The COVID-19 pandemic has created massive heartache and loss across the globe. It has also led to the start of a worldwide recession. In stormy times such as this, how should B2B sellers adapt their tactics and strategies? Read on for sales enablement best practices for hard times.
#1: Anticipate that inbound leads will decline.
During stormy weather, inbound leads will decline. This decline means some percentage of your team’s sales pipeline must come from activities other than responding to inbound leads and referrals. Recognizing this fact is a B2B seller’s first step.
#2: When you do get an inbound lead, you must respond on the same day.
When a client sends out a “hey, I need to do a project” email, assume they’ve also sent it out to multiple vendors. They have, no matter what they tell you.
In stormy weather, clients are always under pressure to cut vendor and supplier costs, and they will cross bid everything. Which means, a lot of hungry vendors are trying to beat your sales team to the client. If your competitor responds in 2 hours (which they will) and your team takes 48 hours to respond, it looks like your organization is taking a client for granted.
In short, as soon as a new lead (or referral) lands in your inbox, your team needs to move with it.
#3 Remember, clients often think it’s business as usual… but it isn’t.
Clients are poor predictors of how their organizations will behave during a recession.
In good times, the money they have stays with them or their organization. In bad times, any money they have allocated to them or their business group could be whisked away at any moment- to a different group or simply to save for a rainy day.
Think of prospects’ budgets as easily being beset by tornados that take away everything in their path.
For B2B sellers, this means you need to ensure you are talking to multiple people in each of your accounts to get a complete picture. If you only have one contact in an account, be circumspect about what they say.
#4 No news is not good news.
Unfortunately, bad news about budget losses takes a while before vendors hear about it.
While most organizations are happy to tell a vendor when they have money, many are reluctant to tell a vendor when it’s all gone, or never coming back.
B2B sellers need to know this fact when reviewing a sales pipeline. Silent deals are likely dead deals.
#5 You can’t keep bugging the same people.
Your B2B sales team must avoid the temptation to email or call the same group of people and ask them when something might turn up.
Sales is not about staying in touch. It’s about finding work.
Even your best clients might need to be left alone for months, quarters, or even a whole year.
Trust me, they will understand and even respect you for your distance. If your favorite account doesn’t have dollars for a project, they have other things to do than talk to you. That’s just life.
And, no, don’t trick yourself into thinking an individual is a source of immediate referrals, so you should stay in touch every week. Recessions tend to affect entire companies. So, if one of your favorite contacts doesn’t have money, it’s likely their peers don’t either. If they love you, they will call you when they have money.
Like Sting once said, “If you love someone, set them free.” (Cringe-worthy video here, but it’s a great song regardless.)
#6 Reach out, don’t just respond.
In hard times, you need to get prospects, and even current accounts, to pay attention to you first and buy from you second. If you are not doing enough of the former, you’ll never get the latter to happen.
7) Cold outreach must happen every week.
If a B2B sales team can’t keep talking to their favorite people, who should they speak to each week? New people.
Even in the worst economy, significantly more than half of the population is working, generating income for others, etc. As a B2B sales leader, you need to align your team with those opportunities.
Basically, B2B sellers always need to be busy earnin…
#8 This is the wrong time to be everything to everyone. More than ever, today is the Age of Narrow.
Right now, all of your accounts are trying to reduce risk. Now is the time when the generalists only get picked for being low cost- or don’t get picked at all.
If your company slowly became a jack of all trades during the last boom time, it’s time to figure out what you do best and more efficiently than everyone else. Then market and sell that exclusively.
#9 Expect that entire accounts will go dark.
Your sales team needs to recognize the signs that this has happened and stop pounding on a given account. No matter who the people are in that company, the account might be dead to your sales team. You might get them back later when their finances improve, but now is the time to concentrate on finding buyers who have money now. When this happens, play this.
#10 Don’t get discouraged. No matter how bad a particular day or week goes, your team hasn’t forgotten how to sell.
Your A-players are still sales rockstars. But these sellers will need to learn new skills.
They don’t have to have it all figured out on Day 1 of the stormy season, but each seller on your team does need to keep trying new things on the prospecting front.
#11 Sometimes you’re going to need a break to keep the fear at bay.
Even in these times, remind your team they just might need to take a drive (with no stops – #socialdistancing) and take the Long Way Home.
If you don’t decompress, the clients will smell your fear. When that happens, all you’ll hear is “no, we went with someone else” or mere silence.
#12 Credibility, integrity, empathy, insight, & creativity will always matter. Make sure your team is still upholding these values.
Selling in a good economy is very different from selling in a bad one. But some things remain the same. Credibility, integrity, empathy, insight, and creativity still matter regardless of the weather.
Many, many, many sellers will exhibit bad behaviors to get a sale during a stormy season. Some of these include high pressure selling, sending out too many calls or emails to the same person or account, or simply a poor attitude during client conversations.
Clients will remember this lousy behavior forever. Worse yet, entire organizations will get a bad reputation, and they will never cleanse themselves from it.
Just remember even when you are retreating, you can gain the respect by how you do it. Elton John nailed this in 1980. (“The Retreat” is a great song almost no one knows about).
Finally, all I’m asking is that you give the above a good try.
Do the 12 steps above every day of this stormy season we’re in. If you do that, you’ll get your sales team to the other side. Just remember that a Change is Going to Come.
While we’ve learned these tips over decades of experience helping companies make the most of opportunities in the B2B tech sector. We are happy to help teams develop the strength to survive a storm. Check out our market research & marketing services or give us a call for more information.
The Stormy Weather for Sales Enablement Playlist
- Move with It – Oh the Larceny:
- If you Love Somebody Set Them Free – Sting
- Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
- The Retreat – Elton John
- Who Says? – Joshua Micah
- Busy Earnin – Jungle
- One Good Try – John Tibbs
- The Long Way Home – JJ Heller
- A Change is Going to Come – Sam Cooke