It’s hard to deny that we are in an era when many business owners feel they have their backs up to a wall. Depending on the type of business they are in, they may feel that their opportunities for success have dwindled away. Yet, in this time of adversity, there are companies out there who have forged ahead, finding and benefiting from new opportunities that are in some cases leading to greater success than ever. So, while you may find your B2B sales results have struggled during this pandemic, I want to encourage you to consider the possibility that you have the ability to adapt and even thrive during these unforeseen circumstances of our time.
As the effects of the pandemic have unfolded these past months, all businesses, whether large or small, have been impacted to at least some degree. Certainly, there are some, such as in the travel and hospitality industry that have taken some of the biggest hits. With that said, there are companies that have not only navigated through these rough waters, but they have adjusted their marketing strategies in a way that has helped them take the lead and increase their profits.
So, how can you be one of those businesses, rather than a mass casualty from the crisis at hand? There are effective strategies which they have put into practice, and you can put into place today. That is the good news. You do not have to wait for the economic environment to change, hoping that your business will somehow survive it. Start practicing these proven strategies today that will enable you to exceed your B2B sales targets.
As you read about these strategies, reflect on your own business, and how you can apply them to make them work for you and your team.
How to Exceed Your B2B Sales Targets During a Global Pandemic
Understand Your Market
Use an ABM approach. This is more important now than ever. Take a deeper look at your current key customers. Why did they buy your product? What problem does your product help them solve? Don’t make assumptions about the answers to these questions. Rather, take the time to interview the decision makers and people that have important roles within these businesses. Become a good listener. Their answers may give you new insight that will enable you to tailor a product that best fits the needs of those key customers. Sales Hacker provides a useful and thorough list of questions to use when interviewing your customers.
It’s the face to face interaction that is important here. So, while your customers probably are not comfortable with anyone going into their office, video chat enables them to at least see you. That one on one interaction goes a long way towards building relationships with those valuable customers. As many of us know, relationships are everything. It is those relationships that help you gain your customer’s trust while they stay loyal to you.
During those interviews, don’t be afraid to ask your customers about their particular concerns, challenges, and even hardships they find themselves going through during this pandemic. This is important because first, and foremost it shows you care. Your customers will appreciate the empathy that is much needed now. Second, it may give you some insight for how you can tweak your product in a way that would help them solve the issues they find themselves facing. Perhaps, not only will you be helping that one business, but there are likely others out there with similar needs that can benefit from your product.
After gathering the information from your interviews, you are ready to create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This is a powerful tool in helping you identify good prospects. It’s essentially criteria that describe your ideal customer. Use the ICP to find other businesses that fit that criteria and direct a marketing campaign to those prospects. Creating and using an ICP is a great tool in helping you identify new potential customers.
Even in these trying times, you can grow your business if you are intentional and deliberate in your approach. Knowing your market is at the core.
Identify which segments of your market are healthy and which are not.
The truth is that there are segments of our economy that have been hurt more than others by the effects of the pandemic. Airlines, hotels, concert venues, are just a handful of types of businesses whose business came to nearly a stand still overnight. While some of these businesses that were most effected may be back open again, they have a long way to go in being able to turn a profit again. There is much that is not in their control with the current circumstances because of their line of business. So, to a large degree, those businesses will do well if they can just hold on until their situation improves. The point is that many of these businesses that have suffered great losses are likely to not have the available funds to spend right now. So, if you have customers who are suffering financially and likely were forced to cut back on their spending, it would be better to direct your marketing campaigns elsewhere for the time being, and on those businesses that are still reasonably healthy.
Figuring out which businesses may still be financially strong and which ones are not could present a challenge. The Harvard Business Review recommends thinking about it from the angle of your prospect’s customer. If your prospect’s customer is doing well financially, then your prospect is more likely to buy from you. On the other hand, if their customer is not doing well, your prospect is not likely to have the means to buy your product.
An example is if your business sells event venues or products for technology conferences, you recognize that your prospect is likely not to buy from you until the conditions for holding in person conferences improves.
Another suggestion which will help you focus on the prospects that are most likely financially sound, and thus able to buy your product, is to buy data in which you request to exclude SIC codes that have been hit the hardest during this pandemic. The logic of this is that you will be more likely to market to able buyers.
In summary, you should be in the know of what is going on in the marketplace and the impacts of current events. Keep informed and use it to steer your marketing campaigns to prospects you are most likely to convert into customers.
Provide your top B2B sales producers the best data, leads, and support.
If you haven’t already, you need to assess the strengths of your B2B sales staff. By this, I mean identify who are the top producers of your marketing and B2B sales team. In these challenging times, you may be functioning with a smaller team. So, it is imperative that you equip them with tools they need to find the best prospects and convert them into customers. Good quality data, leads, and support will enable them to do their best job of selling for your business.
Drive your business into the lane of success by using quality data. Your team must operate with up to date contact data, including names and roles of the key decision makers, email addresses, and phone numbers. If you want your sales team to focus their time and attention on selling, then they need to know they can rely on the accuracy of this data. They need to know that when they pick up the phone to sell, they will be speaking with those key players who make buying decisions within that business. In other words, you don’t want your best sales representatives wasting valuable time correcting out of date contact info. That should already be done for them, so that they can focus on what they do best…sell.
