Traditional client touchpoints have changed for B2B sales professionals, with offices and workplaces temporarily closed and stay-at-home requirements limiting travel. Client site visits are postponed, emails are often lost in a daily torrent and voicemails unreturned. Event and trade show cancellations are making it even harder for sales professionals to engage with clients: in February alone, one study revealed a 500 percent surge in the increase of event cancellations and postponements due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Sales professionals have had to rapidly change course when it comes to client engagement, adopting a flexible, creative, highly personalized approach which integrates traditional and digital engagement techniques. Sellers are adjusting their behaviors and intuitively supporting their clients to stay effective. Here are six strategies they’re using right now.
Find new, creative ways to engage with clients
Relationship building is the foundation of most sales, but current stay-at-home requirements are inhibiting face-to-face meetings. No longer being in front of clients makes it more challenging to pick up on visual cues and identify alternative ways to help them. Instead, explains Janet Reynolds, Major Account Manager for Pitney Bowes, “We are finding creative ways to reach out to clients.”
Chris Beaton, Sales Team Lead at Pitney Bowes elaborates, “I try to encourage my clients to video conference with me, rather than relying on phone calls. It humanizes interactions and feels honest – perhaps because people are more relaxed in their home environments. It helps build relationships, and this is what clients will need as they try to navigate their new normal”.
Act with empathy
Sensitivity of messaging is crucial at the moment. “We’re beginning our conversations with phrases such as ‘Would you be open to…?’ and ‘How can we help you…?’” says Chris. “Interactions are more valuable. It’s no longer about quantity but quality.”
Janet advises connecting with clients just to see how they are. “The situation is fluid,” she says. “Work in partnership with your clients, stay connected and think of different ways you could be helping them.” If some messages don’t resonate, Janet suggests, “Change them. You might send a helpful email your clients don’t choose to open. That’s fine, but next time try using different messaging. It might be more meaningful to your clients.”
Help your clients overcome a challenge that improves their business and the sale of goods or services will follow, in time. For example, businesses are trying to maintain continuity while working remotely, but there are some tasks they are struggling to complete offsite, such as high-volume print-to-mail jobs. Where sales professionals are really adding value is to understand this kind of challenge and suggest a strategy or technology to overcome the problem.
Utilize tools to develop a deeper understanding of clients’ needs
Effective sales professionals are combining their intuition and knowledge of their clients with different tools and techniques, to gain a ‘bigger picture’ view and a deeper understanding into their organizations at this point in time. This enables them to offer clients help – and suggestions for cost savings - where and when it is most needed. “I’m using data to understand trends and patterns and identify gaps where I can help clients,” says Chris. Through analytics detailed insights such as visibility into spending patterns for shipping and mailing can be determined pointing to opportunities for savings.
LinkedIn is another tool sales professionals are calling on, as they adjust their touchpoints during the pandemic and refine their social sales strategies. Some are changing the way they’re using the professional platform: rather than just using it for sharing and engaging with posts, they’re now using it for prospecting and to build out client profiles.
Develop new skills
As sales professionals focus on delivering helpful insights and advice to their clients rather than accelerating sales, content marketing has become a skill they are mastering. Seismic found that sales reps spend around 30 hours a month looking for or creating content to send to clients and prospects. Sales asset management platforms have become invaluable repositories for sales enablement content, and over the past month sellers have quickly become versed in the value of sending videos, factsheets, playbooks and webinar invites to their clients using tools such as LiveSend. With the latest platforms becoming integrated with Outlook, it’s easier than ever for sales professionals to drive their own personalized, relevant content marketing programs to their clients – a new skill in their new normal.
Chris also calls out the value of extending his skill set with Audible. “My best listens so far are ‘New Sales Simplified’ and ‘Fanatical Prospecting’”.
Find new ways to get motivated
Remote working can be isolating, and especially so for professions in which workers thrive on each other’s dynamism, drive and energy. It’s incredibly important to find ways to motivate yourself. Chris suggests, “Pick one or two metrics to measure your success in the new world. For me, these are ‘Pipeline added’ and ‘Quotes sent out’”. Janet advises kickstarting your day with a regular workout or walk, to drive motivation and sharpen focus.
Understand that sales cycles are likely to be complex for some time
Many businesses are focusing on the ‘right now’, trying to overcome operational issues, protecting staff and clients and managing cashflow. For those businesses that are investing in technology and solutions, the decision-making process is likely to take longer than usual, and sales cycles are extending as a result. Stakeholders are working remotely and not in the same office, others may not be working at all or may be taking leave, and finance teams may not have access to payment platforms from their remote locations. Focus instead on building your pipeline and deepening client relationships.
Janet summarizes this thoughtfully. “Companies are in survival mode,” she observes. “We need to show them we’re here for them”.