If there is one thing for certain in today’s world, we can’t assume that sales methods (and strategies) which were effective pre-Covid-19 are still working. In fact, many B2B organisations already know they’re not.
Our Covid-impacted world has heightened the importance of knowing more about customers and prospects who are now working very differently. And many companies have been forced to look deeper into the digital channels and communication techniques that they didn’t prioritise or perhaps use previously.
A recent project undertaken by Manchester-based digital agency Absurd looked to understand why some B2B sales teams are getting less engagement with their customers. While the research focused on a specific industry sector, the team identified five key findings that apply to many more B2B sectors than those we were exploring.
Oliver Bailey, co-founder of Absurd, explains:
“While some of our insights may seem obvious, they are nonetheless somewhat business-critical for helping to boost B2B customer interaction via digital services.
1. Adapt to the ‘new’ 9 to 5
Many people’s working day has become much more fluid with the onset of home working and restricted office operations. The daily commute which for many was a time to catch up on emails or check social media and news bulletins has been replaced by an early or later start to do ‘proper 9 to 5 work’. Predicting when the best time to reach out is less formulaic as it perhaps was before.
This obviously has implications around how your organisations’ sales team needs to operate; but with mobile platforms and tools such as Calendly, technology gives us opportunities to ensure that any time used outside of the 9-5 is of value.
2. Be flexible with your IT
You might prefer Zoom, but your client’s IT department may stipulate Webex. Some customers might not be able to access Dropbox and others might not be allowed to access Google Docs.
As more online meeting options become available to facilitate remote working, and face-to-face meetings reduce, this is actually heightening the complexity of how we arrange essential virtual interactions.
This is important because if you’ve only got a short meeting, not having the right tech can cause delays – you don’t want your customer hanging up because, “it wasn’t important anyway” or they ran out of time due to another meeting.
3. Make your content accessible any time
Working busy schedules around set times for physical events, industry exhibitions or webinars have always been commonplace in the B2B sector. Events in particular have long been an important way to connect with customers and potential customers face-to-face, building new relationships or solidifying existing relationships to generate demand.
Even though the ‘face-to-face’ part has changed, the importance of events has not. Sales teams have adjusted to virtual events to launch new products, showcase new techniques and to generate demand for products and solutions.
To be successful these events need to hold the participants’ attention, with succinct messages and to add value to the audience, because unlike previously where they had invested in travel they can now just close their browser if the event does not hold their interest.
So perhaps just as important, and which relates back to point one, is now opening up ‘attendance’ and consumption of information presented during events to be less scheduled and more in line with flexible working.
Webinars might be yielding good results, but new insight shows that customers are more engaged in their own time; during a commute, during a daily walk or early morning/evening. Giving customers the ability to watch a live presentation or discussion in a less time-sensitive way can be an important means to increase their engagement.
Similarly, think about podcasts, recorded videos, whitepapers; ask ‘what alternative formats can you provide that mean there are multiple opportunities for your customers to focus their time on you?’
4. Put greater importance on your search visibility and IA
While not strictly a recent shift, customers predominantly use Google as their search engine over searching for content on a specific site (often ‘in the moment” of a specific task). To be on the consideration list as a product or service provider in your area of expertise, it’s vital that your content ranks high via search and that platforms are visible through optimisation for search, and intuitive interfaces.
Customers often need their question answering and they need it done now. If your outreach and other efforts haven’t engaged their attention, then content via Google might when they’re ready to consider it will.
5. CRM is now more important than ever
We’re now in a time where customer interactions are more digital than ever, and digital means traceable (more often than not).
Make sure your CRM is capturing as much of your customers’ interactions as possible to fuel personalisation and create new opportunities to engage.
Tools such as Salesforce’s Einstein, an AI assistant for the Salesforce CRM, provide recommendations for the next action with a prospect; and the richer the data, the more accurate this can be.
Developing campaigns targeted towards the right customer at the right time is critical to success. Providing different types of content will help to target these customers and build interest in your offering.
“As the battle to adapt goes on, remember the new rules of engagement”
All of these changes mean that, as sales teams, we must accurately communicate the value of our products and solutions to get prospective customers interested, and to keep existing customers engaged.
And above all, with any current approach, a greater understanding of an audience’s needs and requirements is more critical than ever. There’s no substitute for research.
Empathy goes a long way. And if you can create techniques that are personalised and relevant, and also deliver value, engagement levels – and hopefully sales – will rise.