The coronavirus pandemic is a rapidly evolving, fluid situation which will undoubtedly have many new developments by the time this post is published. With extensive shuttering of restaurant and meeting/entertainment venues, mass gatherings discouraged, and more than a few cities on mandatory lockdown, times can seem dire for B2B salespeople. How are you supposed to drum up business if you are prevented from travelling and meeting prospective customers?
Fortunately, we live in times of extraordinary flexibility due to technology. Let’s explore several options which will allow you to keep your pipeline full during these trying times.
1.Live Chat on Your Website
The key to success with a live chat feature is to be helpful, and not pushy. Try having a chat window or “click here to chat” prompt somewhere on the page as soon as the visitor arrives on the site, rather than pop up while the visitor browses. In that way, it could be viewed as a useful feature rather than an interruption to the browsing experience.
Executives: if your sales personality test program has identified strong internal sales farmers, these are good candidates to man live chat apps. Since very few businesses can employ someone to monitor a chat 24/7, provide a link to your FAQ or allow users to leave an email address to have a rep contact them during business hours.
2.Host a Virtual Event
The viral outbreak has made it a liability to gather in large masses of people. One increasingly popular alternative to trade shows and conferences is to host virtual events which allow people to participate without personal contact (nor travel and hotel expense). Not only is this a sustainable choice from a carbon-emissions perspective, it is also very cost-effective and prevents the spread of illness.
3.Create video content
Now is the time to reach out with video, as many people are looking for content to alleviate boredom as they work from home without much social interaction. You don’t even need professional gear – most phones are more than capable of producing excellent quality video, and even vertical videos have become fashionable.
Publish your videos to Youtube or Facebook and use other social platforms to share. You can also embed these videos in emails – extra brownie points if you record a personalized message for each recipient with your smaller mailings.
Many B2B salespeople fail to ask for referrals regularly. If you fall in this camp, now is a good time to perform a referral blitz. I call it that because you sweep through many existing customers at once, which produces a large volume of leads and can energize a sales pipeline quickly.
Compile a list of your most active and happiest customers and make a phone call or send a quick email with something similar to the following: “I hope all is well during these challenging times. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. In addition, is there anyone you think might be open to hearing from me to discuss ______ [the pain point you solve], and if so, may I use your name when I contact them?” Collect the names and best contact method, research them, and begin communicating.
5.Look for trigger events
Trigger events are notable happenings which provide opportunities for outreach. For example, you could subscribe to business journals in your industry and take note of transfers or promotions. Send a personalized congratulations card, and follow up shortly with another contact – either via email, phone, or DM.
Similarly, when a company hires a new buyer or purchasing manager, it provides an excellent chance to get your foot in the door at previously difficult firms. This should trigger an introductory call or email.
Another trigger event is when a company secures its next round of funding, because it is likely going to need new vendors. Again, a great excuse to make yourself known.
Outside sales hunters, as identified through a sales personality test, are generally excellent at leveraging these opportunities to plant the seed for future relationships.
6.LinkedIn and Facebook Groups
If you find yourself with extra time on your hands since you won’t be commuting much, consider contributing content to active, highly engaged groups within industries you are targeting. People are going to be online quite a bit over the next few weeks, and this provides an opportunity to build an audience among people who might not have been paying attention prior to recent events.
Share interesting articles, provide opinions on current discussions, and be a resource for others who ask questions.
I emphasize the word CAMPAIGNS in caps because the best results come not from one-off emails, but from an organized sequence of messages where messaging or an offer is continually repeated. It takes about 12 contacts to close a sale, and email campaigns can take care of the majority of those contacts if well thought-out.
For some excellent examples of email sequences which can form the heart of any email campaign, check out these posts on ActiveCampaign and Hubspot.
Hardly anyone cold calls via telephone any more. This is why it is becoming a very effective tool in the hands of those willing to put in the time and effort – there is very little competition and hardly anyone expects a cold call from a salesperson these days, so they are more apt to listen out of simple curiosity.
Sales managers should use a sales personality test to identify those likeliest to perform well as cold callers, as many salespeople suffer from call reluctance. Role playing and providing templates (guidance, rather than firm scripts) can increase sales.
For those prospects that you cannot reach by cold calling on the phone, consider using social media private messages. Social media makes it easy to turn cold calling into warm calling by engaging with prospects first before delivering a pitch.
The best approach is to add value first with helpful comments, content curation, retweets/shares of their posts, etc. Then, when they are aware of you, you can ask them for a bit of their time with a phone call, Facetime call, or chat via DM.
10.Host a small local event (where permitted)
The entire country is NOT on lockdown at the moment. (Be mindful this is changing by the minute!) This affords an opportunity for companies in many communities to hold intimate events where they can invite both customers and prospects, in lieu of large conferences. Under current (temporary) federal guidance, this should be limited to 10 people or less. Again, this is currently just guidance, not law. Use common sense.
Support a local small business by having them cater your event, and ask a few current customers to bring in a friend or two for an appreciation/introduction lunch where you thank them for past business and introduce your services to their guests in a no-pressure setting. They will appreciate the human interaction (and the food).
Maintain best practices, such as providing hand sanitizer, and spraying doorknobs with Lysol, and keep the events as “normal” as you can.
Opportunities to drum up business always exist, even when everything seems doom and gloom. Remember the old phrase: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and adopt that mindset. Rather than lament the lack of face-to-face prospecting opportunities, leverage technology to create new methods. That’s what the elite salespeople do – and I hope you aspire to join their ranks!