The novel coronavirus or COVID 19 has most people locked inside their homes, owing to complete or partial lockdowns in major economies around the globe, which is essential to flatten the curve but also has several impacts on businesses.
For example, disrupted supply chains, fluctuations in demand, longer sales cycles, low consumer confidence, canceled events, and meetings – these are visible effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on global businesses. Besides, as work from home becomes the new normal, broadband disruptions and lowered employee productivity (due to schools being shut down and ailing family members for some) are also some problems that organizations must deal with.
The Situation Right Now
Research by McKinsey & Company postulates a few possible scenarios of COVID-19 impacting the world economy. The most positive outlook, which is a quick recovery, doesn’t seem to be probable anymore as Q1 is already over, and the COVID-19 situation is still evolving around the world. A more realistic scenario points to the virus stopping at the beginning of Q2, with industries gaining traction in Q3 and finally returning to normalcy in Q4.
Another view says that while Q2 sees containment, the virus spreads to the remaining countries, leading to travel bans remaining in place throughout the year – causing a long-term economic slowdown that will last throughout 2020.
Well, while these are just hypothetical situations, it is prudent to take all these possible scenarios into consideration to plan your company’s next steps. Remember, this is not the time to give up but support each other and think out of the box to keep the motors running.
McKinsey has also shared five critical areas in which companies need to think and act to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic. These are represented in the image below:
What Does the COVID-19 Outbreak Mean For B2B Sales?
B2B sales have traditionally depended on a lot of personal interaction. From in-person meetings to demos to industry events for networking – B2B marketing is all about communication, which, unfortunately, is no longer physically possible in the current scenario. According to Predict HQ, hundreds of face-to-face appointments and events have been canceled or postponed in February and March 2020, leading to both revenue loss and lost opportunities.
Yes, the situation looks quite glum at the moment. But does that mean you should wait and watch and let your prospects go?
As an organization, in addition to educating your employees about the impacts of the coronavirus and doing everything possible to keep them safe, such as deploying remote working protocols for the next few months, you need to think creatively to reach out to your prospects and existing customers from time to time.
According to Forrester, “The fundamental goal of solving customer problems remains unchanged — however, sales reps techniques and timing will need to adapt.”
Yes, we couldn’t have put it more aptly. When faced with a potential economic downturn, instead of panicking, sales reps must evolve their communication strategies and use virtual technologies intelligently to continue solving their customers’ pain points and reaching out to new prospects
Here are 6 B2B sales strategies that will help you resurface during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Make Use of Remote Working Tools
The global pandemic has changed a lot of things around us – and it is no longer business as usual for sales reps, which must leverage remote working tools and technologies to make the best of this time.
Agreed – you can no longer have face-to-face meetings or be a part of large events that often provide a lot of networking opportunities. However, instead of feeling sorry, why not shift to tools like Skype and Zoom to reschedule meetings, rather than canceling them?
There are multiple tools available in the market to facilitate remote conversations, group meetings, collaborations, and demos. Some examples are Zoom, Skype, Slack, Hangouts, Telegram, and WhatsApp.
In addition to the aforementioned platforms, there are other, more advanced technologies, which can help B2B companies a lot. For example, if you wish to give a product demo, you can always make use of co-browsing technology – which is the closest you can come to guiding a user in-person by controlling their browser, without being present in the same location. Other emerging technologies that may have an immense impact on B2B sales include AR/VR for processes such as DIY repairs, walkthroughs, product demonstrations, etc.
In addition to using remote technologies for connecting with customers, you can introduce Trello boards for visual workflows, goal setting, and promoting teamwork within the organization.
2. Embrace Digital Events
We already shared some data with you regarding B2B event cancellations in the initial part of this article. With social distancing norms mandatory to curb the pandemic, it is for our own good that large-scale physical events are neither organized nor attended for the time being. However, virtual events are still a possibility – and can soon be the new normal with most people working from home in the foreseeable future.
For example, you can organize virtual conferences with multiple thought leaders sharing their views on a topic, and attendees can choose streams or channels they wish to attend. In the same manner, virtual trade shows can be arranged where attendees can interact with hosts and sponsors – and even receive demos or walk-throughs with AR/VR technologies. Another commonly used digital event is a webinar – which is an effective way of creating and sharing useful content with your community. You can also offer free webinar links to prospects and site visitors for their email ids to expand your mailing list and potentially add to your lead database, too.
The best part about virtual events is that they are resilient – you don’t need to cancel because of bad weather or a pandemic. Besides, you can also track performance and receive actionable insights, which will help you fine-tune your content for future events.
