The COVID-19 crisis has caused so much disruption and uncertainty for everyone in all aspects of work and life. When talking to customers, it can be difficult to know how to get the right balance between recognizing the crisis and focusing on the business. And especially if customers' businesses have been hit by the crisis, or if buyers are more reluctant to buy, it's important to know how to approach customer calls in a compassionate way.
Sometimes it is okay to mix business and personal with your customer, especially in a time of widespread stress, grief and uncertainty. Here are some tips for getting better customer conversations during the coronavirus crisis.
Don't ignore the news
Most customers will probably appreciate that you are sincere and willing to talk about a situation we are all in. In times of crisis, customers may even be more skeptical of salespeople who do not recognize the larger situation and circumstances.
However, you do not have to dwell on it; don't use the whole conversation to talk about COVID-19. Try to keep the conversation light and upbeat. You may want to say things like: “Obviously, these are crazy times! How are you and your company doing so far? "Or" It's been a while since we talked; The situation has obviously been difficult, but over the last month my company is starting to enter into a kind of new normal and I'd like to talk to you. How are things on your end? "
Talking about the crisis in the form of a shared experience and a common opponent can help your customers feel like you're on their side, as if you're both on the same team. You're not trying to sell them anything; trying you to help them overcome a crisis that is affecting everyone on earth.
Listen with empathy
Every customer conversation right now needs to put empathy in the head. Be more than ever sensitive to what your customers are going through. Be compassionate, willing to just listen and sit with them for a moment on the phone – they may not be ready to buy, they may not have good news for you, they may not even be happy to hear from you.  Everyone is going through a lot of emotions right now, you may be calling the cow ducks that have had a family member who dies of COVID-19, who may have the virus themselves, or who may be at higher risk for it. The company of potential customers may have taken a big hit and may have struggled to be in business.
Whatever your client is going through, be willing to listen and show that you care – not just as a businessman, but as a human being.
This crisis has been so all-encompassing, and it has hit so many industries hard. Your customer calls can be a great opportunity to share your own story. Not in a sad way, not in a "woe is me" voice, of course, but just as another way to recognize the crisis and help your customers know that they are not alone.
You may want to open up to your customers about your personal experience during the crisis. Do you know anyone who has been infected? How does the crisis affect your immediate city or neighborhood? What concerns do you have for the industry you serve?
Of course, you are engaged in these conversations for business purposes, and you should still try to be safe and honest. But it's okay to communicate a little with your customers about how uncertain the world can be and show them your own human response to the crisis, while offering an optimistic vision of how your company can help them recover, rebuild and move forward into a brighter future.
Help Before Selling
More than ever, B2B salespeople are helping people. Your B2B buyers may be in a moment of unprecedented crisis: They may have struggled to stay in business or recently had to stand out with some beloved employees or a longtime vendor. They can also go through emotional turmoil, feeling afraid of their own health and their financial future.
Be ready to help. Be prepared to think deeply about how you can help your client's business, even in ways that may not be immediately relevant to what you are selling. Think beyond the immediate short-term transaction and build a long-term relationship. Although you cannot sell to this customer today, or even later this year, you are looking to create the beginning of a business relationship that can last for many years to come.
The COVID-19 crisis will eventually pass. But even at this moment of crisis, there are opportunities to become better at helping customers and having meaningful customer conversations. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable, be human and listen with empathy. We are all going through this crisis together, and there are still many ways to build relationships with customers and help each other come out stronger than before.