You also want to hand off data to your marketing and sales team that will enable them to focus on specific segments of your markets. This way, they can design campaigns that are tailored to meet the needs of those businesses. In other words, the prospective customers within your target audience are grouped together based on their shared qualities. In the B2B world, this is known as firmographic segmentation. Just some of the data you may use when segmenting your market may be business size, geographic location, type of industry, technologies used by the companies. You have a choice in how you may want to go about acquiring such data. Either you can assign in house staff to this job, or you may want to outsource it to a company, such as Sales Pro Leads. Especially if you are tight on staff and time, you may want to opt for the later choice.
Another type of invaluable data is the kind you get from face to face interaction from your customers. This goes back to taking the time to interview your customers and getting feedback. At the core of ABM, you are focused on meeting the needs of your customers. The best way to do this is simply having that conversation with them. Listen intently to what they are telling you. Then, use that information to refine your product(s) and design your marketing to align with the needs of similar prospects.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of not seeing the connection between data and developing relationships. Perhaps that is why there are still quite a few B2B Sales companies who don’t take advantage of it in their business. Ultimately, building a strong, loyal customer base is all about relationships. If you give your sales reps quality data, they can use it to foster those relationships. “Customer data is intended to facilitate the relationship between the sales rep and the buyer,” states, top ten marketer and best selling author, Neil Patel.
It’s a rather simple formula. Give your best leads to your strongest sales reps, and they will convert prospects into customers. In today’s environment, there are numerous ways to generate leads. Don’t hesitate to ask your current customers for referrals. Your customers often may know of other businesses who have similar needs. There are other ways to generate leads, including:
- email marketing
- search marketing
- social marketing
- content marketing
While some B2B saless have benefited from leads generated through hosting live events, this is not a viable option during the pandemic. Instead, try hosting webinars. It’s a way to show and not just tell prospects about your product. It can be a highly effective platform for acquiring new leads, which can then be passed on to your sales team.
Lastly, when it comes to giving your top producers what they need, make sure they have the support to do their best selling. Your sales and marketing teams should be collaborating, and there should be open channels between them. Ask your salespeople about the effectiveness of the marketing. From their experiences talking to different leads, they could very well have insights that you and your marketing team have not considered. Show your sales reps that you value their ideas by listening and putting some of their suggestions in place.
Recognize that in person sales is out. Web and video conferencing are in.
Amid the current pandemic, your sales representatives can utilize web and video conferencing to connect with prospects. In the circumstances we find ourselves in now, we need to seize the opportunities which technology has afforded us.
Capitalize on web and video conferencing. These formats give your reps that face to face personal connection with prospects. Experienced salespeople know this is ever so important in developing relationships. When surveyed, 73% of B2B buyers say they want a personalized customer experience. Video conferencing makes that experience with your buyers possible. Utilize these tools internally and externally. As many companies now have their staff working from home, it is an effective way to keep your team together when physical distance is separating them.
Increase your investment in B2B sales and deploy the best work from home tools.
Now, this suggestion to invest more money may strike you as surprising considering the current state of the economy. Your business, also, may be one that has taken a hit on your sales productivity and your ROI. However, you may find that you are in a situation where your operational expenses are less because you needed to downsize your staff and your employees are now working from home. If that is the case, redeploy the extra funds, while investing it in tools that will enable your team to be productive as they work remotely.
First and foremost, your staff will need high speed internet that will support the online technology platforms they will be using. There is an array of remote collaboration tools you can choose for your staff to use. Zoom, Slack, and a cloud PBX or UCaaS solution are ways that could become a common method of communication for your team. Even if your staff eventually returns to the office, these collaboration tools can support social distancing as you can conduct meetings without bringing everyone together into a conference room.
In addition, you may be concerned about privacy while your team is working online from home. A solution which can provide the security and peace of mind that your data and files are safe is to invest in purchasing a VPN, or virtual privacy network. This will protect your data and files, which is highly reassuring in today’s world.
Opportunity to Reinvent.
When all is said and done, and we look back at this time, we are going to see that some businesses came through this challenging period in history with flying colors. Many of those businesses will have found a way to reinvent themselves and come out stronger than before.
One case in point is Zoom. Do you know anyone who hasn’t used it yet? Before the pandemic, this video conferencing platform was primarily used by businesses and universities. Once the pandemic took hold and so many people were feeling the effects of social isolation, they gravitated to Zoom. Suddenly, it gave them a way to socialize and visit with family and groups of friends that they could not visit in person. Before you knew it, people were hosting birthday and graduation parties on Zoom. Teachers also began teaching lessons on this cloud-based platform. It gave them the ability to still see their students, engaging and encouraging interaction among them.
No matter the type of business you are in, if you are going to weather the different storms which will inevitably come your way, it is imperative you find ways to reinvent.
After all, we have experienced since the global pandemic began, we can realize that not everything in life is within our control. However, we do have choices with what we do in times when we are thrown a curveball. Rather than accepting the false premise that there is nothing you can do to improve the situation, take concrete actions now that will keep your business strong, leading you to surpass your sales quota.