The water is hardly warm and inviting right now. We are sailing in stormy waters. However, every storm eventually subsides. And, now is not the time to lock yourself in your cabin, shut the blinds and hope for the best. Without someone to steer the ship, it is likely to run aground or sink.
Unless you are in a sector that is resilient or able to take advantage of the storm, it is likely that you are experiencing turbulent times. Easy to say perhaps and harder to accomplish, but what is your plan for sailing through this storm?
What is your plan for short and mid-term?
Okay, so a sailing analogy might not be the best, but you do need to steer your business in the right direction. Many would argue that now is not the time to sell. However, that is not necessarily correct. It may not be the time to ‘overtly’ sell and to pitch to all and sundry. But there are plenty of businesses and customers that still need to purchase. So, what is your plan to reach out to those organisations that are still capable of buying? Now is absolutely the time to plan and to act.
- Who are they?
- Who makes decisions?
- What do they need?
- What services are products can you offer that meets their needs?
The Human Touch is still the best way
Buyers are at home doing work that needs to be carried out like every other member of staff that are still operational. And, that work is, in many respects, no different to the work pre-crisis. Their role, for the most part, has not changed. Most business that have a reasonably high value of sale have historically relied on face to face meetings to build the sales funnel and to seal the deal so to speak. However, web conferencing technology has led to a vast number of business interactions moving online. Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Citrix and other licence-based software solutions have sprung up that facilitate human interactions without the need to shake hands.
Phone Calls are Easier to Set up
So, it is still about the human touch. And, those interactions have become more virtual. That’s why not being able to set up face to face meetings should not be the end of your lead generation. Of course, once we emerge from lockdown, it may be that many sales transactions move back towards face to face meetings. However, there is no reason why we should ignore the benefits of both direct phone calls and online meetings that can be scheduled in the same way as previously. They are easier to set up and buyers feel less pressurised compared to a normal meeting. What is more, people are sitting at home with (relatively-speaking) less to do. So, why not use telemarketing to secure telephone appointments, web demos, webinars, and conference calls.
It’s about Relationships
The likelihood of buyers buying from you is reduced where there is not a good relationship. Where your proposition is a considered purchase, it is important to build rapport and to be able to demonstrate that you care. You cannot unearth opportunities, do a needs analysis, and show you understand buyer needs without human interaction. Whether that is over a virtual coffee or a real one, the use of the phone to set up these interactions is crucial. Whilst there is a plethora of marketing channels these days, few of these can compete with the telephone for the ability to engender rapport and to kick off the relationship building process.
The Early Bird Catches the Worm
The wheels of business must not be allowed to stop. People and businesses need to consume, or we will find ourselves in deep water. So, what is your reason for procrastinating? If you really think about it, there is no reason. If we assume that people need to buy, or at least plan for whatever purchasing may be needed in 1, 3 or 6 months, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Isn’t now the right time for decision-makers to research their market for solutions?
- Isn’t now the time for purchasers to build supplier shortlists?
- Aren’t buyers look at their processes and suppliers with a view to freshening things up and reducing costs?
Perhaps cash is tight. However, that is not the case in every sector. And, even if it is, by getting in early to build the relationship, you put your business ahead of competition for share of mind when they are ready to buy again.
Competitors are Holding Back
Everyone wants to stand out. In a sea of competition, it is hard to do so. It is even harder when everyone has the time and money to target their chosen audiences. And, it is well known that in tough times, successful brands are more visible and outspend weaker brands that retreat into their shells. So, what is your business doing to raise your head above other market players? Are you maximising your opportunity to gain visibility?
Find a Valid reason to Talk to Customers and Prospects.
Who needs a reason? We should always remain in contact with customers. But it does not have to be a sales pitch. It could be an industry survey that you can use to publish a press release and on social media where you offer to send them an early copy of the results of your research in return for their answers. It could be simply market scoping to understand how they buy and to establish whether they are right for you and vice versa. It could be the offer to help them during a time of difficulty. Whatever it is, now is a great time to reach out to customers and to initiate a conversation since they are likely to be more available while working at home.
Build your Mid-term Sales Pipeline
Not every sale is for now. Filling the sales funnel is crucial. Some sales have exceptionally long gestation periods. Sometimes multiple decision makers need to be involved. Capital investment is often required. Contracts with incumbent suppliers must come to an end. And, internal scoping can elongate the process from start to finish. So, it pays to start the process early through database building, profiling, and qualification and through ensuring that there are enough prospects in the funnel to plan for growth and to hit sales objectives.
One of the best ways to do that is by having conversations with the right people. That can take time especially where you do not necessarily know who makes buying decisions in an organisation. That is where pre-qualification comes in through telephone contact to establish the right targets and then by engaging with them. Even if it means you establish the ‘right time’ to call back, when they will be in the market, work carried out to do that now will be invaluable to build the prospect bank for when they’re ready to buy.
What Have you Got to Lose?
We are living in challenging times. Yet, surely, it cannot be sensible to hide away. When I train telemarketing skills, I always say
“you will never generate opportunities with those you do not call“
Of course, online transactions continue to grow, and the further demise of high street retailing is likely. But we are not talking about consumer or low value sales here. This is about higher value B2B sales and B2B appointment setting. In that context, it is likely that a sale will not take place if you do not build relationships, engage with the right buyers, and ask useful questions that unearth needs. That can only be accomplished through person to person communication. In a tough business climate, it still pays to engage.
Whilst the phone is not the only marketing method open to businesses, it remains a key tool in your B2B toolkit. And, even in this strange and tough market environment, rarely will a mutually beneficial conversation over the telephone be a bad thing. So, focus on cost reduction where necessary, entrench your operations, but do not neglect the value to be gained by speaking to prospects and customers in advance of an upturn.