The COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, and B2B sales executives are already writing 2020 off as a “loss” in their databases and CRM platforms. SO what will the 2021 “New Normal” look like for Enterprise and Mid-Size BD and Sales Executives? Well, we will slowly get out of the “bunker” in 2020 and plan a very different 2021, filled with anxiety and new approaches.
2021 will solidify something we already know in B2B Sales and Business Development – The Client knows where to research and how to make decisions, by being social, and asking peers for advice. And they will continue to listen to online signals on trends and developments within their field.
So, here is a short list of items you should be ready for in 2020 and 2021!
1. Client outreach and campaigns are even more important now!
Now is not the time to rely on your traditional leads or channels to come to you. Get to your “Lead Generation Machines” and get to work! Your chances of reaching clients online and via phone calls are actually greater now, than before. Don’t forget about your outbound lead generation (cold calls, email marketing, marketing automation, direct mail) and inbound lead generation (SEO and SEM, social media (organic and paid), PPC ads).
If you are hoping to get new business, think again. Not many are buying at the moment, but many are listening.
“No one is buying, but everyone is learning,” said Michael Brenner, founder and CEO of B2B content agency Marketing Insider Group. “Outside of the healthcare sector, remote work tech and collaboration software, B2B buyers just aren’t buying right now. But they are researching online.”
So now is the time to tune your messaging, marketing campaigns, and content investments. Use formats, such as video and infographics to boost your visibility and simplicity of messaging.
Also, now is the time to get more proactive with your existing clients or past clients at asking for referrals. Have your sales and marketing teams reach out to ‘friends, partners, and channel friends’ to solicit opinions and word-of-mouth leads.
2. Re-engineer your Sales Process!
When times are good, B2B Sales Organizations get a little lazy about following or developing a sales process. They even forget about personalization and treat every client conversation the same. We are entering a very competitive environment and 2021 will be a year of competition and ‘natural selection’. The complacency will punish many who will perish and will yield to those who are agile, content and knowledge-driven, and customer-dedicated. Every deal will count as the number of deals will decrease. Your assumptions should be grounded on conservative pipeline predictions.
What to do? Rethink your customer buying journey and improve it. Here is an example of one, which should also be integrated with your content-driven strategies and sales tactics.
- Initial contact and research stage – Is your content ready? Do you have automations in place? Are you aligned with marketing, experts, customer service?
- Conversion to a preliminary phone call with a sales rep – do you have your scripts ready? Is everyone adequately trained? Will the leads go to the best ones to convert to the next step? Tracking your lead scores and updating your buyer journey?
- Product demo – are you ready for the demo? Do you have your best people showcasing your products and services?
- Stakeholder conversations – are you dealing with all the decision-makers?
- ROI calculations – ready to justify your solutions?
- Q&A with decision-makers – are you bringing your Subject Mater Experts into the conversations?
- Closing the deal – are you ready to pay forward a bit?
Not every industry or company will have the same sales process, but this a good simple list to begin with. Invest your time with the team (marketing and sales) to customize the process to reflect your own company’s experience. If you can pinpoint a few key stages and typical steps in the customer journey, you will be better equipped to guide your customers through each stage.
3. Revisit your lead generation process: from ‘Lead in’ to ‘Closure’
Many underestimate the value of their “leads in”, or cold leads. If your marketing automation system or your CRM system have prospects which require attention, now is the time to visit with them. Even if someone was not ready to buy, it is a good idea to pay them a ‘digital or social’ visit and engage in a conversation. Many companies have not stopped spending, but instead shifted their spending towards different areas – it is your job to find out where and how much. Many enterprises are also looking at their procurement practices and processes and beginning to think more dynamically and “just in time” for decision making, while re-negotiating their vendor terms. You can be proactive and get ready to preempt the conversation with a few options of your own. But again, you have to engage fast.
Whatever the situation, it’s a good idea to revisit your list of long-term sales leads and check in with the “cold” prospects, even the ones that might not have seemed like high priority leads six months ago.
4. Get more dynamic – turn on a dime!
We are changing so rapidly that the saying “the only thing that’s constant is change” is ringing true loud and clear. Everyone is in the same situation – we are all trying to adapt to this new “post-COVID” environment and in many cases, we will never be the same. Look at your product closely and see how you can make it more adaptive and more dynamic. Your prospects or clients might get acquired by other companies. Your prospect’s vendor might go out of business, creating an opportunity for you. All of your sales content and your marketing communications needs to lean into this spirit of resilience. How can you help your customers’ businesses get stronger, leaner, more efficient, lower-cost, or lower-risk? How can you be relevant to them and make them relevant to their clients? How can you adapt your sales pitch to the unique concerns and challenges of this specific moment?
It might sound premature or naively optimistic to talk about COVID-19 having a “New Normal.” But the business world wants to move in the direction of normalcy. Make sure you can adapt your sales strategies accordingly. “Normal” may not be there yet, but your “New Normal” may be a new way of doing business, and a new way of selling and marketing in the ever-changing world of uncertainty and relevance.