There's no doubt about it, COVID-19 (the Coronavirus), has well and truly shook the world and changed our everyday habits in the space of just a few short weeks. In many countries, not only are schools and public recreation areas closed but many businesses are closing offices, asking employees to work from home during this challenging time. Business travel has come to a virtual stop with events, conferences and trade shows all either cancelled or postponed wherever possible.
In a previous article, we spoke about the need for businesses reliant on trade shows or events for generating new sales opportunities, to think about other, perhaps more modern ways of generating sales leads as more and more events were being cancelled at the time. Today, just two weeks later, we find ourselves in a position where not only are events being cancelled, but the number of face to face meetings are also reducing rapidly.
What Does This Mean For Sales-Focused Companies?
For most B2B companies (as well as some B2C focused businesses), the lack of events and face to face interactions can be highly impactful. Yes, we have wonderful video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams that are helping us to interact somewhat normally, but that relies on both parties (sales and prospect) to be relatively tech-savvy, otherwise buyers may find themselves frustrated at the inability to connect with a salesperson, which may cause stress and negatively impact the chances of a deal being made between the parties. After all, how many of us make purchasing decisions when we're frustrated or stressed?
There's little doubt that for most businesses that rely on face to face sales conversations, COVID-19 is going to hurt sales revenue both in the short and medium term, especially if sales funnels are not kept at optimum levels throughout the crisis.
So, What Should Businesses Do?
It's difficult, as ultimately, the answer to this question will be different for every company and we should therefore focus more of our efforts into understanding the purchasing process from a prospects / potential customer perspective:
If prospects can't meet your business, they'll spend more time researching you.
There's a common saying in the business world that 'people buy from people [they like] ' and while this is perhaps too simplistic and doesn't take into account important aspects such as sales processes, there's no doubt that we all prefer to purchase products and services from people who we emotionally connect with and who we truly believe will help solve whatever business problem we may have. With COVID-19 and the limited number of face to face sales interactions that are happening across the world, sales people are clearly at a disadvantage and buyers may make more practical, logic or fact-based decisions combining a deeper level of research with seller professionalism in order to make a purchasing decision.
If we assume this to be correct, its paramount that your business helps support the buyer's research process by ensuring that the following is firmly in place:
- Is your website up to date?
When was the last time you updated or modernised your website? Buyers now, may spend more time than ever on your website as well as competitor websites so that they can gather information and insights in order to make the best purchasing decision.
- Do you have up-to-date case studies and portfolio pages?
During face to face sales presentations, it's likely that a salesperson will furnish a presentation with client stories and anecdotes that relate to the buyer. These stories are typically told or narrated rather than embedded in detail within a sales deck. With less in-person meetings occurring, it's important that your sales proposals and website contain numerous (and relevant) client stories, testimonials and success stories. Prospects will use this information to shortlist suppliers and service providers.
- Create better, more digestible content
Clients will spend more time on your website or your blog and will be actively engaging with your content as part of their research process. It's therefore critical that your content is professional, of the highest quality possible and easily digestible by your prospect.
Consider creating new blog articles, recording new videos or converting existing case studies and clunky powerpoint presentations into professional animated videos, like the example below:
The example above replaced a 92-page presentation with a short video that not only engages viewers immediately but captivates them in a way that no 90+ page presentation ever could!
- Professional, on-time follow-ups are essential
It's often been said that the success of a sales meeting is dependent on the quality of the sales follow-up and in the age of COVID-19, this has never been more true. If during your sales call, you promise to deliver a sales proposal on a specific date, then do your absolute best to beat that deadline and under no circumstances, deliver this late. With the lack of personal interaction, buyers will measure and gauge your company's professionalism by how you interact and engage with them during the sales process. Delivering high-quality personalized proposals relevant to the buyer on or ahead of time, will stand you in good stead!
Related to this is how a sales person gathers and collates sales information based on their interactions with a prospect. If you are using tools such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets in void of a professional CRM system, your ability to track and monitor the sales process and also understand the strength of your sales funnel may provide challenges both in terms of internal reporting and remembering when (and how) to follow up with a prospect.
If you are using a purpose-built CRM such as Salesforce or HubSpot, consider adding automation tools such as automated, trigger-based workflows to keep active communication with prospects and to alert you when they are engaged with your content, proposals or your website.
What more can you do?
With the natural doom and gloom surrounding COVID-19, it may be difficult to look at the situation with a positive tint but the lack of events and face-to-face meetings combined with travel restrictions also have some benefits.
For those of us who have numerous meetings, the time lost in travel can be excessive. It's common that many of us will spend up to an hour traveling to a meeting, meet the prospect for 45 minutes and then travel an hour back. If you do this 7 or 8 times a week, it's easy to lose at least 10-15 hours just in travel. With more and more meetings taking place online using video conferencing tools, many of us (me included) suddenly have more time on our hands than we're used to. This time can be invested back into the business in the form of updating your website, your sales collateral or creating new case studies. Using this time wisely is important for every business.
It's important to remember that all of these items will outlive the Coronavirus and will most-certainly help you to close more sales opportunities when business activities return to normal, which we hope and pray will be sooner rather than later.
At Nexa, we can help you get all of the above commercial aspects in place. Book a session with us to get started.