2020 - with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic impacts - has seen a radical shift in the way most organizations conduct business. Work from Home has become a norm, with many companies committing to keeping a remote workforce in the future.
This departure from working in an office setting has illuminated a truth that now must be adopted by all involved in B2B sales: one sells to individuals, not to companies.
As Gartner has noted, for most Enterprise purchases, there are at least 6 people involved in the decision process. Whether for a SaaS solution, manufacturing equipment or consulting services, it is uncommon for major purchase decisions to be made by just one person or department. So while Purchasing may make the final decision, there are many people who are part of that decision process:
- the person with the pain,
- the person who needs a solution,
- the person who needs better reporting,
- the person responsible for compliance with regulations,
- the person paying the bills.
We need to respect that there are multiple parties involved.
When everyone worked in a physical office together, it was easy for co-workers to absorb the energy in the room, so to speak, and to read the signs of the others involved in the decision, as well as to pick up on the pulse of the company as a whole. "Would this new solution be in line with the business direction and momentum?" "Would another solution or approach work better, especially with initiatives that might be in the works?"
With a remote workforce, perceiving these underlying dynamics of a business is harder.
In addition, the impact on many business on what financial investments they can make has been profound. Every dollar must be thoroughly researched and justified. Is it any wonder that web traffic for HubSpot, a Marketing/ Sales/ Service SaaS solution provider, has increased 34% over 33 consecutive weeks (as of the time of this post)?
In her presentation on October 8, 2020 on "How to Increase Sales and Build Relationships in a Tough Economy," Zoya Khatuntseva, Principal Growth Specialist at HubSpot, shared a number of interesting statistics, insights and recommendations for how to pivot for success in a post-COVID environment.
Among the startling numbers shared was that there has been a 95% increase in the use of "Customer Initiated Conversations" since the start of the year. Translation: Chat on one's website.
People are glued to their computers and phones and are looking for quick answers to questions. Chat is a great way to meet the individuals' needs, while also starting your lead generation and inbound sales process.
Note - this isn't about jumping to a demo or pricing discussion or pushing the sale.
Rather, it's about being a real conversation with a person, as they start their buyer's journey.
For it to be effective, though, your chat or bots, like your blogs, social media and other marketing efforts, need to be built around personas. Your personas should focus not only on demographics, but also -- and more importantly -- on goals, challenges, where someone goes for information, and what motivates them.
So each of your marketing channels should have content which aligns with where each person is in their journey to:
- give language to defining their problem (awareness),
- support exploring different approaches to addressing their problem (consideration), and
- guide comparing solution options (decision).
The goal in both marketing and sales isn't to sell someone something. Rather, it's to be a trusted adviser, who helps educate people so they have confidence in their own decisions.
The added benefit is that that confidence translates into higher satisfaction scores and referrals. These recommendations feed the process of future sales, transforming your marketing and sales from a funnel to a Flywheel. The momentum keeps the effort going.
Importantly, having marketing, sales and your service organizations working together creates a seamless Customer Experience (CX), which Gartner also notes as facilitating quicker sales and higher close rates.
Again, this is all built around communications - relationships - which are being built and nurtured with actual people. When we stop thinking of leads and opportunities as dollar signs and institutions, but rather as the parents whose sick child is on their lap during a Zoom call, or the individual who doesn't have a dedicated home office and is sharing their internet with 4 others, some for school, some for work...when we start appreciating the human person at the other end of the screen, our sales approach will change.
One of the main impacts of this change will be slowing down the sales process to ensure we spend ample time (hint: probably more than you're use to!) on
before you get to the last step of Inbound Selling,
Zoya, in her presentation, used the analogy of a doctor who takes enough time to properly diagnose a condition before prescribing a treatment for it. This powerful scenario brings home the idea that we, too, must ask more open ended questions and actively LISTEN to hear what are the real challenges and pains, who are the other parties impacted and involved, what are the consequences for the individual and the organization if the problem isn't fixed.
Being involved in lead generation and closing deals is challenging in the best of times. 2020 hasn't exactly been the best of times, I think most would agree. However, the technologies which we've used and abused over the years can be repurposed with a different intent. If we wholeheartedly commit to a spirit of helping, of educating, and of listening, then the relationships will grow, we will make the sales, and the flywheel of future sales will keep their momentum.
be a trusted adviser, who helps educate people so they have confidence in their own decisions
Want to learn more? Ready to get started?