Not too long ago, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases (Dr. Anthony Fauci) advocated for a permanent end to handshaking. As soon as his recommendation was out, you could almost hear the groans of executives and reps all over the country. The pandemic has already caused a rapid decline in business which is challenging enough on its own. And now we’re banning the handshake? I mean, how are we ever going to ‘seal the deal’ again?
A lot of attention has been directed to COVID-19’s effect on Main street stores. However, we’d be lying if we didn’t also recognize the tremendous knock-on effect on the B2 B sector. Sure, a lot of B2B activities can occur remotely. But in-person interactions play a crucial role within the sales funnel. Research shows more than 66% of B2B marketers use in-person events to generate leads.
For many organizations, conferences, seminars, trade shows and other events form the fulcrum of their marketing efforts. And if tradition is anything to go by, it’s pretty hard to trust an exec to provide you with a business critical service until you share a meal, look em’ in the eye and of course, give them a long, firm handshake. Unfortunately, all that is slowly disappearing. Literally all businesses will need to pivot drastically. You’ll need to change focus, evolve your outreach methods, messaging, and the tools you use if you want to keep generating new business throughout 2020 and beyond.
You can find more information in our previous posts titled how to sell during difficult times and why empathetic organizations are likely to see more success in 2020.
1: Move Online and Move Fast
For all those companies who have been a bit slow to migrate business development online, it’s time to kick things into high gear. If you think you don’t have a budget, think again. Organizations are relocating budgets for travel, accommodations, sponsorships, and other in-person activities to online functions. Now is the time to update websites and improve your SEO. Invest the time to create and distribute new and compelling content.
Sure, maybe you can’t quite yet replace the human touch, but technology is getting closer and closer. Try to make use of conversational marketing i.e. chatbots, live chat, and integration with popular apps. Long story short – make sure your company is ready to answer prospects questions when they arise.
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Similarly, make full use of platforms for video conferencing and teleprecense to make virtual meetings more natural and productive. Newer platforms also use real-time interactivity and interfaces inspired by social media in an effort to replicate the serendipity and spontaneity of live events. Whether it’s giving your customers meaningful conversation, a taste of your products and services or even the entire thing, delivering online today only boosts your attraction factor. If you’re not reaching out during this crisis, be damn sure your competitor is.
2: Be More of a Giver than a Seller
Hey, don’t get me wrong – giving is not really vocabulary you’ll find in sales. But then again, these are not ordinary times – these are strange days indeed. With literally everyone focused on more immediate needs, less and less people give a hoot about self-promoting companies and their products. As Jonathan Fitzgarrald (ESP) says, “Now is not the time to sell. This is the time to reach out to people and make sure your network is doing okay.”
Business leaders often like to say they’ll be there for their clients or the infamous, ‘we got your back.’ Well, turns out that’s easy to say when it’s all clear skies and smooth sailing. Why? Because people rarely take you up on the offer or put you to task. The best time to enact this is when times are really bleak i.e now. Ask PR and they’ll confirm that brands with aggressive selling strategies always come off as insensitive and unseemly during a crisis. Doesn’t matter if your emails start with genuine concern as long as you’ll push your products in the end. What you need to do is back up typical, empty words with actions. Tell them about what your company actually doing to help. This includes:
-Helping employees or other businesses make it through the crisis with measures such as paid leave.
-Take measures to guarantee your organization is committed to preventing the crisis from worsening (i.e spread of COVID-19.)
-Free giveaways or heavily discounted products and services to front line workers, doctors, and employees.
3: Get Involved in Volunteer Work
Here’s another often overlooked yet highly effective way to not only attract customers, but also give back to the community. Of course, there’s also the opportunity to enjoy free publicity. It literally doesn’t matter where you start – there’s always something you can do for your community. Get involved in children’s homes, the church, mosque, clean a couple blocks, sponsor an event or even offer your services for free for a limited time.
Even without a crisis looming, there’s still a little something called CSR. Corporate social responsibility is real; people love to support businesses that give back to society as opposed to profit hungry moneybags. In fact, you’ll find all that is required is a bit of your time, some effort, and a whole lot of encouragement. And remember to make sure all actions, donation and support is done in the name of your business, not yours.
Even with the advice above, establishing workplace wellness through empathy is no easy task. A lot of businesses are adjusting operations, cutting back hours and laying off staff in response to the outbreak. It truly is uncharted territory for many as companies try to operate without a playbook.
But now more than ever, being kind, empathetic, and compassionate are far more important values to keep at the forefront of your company. As business leaders, take the lead and do the right thing starting with your employees going all the way to the customer, and finally the community at large. It’s not business as usual guys. So forget about quotas, don’t stress too much about revenue and prepare to bite a few losses going forward. But when all is said and done and the COVID pandemic is beat, you’ll be coming out much stronger on the other side.
Remember, it’s the memory of how you conduct your organization during difficult times that will bring people back when it’s all over.