In times of crisis, when the news is full of shocking and ominous headlines, it’s important to keep calm and remember that there are still a lot of things that we can control and a lot of ways that we can make a difference.
Especially when we are in a pandemic at a stage where few states, markets, and industries have started to open up.
Reopening itself is a big natural experiment. We have never before attempted to shut down the modern global economy, much less reopen it in the setting of an ongoing pandemic.
A similar point can be made about businesses’ plans to reopen. Companies are planning with different approaches in mind with leaders across the public and private sectors learning and integrating real-time information into their reopening plans.
Relevant lessons might come from other geographies, sectors, peers, and competitors.
Here are a few key strategies that sales teams should use now to make sure you can keep your sales pipelines functioning properly:
1. A singular focus on the fundamental principles
Given the current volatile environment, in enterprise and B2B sales, it’s even more important to focus on the fundamental principles and repeat them day in day out.
Basic principles like — fielding your best resources who can be most effective in the least amount of time, knowing the customer well, customer experience, pipeline growth, and constantly reviewing the pipeline to sales conversion strategies — needs to be followed regularly.
2. Focus on keeping the existing customer base intact
It’s all the more important to provide your customer base continued value as an incentive for them to continue to stay invested with you.
Customer experience will be the single biggest factor, which can drive this outcome for you. Work on the principle of ‘Give to Get’, give value to your existing customers to get the loyalty and incremental business in return.
3. “Stock Up” on new business leads now
Don’s panic and stop selling. Keep selling and prospecting. Just like stocking up on supplies that you think your house may need in case of quarantine or lockdown, you also need to “stock up” on sales prospects.
You should be doing that now rather than later.
Devote extra time, effort, and resources to prospecting and lead generation, right now, even if you’re currently busy.
Even if you’re not in an industry that has been directly impacted by coronavirus so far, there is the possibility that this outbreak could lead to wider and more severe economic impact.
Your business will be well-served by having a deeper pool of prospective clients to work with over the long term. In either case, if the coronavirus turns out to be a short-term crisis, or if it’s worse than expected and the economy goes into a recession, it’s never a bad idea to invest in a well-stocked pipeline of sales prospects.
4. Re-engineer your solutions to help with COVID-19 concerns
Spend some time re-thinking and changing the angle on what are the key benefits of your products and services in a way that might be relevant to the ongoing coronavirus concerns.
Is there a relevant sales pitch that you can make about how your B2B solutions can help your clients adapt? Are there key benefits that can help them get through the crisis?
For example, many companies are already announcing an aggressive shift toward remote work and encouraging people to work from home. If you sell cloud-based solutions, refocus your marketing efforts to sell remote access to companies who can keep their offices functioning by having employees work from home.
The same selling points for your product that already were relevant before the coronavirus might still work, but you might need to slightly adjust your sales pitch to frame your solutions for people’s most urgent concerns.
5. Get creative with sales presentations
The pandemic is forcing lots of businesses to cut back on travel and in-person meetings. This means web-based presentations are more important than ever.
Start repackaging your sales pitch into a full-blown virtual presentation. Be prepared to do more of your pitch over the web instead of on-site meetings and work on including the aces which you generally use in face-to-face meetings in your virtual presentations as well.
Be ready to get creative by:
- Doing an in-depth product demo that includes your technical team who typically don’t get involved until later in the sale.
- Sending your client a YouTube video of your product or solution in action, and then talking them through it via web conference while watching the video together.
Think creatively. Use various collaboration tools. And use reliable communication apps to talk to your clients. Don’t worry if you can’t be there in real life.
6. Embrace new sales channels
Even as more of the country goes into lockdown, people still are going to want and need to buy things, thereby creating opportunities to serve your market via alternative sales channels.
For example, if coronavirus is cutting down on foot traffic to your retail business, look to expand your e-commerce offerings. Restaurants in China have seen a decrease in in-store customers, so they’re selling takeaway meals instead.
Can you boost your online marketing efforts and e-commerce sales? Can you create more conversations on social media and LinkedIn instead of in-person sales meetings?
Many B2B companies are already well-positioned for this, especially if they sell software or other digital services and solutions. Business is still going on, but more of it might need to happen online.
7. Work on prospects with a long term view and deeper pockets
If you’re in B2B sales and have a few big prospects in the pipeline, now is a good time to put more energy into opportunity management and nurturing of those high impact opportunities.
There might be few such opportunities and you will have to put yourself in a good position to convert them.
Keep checking in with your prospects, reassure them if needed, and let them know that you are planning for contingencies and are ready to help.
8. Steady customer communication is even more important now
Build a strategy and plan to communicate with your customers and prospects proactively. You can’t sit back and slow down or else your competition will take away your business.
Customers are also in a confused state and they will need steady hands to guide them through this situation. You must assign your best people to reach out and communicate proactively.
Be real, be authentic but most importantly be present while communicating with your customers, physically or virtually.
9. Be available to your employees
Sales teams are used to living in an uncertain environment but are constantly out in the field to make things happen to counter that. However, things are now different with sales teams unable to go out and meet people – a situation they are used to.
Be available for all your employees and especially for your sales team members as it’s the most uncertain environment they have faced yet.
Provide regular guidance for WFH for them to stay motivated and feel cared for.
10. Prepare for pent up demand
Another lesson learned from the Chinese and other businesses across the globe is that the post-coronavirus economic recovery might be faster than we expect.
If you cut back too far today, you might not be positioned to capitalize on the post-crisis recovery.
One should not downplay the seriousness of the public health aspects of this crisis; everyone needs to take precautions to stay healthy and reduce the spread of the virus. But put steps in place today to be positioned for bigger success tomorrow.
There will always be challenges and crises affecting our businesses. We have to adapt and embrace the opportunities and bounce back stronger, even from a major one like the COVID-19 pandemic.