How to succeed in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic

Many sales experts will tell you the best place to close a deal is sitting on the corner of a customer’s desk. The expression represents more than just the final handshake—it captures the entire relationship that sales reps nurture, from learning what a customer needs to gain the trust that’s necessary to close business. Simply put, you have to earn the privilege to sit there. This same principle flows through the entire channel motion: vendors with partners and partners with customers.

 

COVID-19 has yanked the corner of the desk out from underneath us, and now we find ourselves sitting in unfamiliar territory. For people whose sales process relied on face-to-face meetings, this is terrifying. Whilst things will get better, the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way people work, how they manage business relationships, and how they make buying decisions. 

 

Embrace the new virtual desk 

What do we do when we can’t meet people in real life? We do better at cultivating our relationships online. It’s called social selling and isn’t revolutionary—but that’s where the new virtual desk is. 

 

Social selling is about developing meaningful relationships with potential customers using social media. To be clear, it is not marketing and it’s not social spam. Social selling aims to foster connections with people that we used to make in person or on the phone, but on social media networks instead. 

 

I’ve been using social media in earnest for several years to connect with other industry people and grow my network. It has made a bigger impact on my career than I ever expected, and I believe now is the time for everyone to embrace it. 

 

I want to share my experience, along with the advice of experts, to make the transition easier. Why? I have long said that NetApp’s success as a vendor depends on the success of our partners. That’s as true today as it was two months ago. The fact is, our partners need all the support they can get right now. This is also a time for us to convene as a community of professionals to help each other stay afloat, no matter where we work. To excel at their jobs, everyone needs to learn new skills or adapt some they have been using for a while. This is one way for me to contribute to that. 

 

Get above the social noise 

The first challenge with social selling is learning to get above the noise in a crowded landscape. According to Rebecca Mayville, Director of Social Programs at Mercer MacKay Digital Storytelling, “People stand out by contributing to their network in a meaningful way. It’s about being relevant and authentic, so that people can learn who you are as a human being and recognize you as someone they want to work with.”

 

To me, that means engaging online in the same way you might in person, with some adjustments. Listening to other people now means reading what they post on LinkedIn to understand what’s on their mind. Starting thoughtful conversations now begins in the comment section, instead of over a cup of coffee. Social selling takes practice to do effectively, but it’s something anyone can learn.

 

Take a tour of your new workspace

Over the next few weeks, I will share a series of blog posts, along with links to resources and best practices on using social selling to make authentic connections with people. My sincere hope is to make a positive contribution that will help all of us succeed in a sales world that has been turned upside-down without warning. 

 

Even if I’m wrong and things do go back to the old normal, learning the fundamentals of social selling will help you build some social media muscle memory that will serve you well after this pandemic ends. At best, you can pivot your career and weather a devastating storm. 

 

So why not join me? Check out the page dedicated to all of our social selling resources on the Partner Hub. I’ll also be posting and sharing these resources directly on LinkedIn so meet me there as we all work to succeed.

 

Chris Lamborn

Chris Lamborn joined NetApp in November 2015 & is currently Head of WW Partner GTM and Programs. He is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s Global Channel go-to-market strategy and the supporting programs and investments. NetApp’s Channel Partner eco-system forms the foundation of the business, supporting and contributing over 75% of the company’s revenue.

Chris is a respected leader with extensive experience working with global partners and proven success in partnering to deliver incremental revenue and profitability. His detailed understanding of the multiple Partner business practices and experience of working with operations, marketing, finance across the world ensures predictable, relevant and profitable business partnerships.

Prior to NetApp, Chris held distribution leadership positions at Brocade, Avaya and Nortel and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kingston University in the UK and he moved to permanently to California in 2016.

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