53% of B2B Chief Sales/Revenue/Marketing Officers recently responded to an SBI survey that their focus on customer marketing has increased.
One area of paramount focus right now for many of us B2B sellers is MESSAGING! While we changed our working habits, we didn’t overhaul our sales or value messaging strategy right away.
For a while we were business as usual, sticking with our tried-and-trusted sales pitch. We’d identify gaps and highlight opportunities where prospects could be doing more to get ahead in their industry and generate performance benefits or economic benefits.
At first, it seemed to work. We contacted leads, negotiated and closed opportunities. But as the coronavirus spread across America, our engagement level declined – fast. However, we noticed several trends that indicated we needed to pivot our messaging and who we were targeting.
Things were changing. Our sales approach needed to change – and most likely so does yours.
THE APPROACH As business development reps and leaders, we’re in a good position to understand what’s going on in the world. We speak to prospects every day and listen as they share their fears, worries, and concerns. As we realized the situation had evolved from a health emergency into a global economic crisis, we swung our sales approach a full 180 degrees.
We told our business development reps to be as empathetic as possible: check in with prospects, make sure they’re okay, and focus on the customer before looking to bring them onboard. “How are you and your loved ones?” we’d say. If things were tough and the conversation needed to be paused, we'd arrange to catch up in a few weeks.
But being overly empathetic had the opposite result – slowing down opportunities where we could add immediate value. Looking back, I realize we were looking for a silver bullet – a proven playbook that would work throughout this crisis. But the reality is there isn’t one. The only thing we know for sure is that nothing is consistent, and every relationship, account and deal is unique. To sell through this crisis, you’ve got to combine a traditional sales approach with enhanced empathy.
In today’s frozen business environment, no one knows what’s going to happen a week from now, let alone months or quarters down the road. With so much uncertainty, B2B buyers aren't as willing to put their neck on the line to purchase new solutions and services. While you can’t ignore their genuine worries and concerns, you have to remember your role as a salesperson: understand their pains and provide value for your customers.
Landing sales during a crisis requires an adaptable mix of empathy and pragmatism. You need to get the ratio “just right” – it’s going to be different from account to account. Mortgage originators that you’re selling to may be buried under a sudden in influx of refinance work. They need some of the old-style selling: “Thank you for helping us all through a crisis. Allow us to help automate your customer engagement and free up your employees to focus on the tasks at hand.”
Another business segment like Mortgage Servicers may be struggling to keep up with the increased customer inquiries and call volume. They need an empathetic partner, someone who can listen to their struggles and understand what they’re going through. At the same time, they need to keep improving. If they don't act or wait, they'll be left behind and have a new set of challenges later in the year. “I get that times are tough and uncertain,” you might say to these executives, “but in order to stay ahead or be even a better servicer, businesses have to embrace new concepts and ways of managing borrowers/customers. Can we have a conversation about how similar businesses are doing that?”
However you change your messaging, you’ve got to make prospects realize that now is not the time to retreat. If they stop their operational improvements, pause their exploring better vendors, and quit selling, they’re going to face new challenges and pain in a couple quarters from now, let alone when things fully recover. With your help, they can get the support they need to come out of this crisis even stronger!