Talking with Customers with Coronavirus Fears

The coronavirus is dominating conversations and news coverage around the world. It’s also affecting companies of all sizes, across all industries.

As an example, look at the impact coronavirus has had on the tech industry: Dell, Amazon, Twitter, and Google have all announced some major actions (including work-from-home mandates and canceled events) in response to the outbreak.

As sales leaders make any necessary adjustments to their team’s daily routines with health and safety in mind, it’s also a good idea to consider how coronavirus will influence sales conversations with customers.

It’s normal for reports of a rapidly-spreading disease to trigger an anxious response. During a time of widespread crisis or fear, you can expect to see an immediate shift in your conversations with at least some of your customers.

If they haven’t already, your sales team is likely to hear some version of the following from customers: “We’re putting that purchase decision on hold because of restrictions related to the coronavirus.”

Call Customers Now to Discuss Coronavirus Concerns

In some cases, it may be reasonable for customers to put decisions on hold. On the other hand, we don’t want to become victims of our own anxiety and panic. And we don’t want that for our customers, either.

We want to bring customers useful solutions. That may require us to think in creative ways. And it will definitely require us to keep clear heads.

As Mike Weinberg said in his recent blog post about choosing focus over fear amid coronavirus craziness, “In both good times and bad, those who focus on the task at hand outperform those caught up in fear. Fear, for the most part, is an unproductive emotion. You face a choice. You can fret about what may happen or you can focus on doing your job.”

If you haven’t already, prepare your team to have constructive conversations with customers (especially those who express fear, worry, or indecision). Here are some tips for handling sales conversations in this kind of environment.

1. Teach salespeople to be proactive.

Train your salespeople to address the topic and any related fears directly. Ask, “How is the coronavirus impacting your company?”

They may say: “I’m sure you are concerned about the coronavirus impacting your business. We are here to help. Let’s set up a time to discuss some ideas.” Don’t wait. Just as you’d take proper precautions for your health, take proper precautions for your sales.

2. Coach your salespeople on how to handle sales objections.

Make a list of the objections you’re hearing (or expect to hear) and brainstorm a list of solutions. Remember the basics of conquering sales objections.

  • Listen: Listen carefully to the objection.
  • Validate: Make a statement of validation to show you listened.
  • Ask: Confirm your understanding of the objection by asking a clarifying question.
  • Solve: Answer objections with the appropriate solution.
  • Confirm: Confirm that your solution covers the objection.
  • Move on: If the customer is open to the solution, move on to the next step in the sales process.

Most salespeople skip from step one to step four. This often leads to them offering the wrong solution and getting another objection. Use all six steps to be sure the prospect is satisfied that you can handle his or her business and deliver what you promise.

Lead the Way during Coronavirus Fears

The spread of COVID-19 is a serious public health matter, and we should all take the proper precautions to stay healthy and avoid the spread of the disease. (The CDC is updating its website daily with a summary of the latest coronavirus updates and recommendations.)

There are so many things we can’t control. But we can control how we react. Part of leading during the coronavirus crisis is making sure your salespeople are empowered to show up as trusted advisors in a time of fear.

One of the CEOs I work with, Orrin Broberg from Modus, put it very well. When the customer calls and says, “I’m concerned about our sales and coronavirus,” your salespeople should be ready to say, “That’s exactly why I’d like to talk.”

I would go even further and say don’t wait for customers to come to you. Be proactive and start calling all your customers one by one. Collaborate with your marketing team to get the messaging right. As a sales leader, make the time to train your salespeople so they can act with confidence in a crisis.


We’re always here to help your sales team handle tough customer conversations. Get a 90-minute online training for your sales team for $2,500, for up to 25 people, from now until April 30. Contact alice@aliceheiman.com.

If you want to learn more about talking to customers with COVID-19 fears, watch my webinar. Here’s the link.

About the Author Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman, the CEOs Sales Coach. According to Forbes.com, she is among the world’s leading experts on the complex sale. She strategizes with sales leadership and provides innovative ideas to grow sales. Originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group, Alice and her team incorporate the newest research and best practices to provide sales programs that generate immediate and sustainable results.

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  • jim eaglesmith says:

    Good read Alice’ ive watched your success from a distance and am proud of you!

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