Even before the pandemic, seasoned sales staff in the industrial supply had been through several market downturns. The 2008-2009 Great Recession immediately comes to mind, along with industrial-specific recessions in 2016 and 2019, particularly in the oil & gas verticals. So by the time COVID-19 showed up, many in this sector were, unfortunately, experienced at selling in tough market conditions.
One of Industrial Distribution’s regular columnists, Paul Reilly, has focused on this topic lately. Paul and his dad Tom operate St. Louis-based Tom Reilly Training, a specialized training company for B2B salespeople, managers and customer service pros on the ins and outs of Value-added selling. Paul also hosts The Sales Q&A Podcast, which you can check out here.
In this episode, I chat with Paul about the principles of Selling Through Tough Times and what he’s been stressing to sales teams during the pandemic.
Beyond the episode
This coming fall, Reilly is thrilled to launch his ground-breaking new book, "Selling Through Tough Times," which you can preorder here.
"EVERY salesperson struggles at some point, whether it’s a recession, sales slump, tough competitor, industry disruption, or a Global Pandemic. Selling Through Tough Times is your go-to guide for growing your profits and mental resilience through any downturn," he says.
Asked how fast he figures the industrial products market will return to a face-to-face nature, Reilly was quick to say he sees it quickly returning to like it was pre-pandemic.
"I think our customers and salespeople are eager to get together," Reilly told me. "For those sellers who are struggling to get those face-to-face meetings, I would say, yes, we are still in a pandemic, but I would start to question the personal value that I'm bringing. Am I really bringing enough value? What I'm hearing from salespeople in the industry — they are meeting with customers. When I'm talking with top-achieving salespeople, they're having no trouble getting in to see their customers."
Reilly noted the caveat that the return to face-to-face selling will be at least partially driven by state and local health mandates, but nonetheless, he expects it will happen quicker than other industries that he's trained, such as software, banking and real estate.
"People crave that face-to-face interaction. We do. And that's not going to change. Even the annoying salespeople are wanted back in the office. That's when you know people are eager to get back together — just joking there. It might not happen overnight, but we're moving in that direction."