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How to Keep Closing Sales During COVID-19 and Beyond

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The pandemic changed the B2B sales world. Even if you began the year with a full pipeline, very few businesses escaped the economic turmoil, and according to McKinsey & Co., around 50 percent of B2B purchasers are delaying purchases because of COVID-19. Cutting forecasts, lowering quotas, and slashing marketing budgets are mandatory for many businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, especially in industries like hospitality, travel, and automotive.

But businesses which have been less hard-hit — i.e. the marketing, e-commerce, and technology sectors — may read that 50 percent statistic in reverse: around 50% of B2B buyers aren’t postponing purchases, which means deals within their markets still are moving ahead. While the virus creates a sequence of fresh challenges for their sales teams, the ones able to take advantage of the available opportunities right now are going to be the most likely to survive and thrive after and during this pandemic. As a matter of fact, there isn’t any guarantee that the current selling conditions will not go on even after a vaccine is provided, folks return to work, and we start to live out our “new normal.”

Companies spending their time brainstorming on how to drum up fresh leads when the storm has passed are going to be too late to obtain a competitive advantage: Once the pipeline runs dry, it’ll take some time to get it moving again. Do not stop tightening your processes and testing your tactics. To keep on closing those deals, try and stick with these steps:

Ramp your prospecting up

Successfully closing deals during the crisis is going to require most sales teams to reconsider their approach. One-on-one sellers will have to become even more efficient remotely — and in most instances, much more efficient than they were before the virus. It is going to require a substantial rise in prospecting, even for sellers who are not as seasoned at it.

Interacting with prospects’ social posts, writing out handwritten letters, as well as providing genuine, strategic gifts inside your organization’s ethical guidelines all are wise tactics for the remaining top of mind — however, they are merely the tip of the iceberg. Continually generating leads and closing sales requires ongoing experimentation. No tried-and-true methods exist for selling within a pandemic. In the present condition, trial and error is the only method of figuring out how to help prospective clients facing unique situations.

Furthermore, those tactics which may have worked in the past might or might not work right now. For example, standard, overall email open rates have decreased during the pandemic; however, according to Worldata, emails that acknowledge the pandemic witnessed a 41 percent increase. That reality necessitates that every selling organization fosters a testing subculture: regularly retesting their approaches and making minor adjustments to ensure their efficacy.

Consider the prospects’ customer 

The prospect’s customer currently holds the key to success. If the prospect’s customer is doing alright financially, your prospect will probably be more inclined to purchase from you. If they aren’t, the prospect’s purchasing behavior will also change. Those changes may range from not purchasing whatsoever, to slowing the sales cycle down a couple of weeks.

When you know how the folks your prospect is selling to have been impacted, you will better comprehend their purchasing urgency when going into a sales call. For instance, if you are selling your software to an organization selling to stadiums, you’ll immediately know that they are less likely to quickly buy right now. It’s something you probably had to consider less before, yet these days, it’s critical to practice awareness.

Also, it’s important to understand how the prospect’s customer is doing as you consider the resources you will spend on a deal. If the pool of deals is currently down 50 percent or lower, you must concentrate on the deals it’s possible to win. The status of a prospect’s customer will help determine whether you are working a deal which may close. If a prospect’s customer is having a difficult time, it is likely that your cycle of sales is going to take longer. Take that into account when you are predicting deals to leadership and determining how you should spend your time.

If you aren’t sure, do not be afraid to press in on the prospect. Ask questions such as: “Can you walk me through the process of approval for a deal like this?” and “Given our new environment, has anything changed with your process?”

Switch over to ‘yes’ mode and become empathetic 

What does a prospect have to have to get a deal over the finish line? Sales leaders ought to have a playbook of probabilities sales reps may use in the proper scenarios. Think about providing a deferred payment option or temporary discount to help the prospect get through the crisis. For example, some lenders and banks have started to waive late and overdraft fees. You also might consider tossing in a complimentary feature which normally would cost a premium. For example, SAP is making its Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse free for businesses forced to adapt to a new work reality.

Sticking to the same blanket incentive for every one of your pitches will not work; therefore, you have to ask probing questions to comprehend what the prospect’s real hang up is. Afterwards, you can customize the sales pitch to meet their unique needs, which is what 69 percent of purchasers want. In trying to offer a solution, you might hear more objections you have not heard yet. It’s an unintended, positive consequence of attempting to be in “yes” mode.

Keep in mind that you are doing good here. You might not have the ability to sell the product at a premium, and that is alright. If it’s possible to get something you sell within the hands of prospects who need it during a challenging time, that is a win-win for everyone. They are getting what they need, and you are still selling. The pennies you sacrificed to land that deal will be well worth it for the loyalty you build long term.

