B2B Sales Strategies for the "New Normal" of COVID-19


As we begin the journey back to normality we should use this moment to plan a new route, with new ideas, tactics and goals. Working in the B2B world has changed enormously over the last 5 years with many of the new interactions with customers beginning to resemble those in the B2C channel. However, there are still many differences and some of the old school methods should not be dismissed rather a blend of the new with the old is the best approach.


With the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, and there is still a massive amount of economic pain and high unemployment to come, but in the world of B2B sales, we seem to be fast emerging from the other side of the crisis.


So what does this mean for your B2B sales strategies?


Here are a few thoughts:


1. Get proactive – assume everyone is looking outwards again- even if many are not


Now is definitely not the time to sit back and wait for leads and deals to come to you. Put your head down and start working. Develop a comprehensive approach for customer outreach and lead generation from all possible channels: outbound lead generation (cold calls, email marketing, direct mail) and inbound lead generation (search engine marketing, social media, PPC ads).

Also, get more proactive at asking for referrals from existing customers. Ask everyone on your team to brainstorm and make lists of possible customers or sales leads from their own professional and personal networks. Now is the time to pull out all the stops and figure out where your potential customers are, and how to reach them.


2. Have a solid, consistent process – don’t waste time on one-off ideas relating to the crisis


Revisit your sales process. When times are good, lots of B2B sales organisations get a bit complacent about going through the motions of the sales process, or treating every customer conversation the same. The post-COVID world is way too competitive to allow for this kind of complacency. Every deal counts more than ever. You can't be improvising your sales process right now. You can’t assume that every customer who contacts you is ready and eager to buy but they may be more open to discussion on Zoom or Teams as may will also be looking for new solutions offering better value at a faster pace or a new solution for a new challenge that has been highlighted during the lockdown.


Hammer out a consistent sales process that accounts for every stage of your customer’s journey, such as:


Initial contact and discovery stage Preliminary phone/video call Summary of call by email with links and initial ideas Product demonstration or case study presentation of similar work Formal proposal and detailed costings Q&A with decision-makers Video conference to agree contract and start/installation date (Face to face if possible)

3. Revisit your “cold” sales leads


Too many companies overlook the value of their “cold” sales leads. If you have sales prospects that haven’t received a follow-up call since before the crisis started, now could be a good opportunity to check in with them. Even if a prospective customer was not ready to buy, or was even struggling with a crisis of their own a few months ago, their circumstances might have changed for the better. Some big companies haven’t stopped spending, but are shifting their spending into different areas, or spending differently with multiple vendors. Some companies might have changed their procurement process in a way that is more favourable for your business.

Whatever the situation, it’s a good idea to revisit your list of long-term sales leads and check in with the “cold” prospects, even the ones that might not have seemed like high priority leads six months ago.


4. Adapt to a dynamic environment


It seems like the whole world is shifting wildly from one day to the next, and it’s true that now more than ever, the only constant is change. Be prepared for your prospects’ needs to change. All of the companies that you’re selling to 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. Your prospects might get acquired by other companies. 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. All of your sales conversations need to lean into this spirit of dynamism and resilience. How can you help your customers’ businesses get stronger, leaner, more efficient, lower-cost, or lower-risk? How can you adapt your sales pitch to the unique concerns and challenges of this specific moment?

It might sound premature or naively optimistic to talk about COVID-19 having a “New Normal.” Most people might not feel 100% safe going out in public or resuming normal activities again until there’s a vaccine. But the business world, especially in the world of B2B major account sales, seems to be shifting in the direction of something resembling normal. Make sure you can adapt your sales strategies accordingly. “Normal” might still be a long way off, but COVID-19’s “New Normal” is still presenting unique opportunities for sales organizations that are ready to take them.

Tactics:


Video


Recently, business-to-business (B2B) buyers have begun to resemble consumers when it comes to watching videos.


According to Google, 70% of B2B customers watch videos on their path to purchase. The Content Marketing Institute reports that, over 76 % of companies said they used some form of B2B video. In a recent study of 600 B2B decision-makers, 55% said case studies are the best way to move prospects down the purchase funnel.

There are still two important ways, however, that B2B buyers differ from consumers: They aren't making personal decisions, and they'll probably need to defend their choices. As a result, they must view advertising a bit differently. That means you need to take a very unique approach to video marketing, showing real customers using products or services.


Prove it with:


Case study


This is the most powerful form of social proof marketing, and it involves your actual customers providing in-depth written and video testimonials or case studies.

When it comes to building meaningful trust with your audience, a short, three-minute video goes a long way. It doesn't need high production value or a well-known authority figure. A "real" customer is enough, so long as she explains how you helped her, and the impact you've had on her business.

A case study video creates a journey, showing your audience where your customer used to be, the gap between the problem and solution, and the process you took to fix it.


Social Media


Powerful, unavoidable, fake, complex, looks low cost, can be expensive. All these comments have been made about social media for the B2B channel. What is clear, however, is that every business is trying to find new ways to connect with B2B customers and partners and it is best to select the most appropriate channel, one at time, and focus on making it work. My top tips are to start with the following:


Put videos on YouTube (This is easy and improves your website SEO as it is all linked to Google) YouTube is a search engine Create a Blog on your website and publish three types of information. Your business news including client wins and testimonials, Your industry news and links Reference information and background reports

Ensure important members of your team run and manage a LinkedIn account and post as a minimum the blog links (Company pages are not followed hugely LinkedIn is about people) The creative business should start an Instagram account to publish work examples (visual) Facebook is still seen as a B2C platform and needs a lot of daily interaction so this is last on the list

Stuart Greenfield

Stuart@greenfield.co.uk

www.greenfield.co.uk

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