One thing that’s consistent right now across nearly every market, is this conversation: How do we maintain our presence in market? What does this all mean for our business? What markets should we be focusing on? What’s the appropriate message and how do we communicate it? And how do we fill the gaps in our business model created by this pandemic? These questions unify us all.
FRONTLINE Selling focuses solely on helping companies go to market and creating meaningful B2B conversations that drive revenue. During this uncertain time, our team has reached out to hundreds of companies on behalf of our clients and the feedback they continually provide helps us better understand the true market response to this pandemic. In this article, share some of our gathered insight with you.
What we’ve heard
At FRONTLINE, we reach out to hundreds of companies and thousands of key players each month. What we found was that in mid to late March, almost everyone was essentially shell shocked – in a scramble mode. And we heard from most people that they couldn’t talk right now because they were trying to figure out what was going on. Understandable!
A little bit of that bled into April. But as we’ve moved into the end of April and early May we have seen a large shift. Where we previously struggled to connect with key players, now more people are picking up their phone, willing to have conversations. They are trying to figure out their strategy now because whatever plan they had in place likely needs an adjustment.
Whether it’s for the better or worse, we are all starting to realize that it might not go back to what it was for a foreseeable period of time- if ever. But everyone still has goals to meet and will need to adapt quickly to succeed.
Let’s talk about how we don’t just “survive” this.
As we have seen the different reactions that businesses have demonstrated, the front runners in their industry are the folks who have their executive leadership and their team members almost over communicating.
Because if you’re not out there, consistently communicating to the market right now, then it starts to raise the question; “Are you relevant? Do you have a viable business model and solution for me to even consider?”
Remember: The biggest reason to stay in market is that as a company, you’re still in business. So you have to act like you’re still in business.
Consider Share of Voice
Many of your competitors are either stagnant or reducing marketing and outreach to some degree. If you stay in market, your share of voice will increase because some of the market has pulled out. It just makes sense.
#1 – Adapt your messaging
When this crisis first started, empathetic messaging was critical piece to outreach. You simply couldn’t pretend that everything was the same. But now the country is slowly starting to open up and businesses are realizing that it’s time to ‘get back to business’. That doesn’t mean we don’t demonstrate empathy during sales calls when prospects admit they are struggling. It just means that we don’t need to LEAD with it now.
When reaching out, tailor your talk track to one that demonstrates your desire to help. Do a bit of research on their industry, as well. Is their product/service one who was hit very hard? (ie a small business in the retail space) Relatively unaffected? Perhaps even experiencing record revenue? (ie personal safety products and discount online retailers). This will help prevent you from being tone deaf. Speaking to a company like Clorox and sharing that you can help them build pipeline during this difficult time will surely disqualify you quickly, even if they would benefit from your product! Adapt your messaging but be sure not to completely alter your value proposition. Your value is still your value – even if they won’t be able to take advantage of it right now.
#2 – Compensate for lost events
What we’re seeing with some of our clients and prospects is a decrease of 25-35% in lead generation due to cancelled events. How do you narrow that wide gap? This is another very real reason why staying in market is critical. You’ve got to keep generating demand and consistently raising brand awareness. If budget is a primary issue, leverage social media for ongoing education, brand awareness and promotion. With so many remote workers gaining time in their day without a commute, more time being spent on social media. You should be consistently present and providing education and value.
#3 – Understand that buying hasn’t stopped.
Yes, it has slowed significantly but decision-making hasn’t stopped either- it’s just slowed as well. We understand that budgets have tightened but what we’ve seen in our outreach over the last few weeks is that people are gaining clarity in their business. They are settling in to the new normal and realizing that the back half of 2020 is fast approaching.
We’ve also seen companies shift their whole business to market structure to adapt.
For example, one of our clients’ primary market is large healthcare systems, and obviously they are overwhelmed at the moment. But they shifted their focus to regional access centers because they honestly asked themselves the question: How can we help? And this is where they could make an impact and continue to stay in market and drive revenue. It has been extremely successful for them and in fact, looks to be a strong long-term addition to their target market approach.
#4 – Build value now.
Good fundamental selling is always built around value. So order takers are going to have a hard time selling in this market, but strategic business to business sales reps can still thrive. It just requires a more consultative mindset. Always Be Closing should NOT apply here!
Have dialogues and help prospects with the planning and preparation, even though they may not have budget right now. A lot of budgets have been frozen but we’ve heard rumblings of a gradual unfreezing starting in mid-May or early June. Even if it’s later than that, budgets WILL bounce back.
This is the time to get involved in the conversations to ensure you are part of the consideration set when things free up.
#5 – Consider outsourced business development
Many organizations have had to reduce their workforce, so they’re trying to tackle growth objectives with fewer resources. We have seen a large increase in conversations about outsourcing work, trying to bridge a gap. Companies will have the opportunity to later transition back to their traditional growth mode and bring business development back in-house. But the speed in which an outsourced business development model can get them in market is attractive. The end of 2020 will come REALLY fast this year!
#6. Don’t underestimate momentum.
It’s really hard to beat somebody at from a dead stop. Outreach needs to keep rolling and building momentum so companies can accelerate through the turn and attack the second half of the year. Keep having meaningful conversations now because your prospects will remember the counsel you provided, the consultative approach and your honest interest in their success.
If you withdraw from the marketplace, that acceleration and that ability to rebound in the back half of the year will be significantly more difficult. It’ll be highly unlikely to have an impact in 2020 if you haven’t maintained some momentum.
#7 – Be human.
Humanization is critical. We are all going through this and while our experiences won’t be the same, we are in this together.
Jason Stone, our VP – Revenue has been on some calls with cycles that started prior to Covid (him being the buyer) where they completely avoided the topic of the pandemic. Never mentioned it or asked if there had been any impact to our business—even after building a relationship prior to this! Like it or not, it’s the elephant in the room and on everyone’s minds. Don’t be afraid to bring it up and have a discussion about it because connecting, caring and empathizing is what we as humans do. And that’s how you make deeper connections with your prospects.
You have to be in market. You have to be in front of the accounts and the people that matter, with a human approach and empathy in order to drive meaningful conversations. No conversation is a waste of time. Ever. Even if your prospect doesn’t have the need or ability for your service, you can build a positive brand experience that may bear fruit in the future.