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What Should I Be Doing? When Can I Sell Again?

Depending on where you are in the country, it’s likely that you’ve been “sheltering in place” for weeks. We’re all getting antsy. We long to visit one of those “non-essential” businesses in our community that we now realize was quite essential to us.

And, the burning question on the minds of chamber sales reps is “when can I sell again?”

No one is saying that you shouldn’t be selling, but I think we can agree that if you are doing so, you need to be approaching prospects very delicately. The last thing on the minds of business owners in survival mode is spending limited capital.

We think a better question to be asking is “what businesses should I approach when my community emerges from its shelter-in-place order?”

You’re working from home. You’re not selling. You’ve got time on your hands. Use that time to prepare for your next move.

Think about the businesses in your community that may actually be doing well right now – grocery store chains, manufacturers and suppliers of products that are high in demand, other businesses deemed “essential.” You may also have manufacturers that have switched gears from their normal assembly lines to make personal protective equipment or other needed medical equipment.

They may be doing very well right now, but don’t pick up the phone just yet.

Just because they are successful doesn’t mean they should or will join your chamber. They need a strong “why,” and you need a solid plan before you approach them.

The companies you identify will likely fall into the “Major Investors” category, and you should handle them as such. Major investor prospects tend to have a very different mindset from small business prospects. While small businesses may be interested in the transactional aspects of chamber membership, major investors are more interested in the transformational activities of your chamber. They want to get something accomplished with their investment.

That’s important to keep in mind as you plan your outreach. You need to be prepared to communicate why they should consider taking a meeting with your chamber. And, when you meet with them, you need to be able to demonstrate why your chamber would be a good investment for their business.

What has your chamber done to help make doing business in your community easier for the company you want to recruit? The answer could be things you have done in the past, or something you are working on now – maybe both.

If you want to get their attention, and ultimately their investment, the accomplishments and initiatives you communicate should be relevant to the operations of the company. For example, it makes sense to highlight your chamber’s work on infrastructure when speaking with a logistics firm or a company that does a lot of deliveries.

After you identify the “why,” you need to plan the “how.” Is it a meeting that can be conducted over the phone, or would it be better face-to-face? If you determine that face-to-face is best, consider who from your chamber's staff should be present in the meeting. It’s not uncommon to bring an economic development, public affairs, or workforce development staff member along if the work they are doing is relevant to the company.

And then, of course, consider the timing. Have some thoughtful conversations internally to determine when is the appropriate time to make contact.

Going through this process is not just good practice for when your community emerges from COVID-19 isolation. It’s a good technique, and it will serve you well in the future any time you approach a major investor prospect.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes. Remember, we’re easy to talk to. Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

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