Consumer Behavior Trends: B2B Sales and COVID-19, Part 2

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  • 8/14/2020


    The impact of COVID-19 has led to strange times for marketers. We’re seeing new paradigm shifts every day, and at thunder::tech, we are working hard to help you navigate its impact on your business. This content is one of many resources we are creating for marketing and management in the midst of the coronavirus.
     
    As things continue to change, we’re helping by providing marketing advice, fresh perspectives and strategic planning for companies during and after the pandemic. For a full list of our COVID-19 resources, click here.
     
    Back in June, we originally posted part one of the trends we were seeing in the B2B sales space. But with the unprecedented speed of change and evolution that COVID-19 has brought about, we’re already due for an update!
     
    Consumers and marketers alike are infinitely better at running and navigating a digital landscape than we were just two short months ago. As B2B consumers go from appreciating digital proficiency to expecting it, marketers must meet expectations and continue selling in a landscape that many find intimidating.
     
    Special thanks to Scott Moss of M Sales Growth Advisors for assistance in compiling these trends.
     

    Closer alignment between marketing and sales

    For whatever reason, many companies prior to the pandemic kept their marketing and sales efforts in separate silos. While marketing and sales alignment has always been encouraged, it’s become a necessity. 
     
    Marketing and sales have to use a collaborative effort so they can help the business grow together as a team working on new customer acquisitions, campaigns and messaging. Being efficient with company resources is critical and neither department can be solely responsible for keeping new business and growth running.
     
    At the very least, marketing and sales teams need to get on a Zoom call and develop several lists, including:
    1. Priority list for new customer acquisition
    2. Priority list for current customer growth
    3. Strategy for both and tweaking your message
    These lists will help accomplish several quick wins, but, more importantly, they will lay the foundation for a longer term, dynamic strategic plan for marketing and sales alignment.
     
     

    Businesses getting over their fears

    Perhaps it’s fear of appearing tone deaf or a lack of knowledge on how to sell during a pandemic, but many businesses are still apprehensive about putting themselves out into the B2B landscape to acquire new sales. 
     
    Whether we’re going into another lockdown, emerging from the last one or anywhere in between, businesses should not be afraid to operate in this climate. While laying low and waiting for things to blow over seemed appealing in April, it won’t work forever.
     
    It’s okay to pick up the phone and reach out to a prospect who has interacted with your content and offer them a new service or talk about their needs. Many things are different, yes, but the majority of business needs remain the same. Sellers cannot walk on ice or let fear of offending potential customers paralyze them. The longer you stay in your own way, the larger the opportunity cost.
     
    To help build confidence, don’t lose sight of your value prop. Focus on the value you provide and tweak the way you communicate it. Revisit your personas and add any needed nuances to your messaging and sales approach to better communicate the way you can meet their needs and help them make decisions. It also helps to remember that now is the time to be a good listener, not necessarily a good salesperson. Empathy marketing should be a crucial component of your adjusted messaging.
     
    When you worry too much about hurting the buyer’s feelings and not enough about tailoring your messaging to match their headspace, you waste valuable time. Get out of your own way and make a move!
     

    Slowly shifting back to face-to-face meetings

    While very few businesses are back to 100% in-person meetings, many, including thunder::tech, are using a hybrid approach to business. Some is conducted in person with safety precautions and the majority is still conducted at home.
     
    Sales teams need to be ready for this slight shift back to in-person business. There is an element of etiquette here in breaching the concept of an in-person meeting with a potential client and explaining safety precautions in advance. 
     
    The B2B sales industry is still figuring out the best balance for this hybrid approach. In the meantime, work to accommodate the sensitivities that come with in-person meetings and be conscious of your prospects’ comfort levels. Some people simply won’t be okay with meeting in person, so always have a plan in your back pocket to close the sale virtually.
     

    Localized customer acquisition

    In the same vein, we’re seeing more focus on localized customer acquisition. The globalization of business has exploded in the past two decades, and for the first time we’re seeing a slowdown as people avoid hotels and long-distance travel.
     
    The simplest solution to this is to focus selling to customers within the immediate area, less than one day’s drive away. Until there is a safer way to travel, B2B sales will remain quite regional with national and global business remaining virtual.
     

    The importance of Zoom etiquette

    At this point, even with some in-person meetings taking place, people have come to expect digital interactions now instead of an in-person meeting. Most meetings are virtual, yet many marketing and sales professionals are still out of sorts when it comes to virtual etiquette.
     
     
    No interested consumer is looking forward to a meeting where your camera is so low you’re looking down on them and they up your nose. It’s also quite off-putting to sign on to a meeting where it’s clear the salesperson didn’t bother putting on a nice shirt or jacket. Presenting yourself professionally should not become a lost art while we work from home.
     

    Increased use of sales enablement software

    Sales enablement technology like CRMs, LinkedIn Sales Navigator and many others are getting a lot more attention. So are smaller businesses that specialize in virtual communication solutions or streamlining virtual business operations. 
     
    As businesses search for new tools to make them more efficient than the competition in the era of working from home, we can expect these businesses to thrive. 
     

    The future near and far

    Right now, we’re still looking to the near future through the end of the year. What 2021 will bring is unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take these trends into consideration and prepare.
     
    Companies have recognized the importance of long-term strategic planning as well as the importance of making plans with a dynamic element that can be adjusted on the fly. Prior to COVID-19, many businesses took time to write strategy documents or contingency plans that then collected dust on a shelf. Now, they shouldn't even be closed long enough to make it to that shelf. Contingency plans, cybersecurity plans and strategies should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to keep up with a constantly changing landscape.
     
    Beyond 2020, the future is ambiguous. It’s safe to predict that our adaption of new technologies will stick, as will working and hiring remotely. But with high-touch industries, including B2B sales, you simply cannot replace the value in face-to-face meetings.
     
    This is no longer “the new normal,” it’s just “normal!” The sooner we recognize that the B2B sales environment has evolved and won’t be regressing back to what it was, the sooner we can accept where we are and strategize for success in the present.
     
    This blog is one of several in our series on consumer behavior trends in various industries during the pandemic. We're exploring different developments and things marketers should watch as the coronavirus progresses.
     
    Be sure to catch up on the other posts in this series:
    About the author::Elissa Tennant is a Content Specialist at thunder::tech. She tells stories that get your point across by writing strategic content made with love. You can always talk to her about vegan burritos, yoga and celebrity gossip.
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