Getting Through The Sales Smoke Screen of COVID19

Welcome to podcast episode #229 and today is all about selling; something for some reason people think isn’t appropriate in today’s COVID world.

Not true. To quote that outstanding band from the 80’s Bananarama… ‘ it’s not what you do it is the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results.’ In this week’s podcast, Sharon shares a few areas to consider.

From upskilling your team to getting through the smokescreen of objections and much more. Below is a full transcription to help so please excuse the odd typo.


Let’s talk sales.

We’ve been having conversations on our, How to Handle What’s Happening Now podcast series which has included talking about, how do you handle selling?

Do you have sales conversations right now during this whole COVID lockdown period? And yes, you can have conversations.

There is a need for us to have conversations. It’s about, how do you have sales conversations in such uncertain times?

Now obviously we will be coming out of these uncertain times over the coming weeks and months, and it’s thinking as businesses, where does the phone fit into the whole business development process?

Over recent months I’ve seen various blog posts, podcasts and webinars talk about how the phone is a thing of the past; how it’s all about connecting and engaging online and social selling.

I think it’s about both.

The more successful people will be the sales individuals and recruitment consultants who can blend being skillful on the phone and use different social platforms along with email. Especially in terms of how they follow up with those conversations and convert people.

Old and New Habits

I think the question though that several members of Superfast Circle have posed along with business owners I am talking to, as I’m doing our prospecting calls is; how will we sell in a different environment and where will the phone fit in?

It seems that everybody is recognising that over recent weeks, many of us have spent longer on the phone talking to clients and candidates than we’ve done for some time.

What will happen as we come out of lockdown and we begin to emerge from this and normality returns?

Will people go back to old habits of thinking, “Well, the phone’s old hat, and it’s all about social selling.”

Or, does it mean for people perhaps who haven’t been using the phone as much, who thought
“it’s not as relevant to do those outbound cold calls or follow up business development calls that it’s time for a rethink?

It will be, I think, more important than ever to be confident using the phone. And for some individuals, this could well prove to be quite a challenge because people have relied so much on email and communicating online.

An Opportunity

Now is an excellent opportunity for business owners and their teams to sharpen the saw when it comes to business development and selling skills, particularly phone skills.

There is a great opportunity to nurture, develop, and keep the level of connection that you have been building over recent weeks with clients and candidates. And yes, some of that can be done offline, and for many,  it wouldn’t feel comfortable to go from having all this phone connection to then suddenly dropping it.

3 Steps To Building Phone Confidence And Skill…Now

So what I want to talk about today is, what are some of the areas to be focusing on with your teams around their confidence using the phone and doing business development?

The Selling Mindset

Now, of course, the first thing would be getting their mindset in the right place so that they get the benefit and the value of using the phone and what it can do for them moving forward.

Dealing with all that internal dialogue and perceived negativity about the fact that the phone is old hat. No, it’s not.

I mean, many, many businesses have been built and sold, multi-million-pound businesses, through using the phone.

The phone has a place.

The starting point is being transparent and support your team to get their head in the right place so that they can pick up the phone and use it with confidence.

Asking Probing Questions

The second key area will be, developing the skills to probe and seek to understand the client or candidate.

Yes, we need to listen. I think that that is a given and hopefully in recent weeks people have been developing their listening skills and demonstrating more empathy. Now along with listening though; there’s a need to get skillful and confident at probing.

And asking possibly sometimes uncomfortable questions to understand:

  • Where are your clients today?
  • What is happening in their business?
  • What is happening for them in terms of their clients and their businesses?
  • How does that relate to how they resource their business? What staff that they need?
  • What does this mean for their own recruiting policies and what actions they are taking?

It might be that they’re not taking action today, but they’re planning for the next quarter or the next two quarters. What does that mean for you?

If you have consultants that are not taking the time and asking outstanding deep probing questions to seek to understand clients and where they’re at, and what it means for them in terms of their ongoing recruitment, then it’s likely that you’re going to miss opportunities.

If you and your teams are not asking questions and probing deeply enough, you can bet your bottom dollar that somebody else will be doing that. So why not make sure it’s your team that’s developed their skills now.

Identifying and Handling Objections

The other element, and it’s closely related to this whole conversation around probing, is that;

As sales individuals, because that is what we are, we will come across objections that clients and prospects will put in our paths as everybody is rebuilding their business and re-engaging with clients.

Some of those objections, and there’s a whole collection of them will include:

  • Price,
  • Your terms,
  • Contract length,
  • The product or service – It could be the product that you are going back into the market with, is the same product that you’ve always been selling. And maybe that product isn’t necessarily the right fit for the market over the coming months.
  • It could be a timing thing – That clients are not quite ready to re-initiate some of those jobs that they put on hold for a couple of more months.
  • It could be the company; maybe you’re no longer a fit and a match for that particular organisation.
  • Perhaps it’s the recruitment consultant that for some reason they’re not quite connecting with that prospect?
  • It could be competition; it is going to be a competitive market as things begin to open out and evolve. We knew it was competitive before. Rest assured, it is going to get even more competitive.

And of course, there’s general uncertainty and confusion around the virus situation.

Clients may still be in a slightly confusing place about how they respond to their market.
The coming weeks will be a real moving, evolving feast.

So there is a whole raft of potential objections.

What I suggest though is this: there’s only ever one main objection that somebody buying a product or a service has.

Our job is to identify what that real true objection is. First of all, is it an objection, or is it just a complaint? Then isolate that one specific objection because we all know that there can be smoke screens that are thrown into a sales person’s path. Then, as the conversation evolves, we finally realise it was nothing to do with the contract or the terms or the price. Instead, it was to do with something completely different. And it could be that the timing just isn’t right.

One thing that recruitment consultants and business owners, need to think about is how prepared are we to ask some potentially uncomfortable questions and probe much deeper to understand, what is that true one objection?

We need to be willing to step outside our comfort zones, ask some of those uncomfortable questions to understand, where are our clients and our prospects today? Because everybody’s been through a roller coaster journey through all these uncertain times, and it will have had implications for businesses and individuals and decision-makers that we’re talking to.

We need to be able to connect, engage, probe, ask challenging questions, that will help us find out exactly where that client is. What is stopping them from wanting to move forward? Are there smokescreens, false objections? What’s the real objection? Because until we find out what the true objection is, we’re not able to handle it.

What Can You Do?

So what would be a great opportunity then over the coming weeks and months is, if you haven’t already been doing this, is to work with your team on their business development and their selling skills. Especially their phone skills.

This will allow you to capitalise on the opportunity that I think has happened over recent weeks, where we have been engaging with people on the phone.

You might be thinking, “Oh, but Sharon. That’s going to change because when things open out again, it’s going to be so busy people won’t have time for the phone.”

I would challenge that.

And I would say that a business owner, or decision-maker, who is having a meaningful conversation where their problems are being understood, and a solution found to allow them to move forward will be willing to talk.

They will differentiate a valuable conversation from a less skillful one such as what I would call a basic pitching conversation or a touching base, have you got jobs conversations.

They’re the kind of calls that prospect won’t want to make time for.

So take some time, work with your team now on upskilling them, and you will reap the benefits.



P.S. Would you like help with sales and marketing in your recruitment company then book a call here.

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