Our changed times demand a new sales and marketing function
Many of the most relied-upon tools and tactics for sales teams have disappeared since COVID-19 took a hold of the planet. No longer can we jump on a plane for face-to-face meetings. No longer can we attend exhibitions and seminars. No longer can we share a chat with a client over coffee. The ability to ‘pass the pen’ or use whiteboard visuals to convey key messages might be gone forever.
Our enforced lockdown has resulted in a diminished ability to use human interaction to create connection, empathy and relationships – arguably the most important weapons in any good salesperson’s armoury. For example, whiteboarding can boost engagement (+9%), recall (+16%) and credibility perception (+8%) when compared to traditional PowerPoint presentations. Without the non-verbal cues that we all display when talking, selling becomes harder. Around 60% of people misread tone when interacting via email or phone. Nothing beats face-to-face time.
New research from Google dispels the myth that it is only in B2C sales and marketing that driving emotional connections is important. On average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors than consumers. Making multi-million-dollar software acquisitions, for example, comes with a significant level of accountability. So, the high level of connection with B2B customers “makes a lot of sense”.
Remote selling “now the norm”
At a time when relationships are more important than ever, the ones that remain are at risk or in decline, with some sales functions being furloughed and pipelines stalling or stagnant.
New research by Contemsa suggests that half of sales reps believe customers postponing purchasing decisions is the biggest hurdle they are facing right now. A quarter of them say not being able to meet in person is the biggest struggle.
Buyers have been forced to alter their behaviours – and many won’t change again once this pandemic is over. According to the latest McKinsey B2B Decision-Maker Pulse, customers are twice as likely to prefer buying purely digitally. In response, the large majority of business (96%) have shifted their go-to-market strategy, with remote selling “now the norm and perceived to be effective”. And the enforced changes are expected to be maintained, with 32% of companies claiming it is “very likely” there will be no reverting to normal, even 12 months after COVID-19 passes.
Suddenly, there is no real distinction between inside sales and those out in the field. This potentially opens up a skills and experience gap for the field sales reps, at a time when they need all the advantages they can get.
The key questions you can’t afford to ignore
In navigating this new normal, it is time to reset your sales function, to ensure you have the right people still doing the right jobs, with the right skillsets to cope now that ‘old’ tactics are unavailable.
1. As businesses adjust to go after their share of less revenue, now is the time to evaluate your readiness to deal with what lies ahead.
- In this changed world, is your proposition still right?
- Is what you’re selling even needed anymore?
- Are the salespeople you have capable of delivering given the current barriers to market?
2. Making a pivot to change the focus in terms of your audience, message and providing evidence of value, will be crucial.
- How do you ensure that everyone in your organisation can adapt quickly to make the necessary changes in unison?
- What is your changed message and how will you ensure it lands with your intended audience, new or otherwise?
3. The board is more involved in technology purchasing decisions than ever before, with 37% of CEOs claiming to be spending more of their budgets on IT because technology is too important to the business for them not to be involved. With multiple stakeholders having a say in what is bought, when, and for what reason, a fundamentally different approach is required.
- How do you engage and influence this audience at time of significant change?
- How can you be different, and better, than the rest – and how do you know that’s the right move?
- What’s going to cause multiple stakeholders, with differing priorities, to align behind your solution?
A hybrid sales and marketing function
To reimagine the old world of sales and marketing demands the creation of a new, single hybrid function, with one team pulling in the same direction, albeit with specialisations within that team. It is something that multi-disciplinary healthcare teams have been doing for decades in delivering integrated community care, with psychiatrists and occupational therapists, working together with social workers and clinical nurses. Evidence suggests multi-disciplinary teamwork in treating cancer increases rates of survival, improves patient satisfaction and creates better treatment planning.
Internally, there can be no ‘us’ and ‘them,’ rather just ‘us’ with a truly integrated sales and marketing engine that has the agility and capability to pivot messaging and the approach in an instant. As Harvard’s Heidi Gardner has found, companies with greater cross-boundary collaboration record greater customer loyalty and higher margins.
In this period of uncertainty, one thing is clear: the behaviour of buyers has changed forever. And businesses will need to adapt, and quickly, in what is a ferocious fight for market supremacy.
The winners will be those that can tell a more relevant story in a more impactful way, flexing to meet customer needs all along the buying journey – from initial engagement to deal completion – always to maintain pole position.
Clarify has generated hundreds of millions of pounds revenue for the world’s most impressive brands and brightest scale ups. We’ve done it by crafting differentiated propositions and intelligent go-to-market strategies that deliver highly valuable Sales opportunities, leading to very significant ROI.
To chat more about the state of how technology companies are going to market, get in touch with David Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org.