When COVID-19 hit, shuttered offices and working from home became the new normal. Every facet of our society and economy has felt the weight of it, and the changes it brought like physical distancing protocols.
B2B sales, in particular, has had to make quite an adaptation in today’s socially distanced world. Where before salespeople could meet in person with prospects or have them in for a chat at the office, the closest you’d get to that today is coffee over Zoom.
According to data from Gallup, three in four Americans were practicing some measure of social distancing as of April 2020, and a good deal of people still believe it can save lives as of May. And until we have better treatment options or a vaccine, those measures will continue in some form for a while.
So how do you generate leads in the middle of a pandemic, when the last thing people are thinking about is extraneous purchases? When, in fact, they might be tightening their budgets as much as possible?
Four Takeaways From Running B2B Outbound Sales During a Pandemic
No one has a guidebook for this scenario, and there’s no easy answer to that question, but there are a few methods we’ve observed over a few months of Quarantine Nation that might make it easier to fill your sales pipeline.
1: Your Customers are People, Too
If your business is sales, especially B2B sales, there’s so much pressure to meet quotas and generate revenue. Especially now, in a time of such financial uncertainty for so many, it can be very easy to get lost in our own needs.
Take a step back from your typical lead generation MO. Remind yourself that your prospects are people with their own problems and fears, and likely won't have the emotional bandwidth to spare for a hacky sales call. Empathize with the people you talk to. Pay attention to the details of their lives and how you can help them. Treat them as individuals.
Instead of templated emails, consider sending personalized ones that acknowledge the current situation and create a sense of community. If there’s no connection between the pandemic and your product, don’t try and create one, but let people know you’re not out of touch with what’s going on.
2: Create Value
Most of us are working from home right now. Whether it's homeschooling and video calls, or just searching for a way to make ends meet, we’re still as busy as ever. One way to create value and leave a lasting good impression with someone is to be respectful of their time. Get to your point quickly, but not in an overly sales-y way.
Consider creating free resources tailored to your prospects that they can use right now, or updating any similar offerings your company already has. Providing generally useful products or information for free is a great way to help people and establish yourself as an expert, which is important to do no matter what.
3: Do Your Research
Putting in the extra effort on research when prospecting will make empathizing with your customers and providing value that much easier. Before even reaching out to someone for the first time, find out:
- What geographic area they’re in
- Who your prospect’s clients are (knowing who they sell to will help put you in their shoes)
- What’s going on at their company (if they’re laying off staff and cutting costs, you probably shouldn’t contact them right now)
Planning in advance will show the people you talk to that you care enough about your customers to find out what’s happening with them and how you can help, instead of cold-calling whoever.
4: Take Advantage of Remote Working Tools
This one’s fairly obvious, but if you have a computer, smartphone, and internet connection, you have a multitude of tools at your fingertips for bringing new leads into your B2B sales pipeline. Take advantage of apps like Zoom and Slack to connect with people on their terms, whether that’s via video call, through text, or with an old school phone conversation.
People always like to know they’re actually being listened to. Since so much business is conducted remotely right now, it's also a good time to practice your active listening skills. Learning to pick up on the subtle emotional cues in someone’s voice or gestures can help you hone in on and identify people’s needs when you’re on a call with them.
Keep Your Head Up
A couple of months into the pandemic, many of us are still finding our feet and forging new routines. This time of collective weirdness will eventually pass, but the lessons we learn from it will stay with us for a while to come. One final tip for running outbound sales during a pandemic: give yourself the time and space to adapt, so you can be at your best.