COVID has created unprecedented circumstances for most businesses and their sales teams. While outside sales aren’t going anywhere, how and where reps operate has changed. Being effective during this time requires staying calm and focusing on what you can control.
As the current sales landscape continues to shift, sales teams and their leaders need to develop a game plan to maintain their sales process no matter the environment.
However, that does not mean that it is business as usual. It’s a matter of using the right sales prospecting techniques and following critical rules to remain both respectful and relevant during this time. Here’s what you need to know about prospecting during the COVID and helpful tools to make you more effective than ever.
The Challenges of Prospecting During COVID
Outside sales are built around the face-to-face interactions that are sometimes necessary to build relationships. It’s a challenge, then, to recreate this more intimate dynamic when no one can meet in person. It is not impossible, though.
While COVID-19 created acute financial and business pressures, the end of quarantining and stay-at-home legal orders won't immediately make everything better. It kicked off a recession and downturn in sales, which sales teams need to brace themselves to last longer than the virus.
In the short-term, the crisis has put everyone under more pressure than ever. Whether trying to figure out how to keep their business afloat, juggling work and personal issues, or anxiety over catching the virus, everyone is more on edge. As a public-facing job, sales reps are more likely to take the brunt of this anxiety and have frustration taken out on them. However, with the right type of mindset and prospecting practices, reps can avoid much of this frustration.
Tips for Effective Prospecting Practices
To be sure, there are many challenges with sales during the COVID. With the right practices in place, though, sales reps can still be effective.
Think About Your Prospect’s Customer
About 50% of all B2B buyers are avoiding purchases during the pandemic. However, the reverse is also true: 50% of B2B buyers are not avoiding purchases. Which one applies to your company? The only way to know is by considering your prospect’s customers. If your prospect’s customer is doing well during this time, they will likely be more open to buying. If they are struggling, though, they will probably hold off on purchasing.
While travel, hospitality, and brick-and-mortar commerce have suffered, for example, technology, e-commerce, and pharmaceutical companies continue to boom. This information is critical to how you can approach your sales process and help you determine whether the deals you work on are ones that will likely close.
How well your prospects’ customers are doing will also help you forecast and decide which customers are worth your time.
Now is not the time to fall off the map. Instead, use this as a chance to reach out and check on prospective clients. Let them know you are here to help them and can use your expertise to assist them. Listen to their issues and build a good report with them.
While phone calls and emails are still an effective way to check in with potential clients, use various mediums to stay visible. In particular, staying active on social media makes sure prospective clients can find you.
Rethink Your Angle
COVID has changed the way many people approach business. Their concerns and issues are changing. Consider how your product or service can be used to help them in this new climate.
Adjust your sales pitch to be relatable to the issues of your customers. Concentrate on how you can help your customers stay effective and safe during a pandemic.
As CJ XIA, VP of Marketing and Sales at Boster Biological Technology, stated, “Sales reps need to realize what the changing needs are and hone their selling skills accordingly.”
Audit Your Content
Now is the time to make sure all of your content is up-to-date and polished because that is how potential clients will find you. Consider adding content that they could find useful. For example, post webinars and videos that your prospects could use. Showcase your product or service, give valuable tips and information, or helpful tutorials.
Update your social media profile to reach customers online. Write LinkedIn articles, for example, to showcase your expertise. Collaborate with your team to create sales material on social media. Host a Facebook or Instagram live to connect on a platform with clients. Have them planned and scripted out to come across as professional and to keep it interesting. Look at your profile, update any pictures, and attach media that sells your service or product.
Work as a team to take a look at all your automated emails, messages, and any written content as well. Written content is how clients will now gauge your professionalism and expertise since you will not have a chance to create a first impression in-person. Make sure any content you provide to prospects is timely and respectful. Running short on appropriate messaging? Get aligned with marketing or the rest of your team to get your content up to date. Use this as the time to polish and adjust it to be as effective as possible.
Take Your Time
The number of phone calls you can make in a day is critical. However, you will likely run into one of two responses: customers too overwhelmed to carry on a conversation, and customers that have nowhere to go, are bored, and would like to chat. As a result, you will likely spend more time than ever on the phone talking with the latter group.
Expect that phone calls might take longer than in the past. A listening ear during trying times can help establish a relationship, though, so be patient.
Improve Your Pitch with Compelling Numbers
For most companies, every purchase is under new scrutiny. There will be more decision-makers, and more information is being shared across the company. Sales reps need to pitch accordingly and assume each person they deal with is either a key decision-maker or will be communicating with someone who is.
Be more direct and informational in your pitch. Be sure to discuss the ROI your customers should expect with clear and demonstrable numbers. Buyers will no longer tolerate the promise of value: they need hard stats and numbers. As they scrutinize each purchase, up your pitching game with more practical information.
Bring outside sales inside with technology. There has long been a trend of increasing reliance on technology, but COVID has made it essential. Expand your digital presence to meet with clients and create contact with technology. Video chats are helpful for meetings and demos to showcase online. Offer your prospective clients a variety of ways to reach you so they can pick what is most convenient for them.
