network any way and every way you can

Increasing the time you spend on LinkedIn is, of course, a logical first step. So, while you’re there, take the time to update your profile to make sure it’s current and represents how you want to be viewed by customers and other sales professionals and organizations. If there’s a new market you’re looking to crack, try to highlight experience and skills that would make you look like a good fit. Browse through your contacts and spend time re-establishing old connections—

or making new ones. People appreciate a friendly check-in anytime, but particularly during a time of crisis. Also enlarge your digital footprint by increasing your presence on Twitter, Instagram, Glassdoor, and any other sites you consider appropriate for your industry. “Like” posts and make your presence known in a sincere, friendly, non-salesy way. In addition, take a look at your Google results and research companies that can help you remove anything that doesn’t serve your best interests.

Be more actively involved with organizations

Look into opportunities to be virtually connected with institutions, organizations, associations, or groups that align with products, services, or markets you’re selling or that you want to sell to. If possible, become actively involved in virtual meetings or committee meetings where you can network with potential clients, customers, and colleagues—and offer your expertise, advice, and free time if feasible. Contact the president of an organization or a membership committee and volunteer to get involved with relevant projects or initiatives. Also consider going beyond professional associations to include civic organizations, local government, non-profits such as museums, as well as charities. Be strategic about who and what you connect with—including human resources professionals, managers at all levels, and organizational leaders. Think outside the typical networking box.

Change up your work-a-day mindset

Now is also a good time to stand still and settle into the realization that every customer is worth a lot more than the profit or commission on a single sale. We all know this intellectually, but in the daily quest to meet sales goals, this frame of mind can get relegated to the back burner. Instead, get back to the basics with relationship nurturing and building. When you touch base with customers by email, phone calls, or other media, tap into their unique needs and new reality they may now be facing. Give them the support or resources they need to recognize why you are worth buying from again, or worthy of a referral to someone else who might be interested in buying. It’s the right time to give more than you may get back. Rather than focusing on crisis survival, you may reap more rewards by planning for the long term. Relationship building can be the best basis for loyal customer longevity.