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Viral Sales: How Will Coronavirus Affect My Business?

Coronavirus fears are permeating the public consciousness – how will it affect your sales moving forward? In Chicago, we’re already seeing the latent signs of paranoia. Push notifications have left the population ill-informed and anxious. People cover their mouths with their scarves, and jump when a stranger on the street sneezes or coughs. Stocks have been plummeting.

Despite the growing environment of fear, you really shouldn’t be all that afraid. Pandemic fears are stoked by popular media representations that fail to grasp the complexities of an illness or how it afflicts a society. Knowledge can be your power in the upcoming weeks, and can provide a boon to your sales process rather than grind it to a halt.

The Facts:

An incredible amount of disinformation currently exists surrounding the coronavirus – as of February 29th, roughly 2 million tweets had been posted with incorrect facts or fabricated data. This has led in large part to shortages of surgical masks (effective for containing illness in sick individuals but useless for those trying to prevent getting it) and the more effective N95 masks (which is only effective when used properly.) The purchase of these goods by the general public has led to the CDC pleading to stop purchasing these items, as they are best left to professionals combating COVID-19 on the front lines.

Here’s what we know so far: while over a hundred cases of coronavirus have emerged in the United States, the transmission of the disease has been relatively contained. This means that the threat that the virus poses is still extremely low. The CDC currently estimates the death rate at around 3.4 percent. This number in itself is misleading, as it isn’t simply a matter of throwing dice. The severity of the illness in large part depends on factors like age and pre-existing health conditions. When we say “there have been 11 deaths in Washington” consider the circumstances of that outbreak. The disease has largely centered around a nursing home facility. These locations, like cruise ships, are a bit like petri dishes. The close proximity of individuals, along with their advanced age and health, makes them particularly susceptible to disease.

But the real question is: should I be worried? As of right now, the risk to the general public remains low. If you are immunocompromised, have pre-existing health conditions, or are older, you may want to exercise more caution. However, America’s healthcare system has largely traced and contained the majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Coronavirus and Sales

COVID-19 has already had a tremendous effect on the economy in preparation for worst-case scenarios. You may have seen this last week with the dip in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Disinfectants have become like liquid gold, and are in short supply. Conferences continue to experience cancellations, and travel is slowing. In spite of these things, the world keeps spinning, and we keep selling.

We have been seeing several hiccups in some of the accounts that we have that involve sales around travel. We can’t stop selling simply because of the existence of this disease, but we can find ways to navigate the fear and close deals. At Acquirent, we train our salespeople to handle objections – with knowledge of how the disease is transmitted, we can handle objections such as “is it safe for me to travel to a conference?” Now is a better time than ever to re-evaluate your sales process.

Sales around industries such as travel, conferences, and face-to-face interactions will undoubtedly slow in the coming weeks and months. Developing sound knowledge to assuage fears will not only allow you to close deals, but gain trust in the people you are selling to. With so much disinformation out there, providing concrete answers to people will provide a source of sound comfort. Some of the conferences are taking alternative approaches that don’t involve cancelling events, like providing hand sanitizer and masks for those who ask.

There may be a time when it will be necessary to cancel all events. But as of now, the response is largely an over-reaction stemming from fear.

Should I Send My Sales Team Go Home Because Of The Coronavirus?

The CDC advises that telecommuting may be the best method of work in the coming weeks. The implementation of that in a company is an entirely different matter. Many companies, particularly smaller ones, do not have the resources or time to allow their entire staff to work from home. Furthermore, as of now there is almost no reason to do so. As access to testing has now become more widely available, we will begin to see a jump in infections within the United States. While this will stoke fear, this expanded net will also make the virus easier to contain.

It never hurts to be more cautious. Washing hands, offering hand sanitizer to employees, and promoting good health practices are good policies to promote at any point throughout the year. Flights to regions like Italy, South Korea, or China should only be taken in an emergency. Having a game plan for worst case scenarios might be wise. However, as a country we are currently prepared for COVID-19. Track what is happening in the news, but don’t let an invisible enemy halt all of your plans. Visit a doctor when you are sick, but don’t shut down your sales team over a threat that isn’t there. As of now, the threat remains low. While this may change, the situation in the United States is not dire.