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Selling During Sensitive Times

I started my career at a B2B company – but the flavor seemed entirely different from B2B because I sold into the non-profit industry. Non-profits typically make most decisions slowly, as they view every dollar not spent on the mission (e.g. people receiving their services) as overhead cost and therefore, tough to part with. I would liken the current climate to selling into a non-profit organization. People are moving forward, but cautiously. Most companies are seeing delayed sales cycles. Pushing hard without the right adjustments won’t get you far right now.

I’ve put together the list below to help you navigate the current environment by applying what I learned selling in a similar climate.


  • If you think twice about it, don’t send it: Consider the industry that you’re attempting to sell in to and what the COVID-19 impact has been on that industry. Are you trying to sell to a service-based SMB that works with restaurants? Likely not the best time to email/call. About to reach out to a business that is dependent on the oil and gas industry? Hold off on that cold outreach. The same was true when working with non-profits during their biggest times fundraising (Q4 generally). When an entire organization is looking left (fundraising), it is hard to make them look right (outcomes management software).
  • Acknowledge and personalize messaging: Navigating the cold outreach space needs to be done with tact and thought, especially at a time like this. Blasting out emails with no personalization and recognition of what is going on outside will come off as insincere and thoughtless… because it is! Acknowledge the situation that is occurring and make sure to personalize the message to add value in the first two sentences of your email. Now is not the time to send mass emails. They will fall flat and have a grossly negative impact on the perception of your company. I received an email earlier this week from an unnamed data vendor with the opener being, “Hi Sgep, My name is _____. Are you struggling with your data sources?” Needless to say, I won’t be taking them up on their offer for a demo of their system.
  • Loosen the “Call To Action” (CTA): Normally, I start or end every cold email with a call to action for a meeting at a specific date and time. Given the climate, I’ve loosened my CTA and in some cases, just let them know that I’ll be reaching out again in the future. This breaks the cold call/email rules and is necessary in order to stay in front of new prospects without pushing too hard given the environment.


  • Add value: Be cautious in pushing new products on your existing customers right now. Given the amount of exterior distractions, it may be difficult to get things over the finish line. Try to add value and it will pay off down the road. Establish a talk track that allows you to reach out and add value to each of your accounts without a sales push. Adding value can be in the form of a recent case study or a new feature to highlight. On the non-profit side, we often provided pieces that showed how other organizations were using data from our program to enhance their fundraising. On the Susquehanna side, we’ve started opening our portfolio webinars to prospects to better share our experiences and learnings with them.
  • Just check in: There is a large relationship component in both account management and enterprise sales. Now is a great time to firm up that relationship with a, “I just wanted to check in…” email and/or phone call without a CTA. A time like this reminds all of us that we are human first! We’ve been reaching out to entrepreneurs and founders over the past month to simply check in and see if we can be helpful. We aren’t even asking if they are raising funds!
  • Adjust your sales process: Most companies currently have a budget freeze; it is important to recognize that. Trying to push a contract through now would likely result in increased frustration for both you and your prospect… like more than the “normal” procurement process. Be patient.

In closing, adjust your sales process to the new reality. The “killer” instincts need to be tamed a bit and empathy needs to be driven way up. It is possible to sell in this environment; just need to remember to be human!