How to sell amidst a pandemic

Published in
4 min readMay 26, 2020


Interview with Allison Yazdian, Managing Director of Growth at Compass

Jane VC recently sat down with Allison Yazdian, veteran sales and startup executive and Managing Director of Growth at Compass. We’re sharing the top takeaways from our conversation below.

Q: The nature of sales is changing in a world with so much uncertainty and virtual sales conversations. What changes have you noticed? Which changes are pendulum shifts that will likely go away and which ones are here to stay?

When shelter-in-place began, every business in America basically pushed pause, went into survival mode, and said “I as a business owner need to do everything I can to not expend cash and survive.” The only investments and expenditures that businesses were willing to make were those that would help drive their survival.

At Compass, we saw this time as an opportunity to help all agents, not just our customers, think through how they would adapt in this new environment. We made resources available to them that weren’t previously available publicly, offering them a helping hand.

In this time especially, but moving forward as well, it’s critical that what you are offering your customers is something that has a tangible ROI to get them through this period.

Q: In terms of meeting customers where they are, how much should you sell right now? Is it a hard sale or a soft sale? What suggestions do you have for companies that are actively selling?

If you have a product that’s truly solving your customer’s pain point, and if you’re aligning with that customer early on, it should never feel like a hard sale. Make sure you’re offering something that is going to relieve a pain. In the current times, it’s critical for customers to be able to gauge ROI. Do you have an offering your customers want? The only way you’ll figure that out is by talking to your customers and asking for feedback.

Give the customer an opportunity to be human. For example, in the early days of shelter-in-place, we knew that people were reticent about Zoom meetings, so we had a lot of conversations about making them feel comfortable and setting the tone for a more open and honest conversation.

The most successful sales reps are the ones who are consultative, great listeners, who ask the right questions, and who are great problem-solvers.

Q: Often times, companies rely on offline processes and interactions to create qualified leads. Do you have suggestions for ways to generate prospects and qualify them in a virtual world?

A lot of it depends on the nature of who your target customer is and what your sales process looks like. Take a step back and think about innovative ways to get in front of prospects. For example, at Compass, we get a lot of referrals from our current agent base, so that could be an opportunity to go to existing customers and ask them for peer referrals.

Right now, take the time to generate a lot of content for your target audience that’s free–that’s where demand generation comes in. Articles, white papers, etc. Any ways to create high-level demand generation could be a way to create interest.

Lastly, cold calling is always there. You have to encourage your sales team to pick up the phone and send personalized emails, especially when there’s content being offered.

Q: At a tactical level, do you have suggestions for how to make a virtual sales pitch most successful?

Make sure you’re in a place that’s not distracting to you or your customer, and set your background up properly for video. This one is obvious, but get dressed! Don’t look like you just rolled out of bed. Buy a light so that you have the right light for video calls, and be sure your camera angle isn’t distracting. If you’re sharing your screen and there’s a tough question, my advice is to turn off your screenshare so you can make eye contact with the customer.

It’s also a great practice to show vulnerability and humor wherever possible. Ask those human questions, like “How’s your quarantine going?” and “What’s your setup like?”

I set up an agenda for calls with a clear outline so the customer knows what to expect. Always leave 5-10 minutes at the end to recap, agree on next steps, and set up the next meeting!

Q: How do you see sales evolving over the next year?

Inherently, as human beings, people crave connection. So I don’t think sales will be virtual forever and there will be a world in which people are getting on airplanes and meeting in conference rooms again. The way sales happened will come back. But, I do think a lot of what companies are embracing and learning through this period will remain. Videoconference, for example, will still have a role in the sales process going forward. Regardless, every sales process will have to adapt. The conservatism will likely remain, so my advice is to make sure you’re really driving ROI for your customer.