A sales friend of mine describes his work life as “the never-ending quest to justify freedom for imprisoned budget.” It’s a brilliant elevator pitch that highlights some key qualities of a great B2B sales rep – determined, respectful of the importance of the buyer’s resources and cognizant of the value required to earn the sale.
But when the budget -- and everyone holding the keys to it -- is not just imprisoned, but quarantined, what’s a salesperson to do?
That’s our current dilemma. While sales professionals are making every effort to stay connected to their customers and prospects, the reality is that many reps now have some extra time, as buyers have cancelled, paused or slowed their processes.
It’s a problem that can also be an opportunity. Whether you’re a team leader trying to keep your troops focused and productive, or a sales professional looking to put yourself in the best position for success when business returns to normal, there are many ways to seize the moment. Here are a dozen practical actions to take immediately:
- Send a weekly aggregation of thought leadership.
A good way to help your customers and position yourself as an informed professional is to package links to a few of the best articles, videos or other content from your daily reading into an email. For extra points, write a few words about what you found useful about each. Be sure to give attribution to the content originator.
- Learn how to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
If you’re not already using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you should definitely check it out. It’s a great tool for sales professionals to research companies and contacts, identify connections, build lists and much more. If you do already use it, there may be features you’re not taking advantage of. Now is an ideal time to discover those. Review these tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
- Write hand-written notes.
In today’s email- and text-centric digital world, an old-school hand-written message stands out. You may not get to this in ordinary times, but now a “hope all is well” or “thanks for your support” note will be well-received. If your recipient is working from home for now, try to send it there if possible.
- Create brief videos and send to customers and prospects.
Similarly, videos are highly effective communication options. Professionally produced videos are important marketing tools, but now is a great time for sales reps to create simple videos aimed at small audiences, like multiple people at a specific company or an individual prospect. By using a laptop and webcam or smartphone you can discuss new product features, highlight an upcoming event, or congratulate a client on an achievement. Keep them brief and make sure you coordinate with your marketing team to avoid any off-brand communications. Here’s a good article from Wistia with examples of sales team videos.
- Improve your sales proposals.
I’ve worked with sales teams on their proposals for decades, and can confirm that many sales proposals are, umm…less than effective. If you have the time now, dive into your proposals to ensure they are focused on the client’s needs (not your company’s attributes), have clearly defined solutions and outcomes, are easy to understand and skim, and are graphically appealing and grammatically correct.
- Take advantage of virtual training sessions.
High-quality sales skills training can be invaluable, and many companies invest heavily to bring it to their teams. In the current environment, options for virtual training sessions – both live and on-demand – are exploding. They are easy to access and organize, affordable, and the good ones deliver great value. Check out the virtual training offerings of Asher Strategies for an example.
- Become more active on social media.
Social media can be an effective vehicle to initiate, build and expand engagement with customers, prospects, influencers and referrers. While your marketing team is likely managing your corporate social media efforts, you can use this time to make sure you are actively amplifying their efforts or augmenting them with your own relevant postings. But this isn’t a one-way street. You should also be following, sharing and commenting on social media posts from your customers and prospects, which will help them while furthering your relationship-building initiatives.
- Check in on past customers and dormant contacts.
Every sales rep has old customers or connections from their past with whom they haven’t kept in close contact. Not only is there time now to reach out to these relationships, but the crisis is a legitimate reason to do so. How many times have you said “I should call them?” Now you can. You’ll likely reignite some opportunities.
- Research new prospects in specific verticals or with specific traits.
You likely have successful relationships with customers in the same industry or market or with those who share other characteristics (e.g., women- or family-owned, recent expansion, etc.). Now would be a good time to research others with common traits, building a list of contacts and intelligence that you can use to plan outreach efforts and campaigns.
- Update your database.
An accurate database is one of the most powerful weapons for sales and marketing departments. But contact, demographic and firmographic information gets old fast, as people change jobs, customers expand, prospects change suppliers and new businesses and connections arise. According to Zoom Info, 25% of the average B2B database is inaccurate. Use this time to make your data an asset rather than a liability.
- Solicit referrals and testimonials.
The crisis has put people in a giving mood, where we’re all looking for ways to help others. It’s a good time to ask your best customers and contacts for referrals or testimonials. They know business is tough right now, and many will be happy to try to help you bounce back. You might even prime the pump by making referrals of your own first.
- Hold a “best idea of the week” meeting with your team.
Operating virtually can work pretty well, particularly for sales and marketing teams, but don’t lose sight of the power of sharing and creative brainstorming. Spur this by having your team bring their “best idea of the week” to a Friday afternoon video conference. All ideas are welcome, from an outreach that worked to a research source that uncovered interesting information to a promising marketing initiative.
This crisis may not be the situation any of us would have chosen, but we do have the opportunity to make the best of it. For sales and marketing teams, this can mean taking meaningful steps to strengthen your arsenal. That will come in handy when you get back to freeing those imprisoned budgets.
Barry Rosen is a Partner and Chief Integration Officer at Communica. For more information or to speak with a Communica marketing strategist, call 419-244-7766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.