Create a Sales Cadence
Days often run one into another during the quarantine. It's easy to lose track of time and forget when you last reached out to a client. A sales cadence will help you make sure that each prospect is contacted at the right time and over a variety of mediums to make a connection with them.
Some prospects will have the time and space to pick up the phone or answer the first email. Others, though, are juggling work and family chaos or racing to keep up with business since COVID. A sales cadence makes it easier for you to reach these overly busy individuals.
Remember Your Current Clients
Reaching out to new clients is critical, and understandably will take up most of your time. However, remembering your current clients and keeping their business will help you during this crisis. One of the best things you can do is stay in contact during this time and let them know that you appreciate their business. It can help breed loyalty, especially when many companies may be looking at what to cut from their budgets.
Skyler Reeves, President and CEO of Ardent Growth, focuses on customer loyalty to get through shutdowns. “One thing we learned is that transforming and sustaining your customers into super fans does take some work and time. During this pandemic, investing in customer loyalty even in such tough times is important. In our case, we’ve continued building relationships with our customers by constantly communicating with them.”
Write your current clients a thank you card, call to check in on them, or send an email. Consider sending them a small gift of appreciation, such as a gift card from Grubhub. These small actions will help you maintain a strong relationship with your customers.
Tools to Use for Prospecting
Prospecting has changed for outside sales. The right prospecting tools can help ease the transition and help make sales on new terrain. Some tools worth considering for prospecting include:
Meeting with your clients online is no longer a nice option for a better customer experience: it's vital. Expand what messengers you use to make sure it's as simple and straightforward as possible. Everyone has a preference and comfort level with their preferred platform, so meet your clients where they want. You're most likely to see your client if you use the right messenger app for them:
Skype, one of the oldest messenger apps around, is a convenient option for many people. It can also be used across multiple devices, making it ideal for those who don't want to be tied to a computer.
The popular Whatsapp is a secure way to meet with clients. Their messaging portion boasts end-to-end encryption. Businesses can also create a catalog to showcase their product or services, and it also comes with tools for automated messaging.
Phone calls are no longer just for inside sales. With the right technology, though, you can get the most out of your calls and create an effective prospecting strategy.
Gong can help provide you with critical information to help you create a better sales pitch. They record your phone calls, so you can listen later and gain useful insights.
SalesLoft can help you design email and call cadences for better visualization and personalization. Also, SalesLoft’s Dialer allows you to place calls efficiently directly from our platform and even on the go with SalesLoft Mobile.
More people than ever reached the once-mythical "Inbox Zero" because they actually have time to read their emails. Use this to your advantage with email automation tools. You can reach more prospects and create the personalization that gets responses. It is especially vital to automate emails in a sales cadence to ensure you reach out at the right times.
HubSpot Sales Hub
HubSpot Sales Hub’s tools allow you to create a sequence of personalized emails to make your work more efficient. They also have helpful templates and data insights so you can know whether prospects are opening your emails and what is performing well.
Calendly makes it faster and easier for potential leads and clients to get an appointment with you or schedule a phone call. It integrates with your calendar so that they know exactly when you’re available.
Social Media Tools
Cold calls are dwindling in effectiveness: it’s all about warm leads now. Social media provides you with the ability to reach prospects, establish your expertise, and create the warm leads you want.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the central platform for B2B sales. Many sales professionals swear by Navigator's ability to create qualified prospects. It can help you find the right leads for your business.
Connections are a powerful part of sales. Reachable integrates with your CRM to help you find prospects and analyze any contacts that you may have with them. You can find connections that you didn't even know existed to help increase your sales.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is critical to sales, whether you are at home or out in the field. Organize your data and use it to your advantage with a CRM. The right one can help you streamline your selling activity to get more done.
Considering that the average sales rep spends only 37% of their time actually selling, a CRM takes a lot of the busywork so sales reps can concentrate on what they do best. As outside sales reps move to inside sales, a CRM can help relieve a lot of the paperwork and make it easier to find and contact prospects.
However, many sales reps do not need to be weighed down with an overly complicated CRM, especially when the world opens up again, and they start to travel.
Map My Customers
Map My Customers provides a lightweight CRM that can be used from anywhere. It can help you spend more time on the work that matters with automated call and task logging. Plus, once the crisis passes, Map My Customers can get you back on the road and in front of your prospects as quickly as possible!
Create a Strong Sales Process During COVID
COVID-19 has made businesses rethink their prospecting and sales strategy. While the COVID has created an unprecedented situation, now is not the time to stop selling. It’s an opportunity to be more creative and show your prospects that you care for them and their wellbeing.
Outside sales aren’t going anywhere, but business will not go back to the way it was before the crisis. Planning and adapting now will help you remain successful in the post-pandemic world. The effort and time you put into prospecting now will set you up for more sales in the weeks, months, and years to come.