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Practising successful customer relations during a pandemic

Customers still have pain points, regardless of the challenges created by the virus. However, selling to them in these times requires you to combine the latest technologies with a healthy dose of empathy.

Johannesburg, 23 Jul 2020
Read time 3min 30sec
Desiree Gaddie, sales manager, Open Architecture Systems
Desiree Gaddie, sales manager, Open Architecture Systems

The sudden arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the speed with which lockdown took place meant organisations needed to rapidly embrace new digital capabilities, and enable teams to work virtually. However, certain business units may have found it more difficult to adjust to the new virtual environment than others, most notably those where creating a rapport with the customer and a sense of mutual trust is of paramount importance, such as with sales teams.

Of course, as with any crisis, its impacts vary wildly, according to industry, with some sectors having been all but devastated, while others are experiencing impressive growth. Clearly, in an environment where everyone is dealing with some type of change, individual sales people need to carefully consider both the specific impacts on their clients, as well as how best to help.

According to Desiree Gaddie, Sales Manager at Open Architecture Systems, this is critical, as there’s no doubt that clients do still have pain points that need to be solved. However, it’s vital that sales people take the time to understand that their focus should be on how they can provide value to the customer, while engaging with them in an empathetic manner.

“In these times, which are tough for salespeople and clients alike, you shouldn’t stop reaching out to prospects and customers, but it’s important to be understanding and sympathetic, and to tread carefully when approaching them about a sale,” she says.

“To this end, the focus should always be on the value of relationships over obtaining additional sales, which means a complete shift away from the usual product narrative to one where you concentrate instead on how the client is doing, what their current challenges are and how you and your business can best help and serve them.”

Gaddie suggests that technology can significantly improve the efficiency of such an approach, thanks to collaboration solutions, access to real-time data and analytics, and the automation of the right processes.

“For example, automation and AI can help salespeople by reducing the amount of time they spend manually entering data into systems and by providing them with key customer insights. Furthermore, time saved by using collaboration tools instead of travelling to meet customers in person can be spent on strengthening relationships instead.

“Collaboration tools are extremely necessary in this new normal, but it’s important for a business to not only ensure that any such technology implementation is rolled out company-wide and can be used by everyone, but also that client-facing users properly understand the etiquette around this technology. Remember, just because it’s a virtual meeting doesn’t mean you should treat it any different to a face-to-face.”

It should be remembered, she adds, that there are benefits to using technology to facilitate meetings, and that these should definitely be leveraged to provide the customer with a more exciting and comprehensive experience.

“By this I mean that you should seek to boost the effectiveness of your virtual meetings and improve the levels of customer engagement by leveraging the latest tools, like virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR),” she continues.

“In other words, if you want your sales people to be able to continue as they did before lockdown, you need to ensure the following: you must prioritise the utilisation of the right tools and technologies; you need to ensure your people are continuously connected via high-quality connectivity that provides an exceptional experience; you must optimise your bandwidth with an always-on connection that securely supports virtual, cloud and SaaS applications across the enterprise; and you must enable employees to leverage cutting-edge solutions like AI, analytics and VR/AR. Combine this with honest and meaningful understanding and empathy, and your salespeople should be well-positioned to carry on much as they did before the pandemic."

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