September 23, 2020 5 min read
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Virtually all industries felt the ripple effect of the current economic crisis. Entrepreneurs and agencies alike had to tighten the purse strings as prospects held off on purchases. Even firms with stacked pipelines hit sales standstills. Buyer preferences and behaviors were changing even before the health crisis hit, but now sales has entered a new normal.
Recent trends — such as omni-channel marketing, tech-enabled selling and a focus on consumers — continue to gain momentum. Additionally, buyer preferences for digital interactions have doubled, and this is likely to be a permanent shift. According to a McKinsey survey, 32 percent of sales teams are very likely to maintain their new digital focus, signifying a “digital inflection point.” The salespeople who have quickly adapted to these changes are succeeding in this new sales environment.
However, switching to digital and updating sales strategies takes more than the flip of a switch. With so many channels available, companies have to not only create digital solutions but also strategically train their salespeople to implement them. Leaders must be agile enough to adapt and consistent enough in their sales processes to properly track and manage customer journeys.
Related: Customer Journey Maps: The North Star to Digital Transformation
As the B2B sales landscape shifts online and becomes more consumer-focused, leaders must consequently pivot their strategies. It will take more than a few training sessions or emails from the CMO to fully adjust, but it will be worth it to properly align sales strategies with the new online, end-user-focused B2B landscape. Here are three key strategies for closing sales in this new environment:
1. Determine how your clients and their customers have been affected
For better or worse, it’s human nature to prioritize our own well-being. But in a situation like this, you have to step outside your own experience and see the world through your clients’ perspectives (and those of their customers). For instance, let’s say you sell software to companies in the hospitality industry. Clearly, they’re struggling right now. What changes can you make to your model or approach to better serve the end user?
Pendo illustrated this strategy perfectly. When the health crisis hit, the company realized it needed to listen to its customers before jumping into action. Pendo’s team put together a plan to gather feedback from its customers, community and industry in order to understand which pain points were the most common and how they could help address them. By pausing and concentrating on what their customers were saying, the team effectively used its time and energy to address real problems.
Related: 4 Simple Ways to Communicate Better With Your Customers
2. Make empathy and flexibility your sales pillars
Empathy and adaptability are critical in times of crisis. Yes, you want to close the sale. But by showing your customer that you’re concerned about their needs first — even if it requires extensive internal pivoting — you’ll improve your outcome. Consider creating a playbook of offers your sales representatives can use: deep discounts, deferred payment options or free features that normally would have been an extra charge. The goal is to help prospects through the crisis and, by extension, to make sales.
Related: Now What? How to Lead to the Other Side of COVID-19
Changes in messaging can be equally important. Fast food retailer KFC, for example, temporarily suspended its “finger lickin’ good” slogan to show support for the collective public health, demonstrating a timely understanding and respect for its customers. Your prospects’ world is changing just as drastically and frequently as your own. By being proactive about understanding their challenges, you’ll be ready with appropriate solutions.
3. Encourage boldness
According to the McKinsey survey cited earlier, only 50 percent of buyers believed the economy would rebound in two to three months. Buyer optimism is lagging, which means sales teams need to step outside their comfort zones and make bold moves to attract prospects’ attention.
Try challenging your team to brainstorm lists of leads from their own personal and professional networks. Invite them to think of unique ways to reignite cold sales leads and come up with new prospect pools. Be ready to “fail, but fail fast” until you find new strategies that work for your team. Just remember that big ideas need a strong foundation, so make sure you can quantify your value in your pitches.
The digitization of sales was gaining momentum long before the current crisis hit, but this inflection point has pushed these changes to a head more quickly than they might have otherwise. If leaders are willing to switch up their strategies, they may see success even during the pandemic.