Pitch every deal like you are pitching to the CFO 

Within our present climate, every deal is getting more scrutiny from monetary decision makers. That means more folks are going to be involved. Sellers ought to assume that everybody is a champion, or an individual who’ll internally share your information. At Transformed Sales, our experience with sales within recent times has proven to us that there aren’t any current final decision makers. Even people with unilateral authority are sharing that responsibility with committees and teams. Approximately 68 percent of business leaders are communicating more steadily with team members, according to a Young President’s Organization survey.

Because folks will be scrutinizing purchasing decisions more, you must be more repetitive, direct, and intentional about ROI. You must emphasize to all of your champions that you have a demonstrable, clear ROI. According to Alyssa Merwin, VP of sales for LinkedIn, ‘The promise of good value isn’t cutting it,’ she stated in a webinar. She adds that ‘it’s a hard dollar ROI, and not soft. As a seller, you’ll have to up your game.’

To show hard return on investment, you have to emphasize the direct correlation between the service or product you are selling and the goal of the customer’s organization. Usually, hard ROI can be defined by the funds saved in terms of avoiding or reducing a cost. Utilize the return on investment ratio formula to obtain a percentage that represents the net gain on investment (gain from investment minus cost of investment divided by the cost).

Do not stop tightening your processes and testing your tactics. In order to keep closing deals, stick with the aforementioned steps. The crisis will eventually pass, yet that does not mean you can afford to wait for better times and stop selling. The above suggestions will help to deliver the type of pitch which snags a prospect’s attention.

How Sales Leaders Can Get Ready for 2021

·      The year 2021 is going to be marked by constant and continued change for sales operations, sellers, and buyers

·      Sales operations have to improve their capabilities of collecting and analyzing data to offer on-demand insights to sales leaders and reps

·      Delivering the vision for data-driven selling is going to require basic changes in the usual mindset of sales operations practitioners and leaders 

I do not think it is a stretch to mention that 2020 has been a year unlike no other. From a business viewpoint, most of the trends we have been witnessing accelerated and promise further disruption in the year 2021. To assist sales operations leaders in preparing, I will go over 5 trends which will impact sales operations in the year 2021.

Dynamic sales planning

Organizations have to build greater collaboration, adaptability, and resilience into the way they maintain and create annual strategies. Dynamic sales planning is an all-new operations process and mindset helping sales organizations quickly respond to external and internal changes. This process involves monitoring and defining signals of substantial events and creating a set of contingency plans which determine how an organization will act, evaluate, and assess these signals.

Sales compensation design

Those times of the heroic, unassisted rep who brings an unexpected deal in on the final day of the quarter are quickly diminishing in favor of a team-based selling approach that leverages a deeper understanding of customers and buyers.  A compensation plan designer has to carefully define every sales role, the work that needs to be done, and its effect on the successful results of a sale to connect outcomes and activities with compensation. At-risk pay and related incentives then can be directly proportional and linked to the sales rep’s role and impact level.

Analytics center of excellence 

Siloed analytics and reporting inside various revenue functionalities offer an inconsistent and oftentimes conflicting view of organizational performance, which hampers efficient decision-making. One choice for addressing this issue includes separating tactical and strategic analytics utilizing a center of excellence. In this type of model, infrastructure, analytics strategy, and processes are centralized with a sales team of analytics resources, as ownership for more tactical reporting requirements stays with the spokes. It allows a scalable approach that services various stakeholder needs while general analytics abilities continuously mature and grow.

Dynamic guided selling 

Dynamic guided selling can be defined as the automated gathering of buyer interactions and seller activities, combined with analytics utilizing artificial intelligence capabilities which informs sales reps how to position the sale, as well as identify next-best actions and differentiators. The success of dynamic guided selling initiatives depends on getting sufficient quality information on buyer interactions for effective analysis. The secret includes deploying technologies which automatically capture sales interactions — mitigating the omissions, errors, and time needed for manual sales activity entry.

Revenue operations

The aim of improving alignment between marketing, customer success functions, and sales isn’t new; but recent events increased consideration of one revenue operations team which includes customer operations, marketing operations, and sales operations. Revenue operation functions bring together the metrics, processes, data, and technology supporting an effective revenue engine. Sales operations leaders, at a minimum, have to look beyond the sales function, as well as improve collaboration with other operations functions. It is recommended to create a revenue operations charter that codifies the goals and ensures support among stakeholders.

Over the last 10 years, B2B sales operations evolved from a mainly tactical function — concentrated on systems, processes, reporting, and measurement — to a more integrated and complex function which enables and informs technology and sales strategy capabilities, drives change around the organization, aligns with additional revenue engine components, and supports growth goals. Given the rapid, constant changes pervasive within the B2B realm, sales operations leaders constantly must expand and address their abilities to deliver upon the promise of data-driven selling.

For more actionable advice and research-based trends for B2B sales, marketing, and product leaders, visit Transformed Sales. In these challenging times, the team at Transformed Sales created numerous coronavirus articles for our readership. To get all of our content delivered right to your inbox, please sign up to our weekly newsletter here.

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