Here are a few tips to help you assist your prospects better during the pandemic:
- Create podcasts – Podcasts are considered as one of the most trending B2B sales tools, and 74% of people listen to podcasts to learn new things. Invest this time to create podcasts that teach your prospects more about your products and services while connecting with them virtually.
- Host Webinars - webinars extremely useful for generating high-quality leads. We, therefore, recommend that you convert your offline events into webinar content to not only stay in touch with customers but also make sure your message reaches far and wide and remains on your website forever.
- Invest in a Chatbot - If you are understaffed at the moment, which is not surprising, consider adding an intelligent chatbot to your website. This will help you to automate marketing and lead generation efforts while also answering customer queries instantly (chatbots can answer up to 80% of repetitive queries without human assistance) and reducing the burden on your sales team.
3. Stay in Touch
Not just with your family and friends – but also your clients. Yes, in this time of crisis, stay in touch with your existing clients by assuring them of your business continuity plan and support to keep their confidence level high. You can also offer free consultations to help your clients get the maximum out of your product or how they can use your product or service to better navigate through the present situation.
Remember – this is not the time to go MIA (missing in action!); this is the time to stay in touch, via online channels, so that your customers may remember you when things are back to normal again. For example, something as simple and genuine as dropping an email to check on your customers or calling them up to ask if they are doing fine is a good thing to do.
Cutting a long story short – stay in touch with your high-value customers, be emphatic, and don’t try to close sales. Rather, it would be much appreciated if you can offer free consultations to clients if your product or service can solve any of their concerns better. We also recommend that you don’t suggest face-to-face meetings – stick to digital, and be the first one to suggest remote sessions, for your health and that of others.
4. Create Your New Leads Repository
The coronavirus pandemic outbreak has resulted in a lean period for most B2B organizations. However, companies can make productive use of this period to gather market intelligence and build a repository of leads once things start getting better. This is also an apt time to put alternate marketing strategies in practice – such as focusing on digital media or starting a B2B e-commerce store or introducing your service in a new geographical region, as you have more time on your hands, which can be used for identifying new streams of revenue.
Besides generating leads through inbound B2B sales strategies such as content marketing, it is also worth exploring a referral program to make sure your business is being talked about. You can also focus more on customer feedback, identify their pain points, and work on improving your solution or aligning it to the current situation so that it may offer more value to existing and new customers.
Especially if you are in the B2B software domain, it isn’t necessary that the demand for your product is particularly hit. Therefore, it is essential to continue monitoring your leads and scheduling calls with prospects to keep the sales channels open. Of course, your sales pitch must be modified to suit the current mood and situation – starting on an emphatic note and not being salesy.
ACCURATE DATA | MORE LEADS | FASTER RESULTS
5. Modify Your Selling Approach
As we mentioned above, at a time when almost everybody in the world is grappling with some kind of physical, mental, emotional, or financial stress, it is essential to change your selling approach and make sure your sales pitch is sensitive about the current situation. Besides changing what you say, it is also necessary to change the way you say it.
With travel bans and no more in-person meetings, sales reps can benefit by transforming their sales pitch into full-blown visual presentations (preferably with demos by your tech team) that are not only engaging but also drive more value, while closing several steps of the usual sales cycle in one go.
6. Customize Your Solution
Depending upon the industry you operate in, your prospects may have some significant concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Is there some way in which you can tweak your product or service to solve their problems?
We strongly recommend that you sit down and think about how your B2B solution can help your existing clients or prospects to adapt or minimize the impact of the pandemic situation. For example, if you are a software-based company and have successfully implemented a remote working model using your in-house software and technology – how about focusing your marketing efforts to sell remote working solutions to companies to ensure business continuity for them?
Here are some of the pain points your prospects may be dealing with:
- Coronavirus-related business disruptions
- Collaboration between remote workers
- Improving cloud security to manage emerging cybersecurity threats better
- Maximizing the efficiency of employees working from home
- Managing supply chain disruptions due to travel bans
Are any of these pain points familiar to you? If yes, do include them in your sales pitch and how your solution can help prospects during the coronavirus pandemic outbreak and once it is business as usual.
Survival of the Fittest (Adapt and Conquer)
It is a fact that companies which agile and flexible in their approach – be it budgeting or sales and marketing – would be able to manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak better than the others. However, to be agile and adapt quickly to the changing situation, you need to know exactly how it impacts you. For example, how do travel bans impact your supply chain? How are your regional revenues impacted? Do you see an increased or decreased demand for a specific product? Also, what about the challenges faced by your clients and employees?
It is essential to figure out exactly where you stand in this pandemic and do your bit in fighting it – by not only ensuring your safety and that of the others around you but also remodeling your near-term business plan to meet the unique challenges created by the present situation effectively.