Coronavirus has turned everything upside down – and so it’s not surprising that most sales teams across the world are in a state of flux.
Customers aren’t buying, or maybe they are, but they’re not buying what they’d planned to buy 12 months ago – in fact, in a B2B sales survey on the impact of Coronavirus that we conducted, 73.9% of B2B salespeople said their sales opportunities have decreased over lockdown. Strategies are out of the window, annual reports and multi-year programs have been ditched in order to survive the here and now. Teams have shrunk, some are still furloughed, or maybe staff have been moved around to focus efforts on keeping the day to day business functioning.
So what does this do to your sales strategy?
In short, it’s probably worth throwing out the strategy and goals you put in place 12 months ago and start again. 50% of salespeople said that customers postponing decisions was the biggest struggle they were now facing, so we have to look at how to reach customers when they’re in a completely different place to where they were last year.
Think about your customers: their priorities have likely done a 180 degree turn since Coronavirus hit, so going in focusing on the same projects from 12 months ago, will likely only frustrate your customers and create even more distance between them and you.
Instead, use lockdown as an opportunity to set up calls and videoconferences to all come together and reassess what life looks like now. With increased uncertainty ahead, it’s hard to say that we’re out on the other side of the Coronavirus yet, but now that a few months of the ‘new normal’ has passed, businesses are likely making plans about how they need to operate in order to survive and thrive now.
This brings opportunity for sales teams. The key now is looking at how your product or service can align with your customers’ new goals.
So what are these new goals going to be? You obviously need to get out there and talk to your customers to find out what they are specifically, but if we look at industry in general, the goals will likely centre around:
- Reducing operating costs to make the business as lean as possible
- Reducing staff and trying to automate more parts of the business in an effort to survive whilst revenues aren’t at 100% normal levels
- Looking for new business opportunities as a result of Coronavirus (i.e. videoconferencing solutions, better connectivity to support remote workers, for example)
- Implementing remote working and collaboration services
It’s likely that some of the bolder ambitions have fell by the wayside for many customers – those big expansion plans are probably on the backburner right now, and will be for some time as the economy sluggishly recovers, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities. It’s just that how you approach those opportunities is likely going to be different.
Can you show customers how you can help to save them money? How you can improve staff satisfaction levels? How they can better retain their own clients through outstanding service, thus reducing any possibility of customer churn or further revenue loss? Can you come up with new and interesting business ideas to help them make use of existing resources and staff? Can you share your contacts and put customers in touch with other companies and businesses where there are interesting synergies?
So, with all this in mind, here are a few steps to reboot your B2B sales strategy after coronavirus:
Update your product messaging
First things first, get your product messaging right. If you haven’t changed it since before Coronavirus hit, then it’s probably a really good time to take another look at how you can tweak messaging to suit the industry you’re selling into now.
If you’re selling a luxury, nice to have (rather than a cost-saving must have) item, then what can you tweak about how you position your product to make it more relevant to customers who may have less available funds to spend and need to make use of every bit of budget in order to operate?
It’s not impossible, but it requires a bit more thinking than usual in order to make everything more relevant to your customers’ ‘here and now’ situations.
You could even create Coronavirus-specific sales plays (sales scenarios) or sales playbooks to centre your teams’ focus on your clients’ current issues.
Update your marketing
Take a note from TV advertisers who quickly scrambled to remove ads with lots of people congregating together or in crowds – readjust your marketing to suit the audience you’re pitching. For example, in our own messaging, rather than talking about how to have better customer meetings, we’ve been discussing how to plan better sales calls – as salespeople are likely now connecting through calls instead of face to face meetings.
Get in your customers’ mindsets
Talk to your customers. Read what they’re publishing. Think about what’s going on at their company, and how they’re likely feeling. Assess whether that project that was all systems go before lockdown is now even a remote priority. Be realistic, and be where your clients are (virtually, of course!). By pushing the same messaging and same projects, you’re likely going to alienate customers who have more pressing issues to focus on.
Use this time to brush up on fundamental sales skills
Look around at what you’ve not managed to work on with your teams over the previous year – perhaps your Sales Managers need some coaching training, or maybe your new sales hires need some additional training in fundamental sales behaviours.
Put in place a lockdown Sales Enablement Plan
Create a specific plan on how you’re going to sales enable your teams (i.e. support them to sell better) over the lockdown period and beyond.
What content will they need to support their selling? Ideas could range from very targeted playbooks through to case studies focused on where you have helped other clients during lockdown.
What training will you be offering to your teams over this period? What kind of sales team do you want to have once lockdown is over and we (hopefully) return to some kind of normal? What skills do you envisage they’ll have? What have they struggled with over the lockdown period?
What technology could help your teams to do their jobs better? Does your videoconferencing software need an upgrade? Or perhaps you need to look at ways to enable better document collaboration between customers and your salesforce so that tasks can be worked on remotely? Or – do you need to work on creating better presentations for sales teams so that they can share these with customers over videoconferences rather than face to face discussions?
With everything being virtual, this actually gives you an amazing opportunity to gain more insight into how your sales teams sell. You can jump onto sales calls, watch your teams present to customers, and engage in real time with client activities, in a way that might have been possible when most activities were carried out face to face.
Your Sales Enablement Plan created in 2019 is likely to not be relevant to what you actually need from your sales teams right now.
Be hyper-aware of sales productivity
Now that your teams aren’t driving to meetings and customers have maybe backed out of a number of sales opportunities, how are your sales teams ensuring they remain productive?
It’s hard to be super-focused at the moment against the backdrop of a global pandemic, but you do need to keep an eye on ensuring productivity stays up, and sales teams stay engaged.
This could involve scheduling regular check-ins, or giving out weekly goals that aren’t necessarily sales revenue-related, but ensure that reps are engaging with customers or creating content.
Let’s also remember that it’s a tough time for everyone; salespeople will likely be worried about keeping their jobs and the potential for an economic recession, so let’s try and build in some compassion to your new sales strategy, so that reps can feel supported in their roles as much as possible.