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How do you get hold of customers when they are working from home?

Homeworking is here to stay

We have all been forced to embrace staff working from home by the spread of Coronavirus. Now many companies are now re-evaluating their working practices.

A major company near me has five large office buildings. Three were closed at the outset of the virus. These three buildings will now stay closed permanently. Many of their staff are delighted to stop having to drive into work every day. Whilst it is certainly not for everyone, a large number of employees are delighted at being based at home.

This creates a problem for sales people

Trying to get hold of people who are working from home is likely to become a major task for the average sales person. We can no longer hope that the prospect will eventually return to the office and that we can resume traditional sales channels.

Contact through the office phone is likely to become a thing of the past. Even though companies will employ automatic forwarding, many people will have different routines for working at home. The focus will be on tasks rather than regular hours. Many will choose to start early or end late to work round other family commitments. (I am keeping an eye on my daughter’s online schooling as I write this…) The last thing you want to do is phone a prospect when they are having family time.

In many cases people may decide that they can only be contactable by those with their mobile/cell number. Gate keepers will have a much easier task. Many may deliberately choose to become much harder to contact.

So how does a sales person get round this. Here are three tactics that have worked for me.

Use social media messaging

Social media has traditionally been seen as a way of communicating to as large an audience as possible. But it is just as effective as a one-to-one communication channel. Particularly at the moment when business is often slower, many people are spending more time on social media.

I am having particular success with LinkedIn messaging right now. It is creating a lot of follow-on conversations with both new prospects and current customers who have been difficult to get hold of in other ways. These conversations are leading to business. Depending on your target market, you should also consider Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

There are two big advantages of using messaging. One is that your prospects can answer when it suits them. Secondly, it cuts through the noise of e-mail. Social media messages are much rarer than sales e-mails and therefore much less likely to be ignored. My next tactic has the same advantages.

Try texting/SMS

Some people think of contacting prospects by text/SMS as intrusive. But it is a very accepted way of communicating these days. I have never had anyone complain that I am communicating with them in this way.

Naturally, you need someone’s mobile/cell number for this to work. But these numbers are more available than you might think. They can be found in e-mail footers, business cards, social media profiles and even on company websites.

Texting cuts through the noise. I have a high rate of success by using this method. Remember, it’s about more than the messager app. Use WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram as well.

If this sounds too futuristic, maybe it’s time to go old-school.

Direct mail is highly effective

Some people think that I am crazy for suggesting using mail to peoples’ private addresses. Surely this is impossible to achieve? Here’s a system that is more effective than you might think.

Firstly, I reach out to the prospect via social media messaging or text. I say that I’d love to send them some chocolate to help them through these times. Can they give me an address where I can send it? Many people are happy to exchange their address for chocolate or similar!

I can now follow up with the occasional piece of direct mail. In the UK, this is permissible under current GDPR legislation. Direct mail can be sent to people who have not opted in to a list as long as it conforms to legitimate interest. You cannot do this with e-mail.

Homeworking requires us to be more creative

It is a new barrier for a sales person. But a good sales person loves a challenge! There are plenty of ways to get round this challenge.

Best of all, many traditional sales people won’t be using these methods. Their messages are not going to be heard. You will end up with less competition.

The issue of people working at home could turn out to be a significant advantage for some sales people.

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