The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the business world hard, and B2B sales are no exception. The challenges here are compounded, as the companies you deal with are likely also suffering from reduced revenues, supply line issues and staff downsizing and/or the shift to working remotely.
While the “new normal” seems to be anything but, making the necessary adjustments to regain your equilibrium is essential to survival. As international business developer Kartik Anand writes for Talk CMO, “It is all the more critical now for organizations to streamline CRM and automation for response management and customer value-chain analytics.”
Harry Datwani and Daniel Worthen of Deloitte Consulting LLP offer similar observations in their article for Destination CRM.
“A new baseline has been set for how prospects will engage, how buyers will buy, and how sales reps will collaborate … Winning organizations will likely use this time to understand how buying journeys have changed and reimagine how they interact with prospects—and CRM will be even more critical to their success than ever before. B2B sales leaders may reconsider the long-held belief that face-to-face engagement is always superior to digital, and new selling motions will emerge to support new buying processes.”
Reimagining the Sales Journey
According to Datwani and Worthen, the new B2B sales journey will be reimagined from the customer’s perspective. Sales teams will need to need to rely on digital technologies that enable better engagement in order to make the buying experience more human. Datwani and Worthen detail three steps to doing so, which we provide verbatim from their article.
- Up-level personalization – Now more than ever, sellers need to deliver the right engagement and interactions at the right times, and companies will need an ecosystem of digital capabilities to help enable these interactions successfully. CRM software needs to match current customer needs for tailored interactions and customized offerings.
The right CRM tools can empower teams to build relationships more effectively and provide the best customer experience from evaluation to purchase and beyond. This can help ultimately drive more customer loyalty and retention by helping customers understand and fully utilize the value of your business’s products or services, whether that’s through:
- Shortening delivery cycles by jump-starting configuration based on data collected during the sales and service process.
- Reducing customers’ operational risk and working capital needs through tailored solutions.
- Aligning your products’ road maps to your customers’ emerging needs in a collaborative and transparent way.
- Prepare for long-term remote and digital sales models – Most sales moved to remote models during the early peak of the pandemic, and companies should maintain and strengthen virtual sales operations for the foreseeable future. People will remain wary about in-person interactions even after organizations return to their offices. With so much uncertainty about how COVID-19 will continue to impact business, remote selling via videoconferencing, phone, or social media will be key to the next normal.
Previously, digital communication worked particularly well with repeat customers and buyers who were already well-informed about a company’s products or services. However, in this climate every category of customer and prospect is becoming more digitally savvy, and sellers need to rely on digital for new and established customers. The shift to digital also means that the sales cycle is effectively shortened, as decisions are being made based off a videoconference call or a virtual demo.
- Work even closer with marketing to support sales – to help add value to clients and prospects beyond just the offerings you are selling, work with your company’s marketing team to create new assets and resources. This can be anything from virtual events or panels to whitepapers, videos, or blog posts, depending on your audience’s needs. Closer alignment between marketing and sales can also help organizations attract inbound prospects, making the lives of sellers exponentially better.
Offer support and empathy to your customers
As mentioned in our first paragraph, your customers are doubtlessly dealing with numerous challenges related to business disruptions caused by COVID-19. An article by DealsInsight provides advice in successfully connecting with your clients by acknowledging their needs in the spirit of “We’re here for you” – then followed by asking, “What can we do to help you in these times?”
“Show them that you care and be honest and transparent about it. No one expected the pandemic. But now that it’s in our core, a compassionate response from a business leader can go a long way in putting his or her employees and clients at ease and helping them coast through the work-life disruption. During uncertain times, compassion means having greater empathy and flexibility.
“Here, internal communication with clients, specifically emails, is an important part of crisis management. B2B organizations can set the tone – gently so – by being open about where they stand amidst all the chaos and engaging with them through frequent and reassuring emails. Trust and loyalty is built and tested at the time of crisis. The more empathetic we are as sales leaders in our organizations, the more willing your clients will be to show up and respond.”
Prepare for the long term
No matter what the future holds to prevent and control COVID-19, you should assume that the new normal is here to stay. DealsInsight offers the following long-term steps to take.
Be proactive with client outreach – “When B2B sales leaders hyper-personalize their client outreach, they can increase the pipeline by as much as 70% – or run up against a hard reality. Success in business lies in creating personalized experiences and delivering them in an authentic manner – spanning marketing, sales and client service – aimed at resonating deeply with prospects so that they feel valued and appreciated.
“Begin with developing a comprehensive approach for client outreach and lead generation from all possible channels: outbound lead generation (cold calling, email marketing, direct mail) and inbound lead generation (search engine marketing, social media, PPC ads).
Further, get more proactive at asking for referrals from existing clients. Ask everyone in your sales team to brainstorm and make lists of potential leads from their own professional and personal networks.”
Visit your cold leads more often – Don’t forget your cold prospects. If you haven’t contacted your cold leads in the last few months, this could be the right time to get in touch with them. If their business needs have changed during the pandemic, they may be more receptive to what your company has to offer.
As DealsInsight observes, “All of the B2B companies that you’ve tried selling to before, are also navigating this same environment of uncertainty and unpredictability; the solution that you sell might suddenly be a better fit for what they need now. Even your prospects might get acquired by other companies. Or your prospect’s vendor might go out of business, creating a need for a new vendor (you!) to get on board with the prospect’s organization.”
Get the right cloud-based CRM solution
A business’s CRM platform was a valuable tool even before COVID-19, allowing your sales team to manage the data of clients and prospects – which contain valuable information about their behavior and buying habits. According to DealsInsight, 92% of B2B sales professionals cited CRMs as a key priority for enabling their business strategy.
Cloud-based CRM platforms are becoming more in-demand by businesses, as the CRM data is hosted on the cloud, rather than traditional CRM platforms – which require on-premise deployment. This makes data easy to access by all sales team members, regardless of their location.
However, as covered in our blog post – “Why Your Sales Reps Try to Avoid CRM” – no matter how technically advanced or how many features a CRM solution has, a system that your sales staff doesn’t feel comfortable using won’t be used. Involve your sales team in the selection process, then give them the onboarding and training they need in order to feel confident in their ability to use it successfully, and get up-to-speed as quickly as possible.
Choose your CRM solution carefully
Speaking of the selection process, we invite you to evaluate eZnet CRM for your organization. Designed to be a comprehensive CRM solution, eZnet CRM is user-friendly, easy to customize and scale, and has excellent vendor support. The new normal has a high learning curve. Your sales team needs every advantage they can get! Contact us to learn more, and start your free 30-day trial.