We are in the midst of a crisis that affects a vast number of businesses. Due to governmental restrictions and uncertainty we experience a significant drop in consumption, directly affecting B2C businesses. Businesses within service, culture, transportation, etc have completely lost their revenue overnight. Companies are cutting costs causing a chain reaction of revenue loss in B2B businesses as well.
If your business provides a product or a service to other businesses, you will probably have experienced loss of some customers, lack of new ones or cancellation of projects or orders. Although a lot of businesses are struggling and have to cut costs, this does not apply for everyone - and before you decide to cut costs and lay off your own employees you should look into how you can refocus your sales activity in order to maintain as much of the business as possible.
If you have had the luxury of mostly focusing on inbound customers and delivery, you may now find yourself in a position where you have to reignite your cold sale strategy and put more effort into boosting your sales pipeline.
3 steps to ignite your sales activity
1. Reshape your customer segment
Business as usual is highly affected, but that does not mean that all businesses are decreasing. There are companies currently experiencing growth and are viable customers for you as a supplier, consultant, recruiter etc.
Think outside your usual box
This is not the time to be picky in terms of customers or being too narrow in terms of segment. Look to other industries than what you usually do, as well as smaller companies and other geographies.
Update customer segment
For the purpose of boosting your cold sales in a crisis you will need to refocus your effort toward businesses in demand. Depending on your product or service, these are industries you may look into:
Consumer goods (delayed demand - but not shut down)
Revisit your service offerings
SARS is credited for being one of the accelerators of the e-commerce industry in China( https://qz.com/662110/chinas-internet-got-a-strange-and-lasting-boost-from-the-sars-epidemic/). Extraordinary circumstances, requires us to work in different ways and create value with different measures and other tools. Gather your product team and assess the situation, the shift in demand and the value proposition of your products and services. You may just find other ways of utilizing your assets and create value together with your customers.
2. Building the sales pipeline
Having reshaped your target customer segment, you need to create an action plan for your sales team.
Structure the pipeline Take time to think out your sales pipeline and how you move potential customers through the salespipe. This will help you understand the customer sales journey as well as enable you to better keep track of your sales activities and understand where you need to improve along the way - which is key to succeed with your sales strategy. The illustration below shows a simplified version of the salespipe we use ourselves.
Make sure to create a volume of leads for your sales team. The most important thing you need from them is activity and in order for them to get a flying start - you should make sure they have a lot of ammunition.
Make sure to tap into all possible sources of leads and focus on identifying warmer leads and prioritize accordingly. Relevant sources:
Work current portfolio: Make sure to identify customers that are due for an upsale or crossale. In busy times, when business is booming, it is easy to forget to get the most out of our customers. Now is the time.
Previous customers: Dig into your archive and identify former customers and contacts that you have been working with.
Utilize your teams network: The more you are the more people you know, and the more entries you may have in to potential customers. Make sure to map this and sort out relevant leads.
Dig in to your linkedin account: Take the time to look through your own relationships. I can guarantee you that there will be someone you have overlooked, that will be interesting to talk to.
Public resources: Use publicly available information to add to your pipeline. This is where the dirty work comes in, but this is what separates a kick ass sales team from the rest.
Do your research
Make sure to do your research on the prospects in order to stay as relevant as possible when reaching out. Customers are mostly concerned with themselves and their business, make sure to understand and focus on their problems and how you can solve them.
Managing your prospects and sales pipeline
In order for you to keep track of your sales activity, you will need to work within some structured guidelines and make sure that information flows within the teams. The best way to structure your work would be by use of a CRM system. If you do not have one that fits the purpose - you can look into viable free options such as Hubspot or Pipedrive - I myself use Hubspot - you can sign up for it here
Here you are able to build the salespipe you have designed, you can create contacts, companies and prospected deals that you move into your sales pipeline. Furthermore you can distribute these deals on your team members and provide rules and routines to make sure that the correct information is registered as your team works with the prospects. Here are a few things to consider:
Make sure to include the key elements of customer attrition in your sales pipe and register data on these events. In our case this would be: date of contact, date of meeting booked, date of meeting, date of offer sent and date of conclusion.
Avoid the temptation of having your sales reps over reporting data - this will slow them down and eat on their motivation
3. Setting up a sales task force - and how to succeed with it
Well done! You have now shifted focus and built a pipeline of prospects and a structure to work with. It is time for you to put some people behind it and get to business. In short terms, this means rounding up a sales task force, enabling them with tools and know-how, and motivating them to go out and smash targets. Here are a few tips on how to go about this.
Mobilize employees and unite
Most people are comfortable doing what they know, and sales may often feel scary and uncomfortable. It is therefore important that you communicate well in order to get your entire team to understand the situation you are in, and unite behind the importance of putting the train back on track - through sales. Be clear and transparent on the situation the business is in, be precise on what is required to get you out of it, and show that they have the power of doing it by reaching their sales targets. And last, but not least - make it worthwhile their efforts.
Train and prep your sales team before start and as you go
Start with a kick off for the task force where you go through the game plan and targets as well as practical training. Make sure to showcase how to do a cold call and how to pitch as well as letting your sales team do it themselves - with your notes. Repeat this exercise weekly to adjust to learnings and enable your sales team to learn from each other. We also use daily stand ups in order to keep momentum, utilize quick win learnings and boost morale.
Share the wealth
Make sure that you share warm leads with all your sales reps. Positive experiences boost confidence and motivates more activity. The more reps you can give this, the earlier on, the more successful your strategy will be.
Individual follow up
Take the time to sit down with each and every one of your sales reps. Walk through activity and targets, discuss experiences and coach on approaches. This might prove very valuable, both for the sales rep and for you as a leader to understand the issues and improvement areas within your team and the process.
Enabling sales team
In order for your sales team to perform at their very best - you would want to provide them with templates for pitches, emails and follow ups. Provide instructions on workflow and data registration in order to increase efficiency and quality. Make sure to provide options for templates and pitches and make them dynamic, so that you maintain that “human touch” which is essential in relation based sales. Remember; you want to enable your sales rep, not control.
“The goldfish theory” states that humans on average have a shorter attention span than the memory of a goldfish, which is nine seconds. This is supported by Microsoft's study from 2017 (https://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/). Regardless of this being true or not, you have a limited amount of time to convince the customer. That's why you should...
Focus on relationships and build emotional connection if possible. Shared crisis situation is a possible topic these days
Focus on their business and their problems, not your solution
Focus on results for the customer. What can you bring them?
As previously mentioned it is important that we make it clear what has to be done to get back on track, and how each and every one can contribute to this. Make sure to translate that into individual targets and follow up on these.
Set individual targets. Do not force a generic target upon everyone. Make sure that each rep owns their own target and make sure that they commit to it and consider it reachable.
Activity based metric. Only having result based targets may discourage your team as the final bit is partly out of their control. Make sure to have KPIs that focus on activity, for example number of successful contacts per day, in order to empower accomplishment and build confidence.
Celebrate every win
This is simple - Make sure your team feels awesome every time you book a meeting or close a sale. They will want to feel like that again.