The Post-Pandemic Business Growth Playbook
By John Monroe
After more than a year of social distancing, we are finally starting to feel a sense of normalcy, and I am excitedly greeting pieces of my former life. I am enjoying, like most of you, the opportunity to once again socialize with friends and family, the weekend gathering at someone’s home or at a restaurant to laugh and talk about each other’s lives, or going to movie and sporting events with my friends.
With my euphoric attitude, I must remember that our world has forever changed because of this pandemic. The reality is that social distancing and doing things virtually will continue to be a part of our vocabulary for years to come. There is a lot of opportunity to become a better company in the post-pandemic world, yet how we live and work now is framed by the past year and a half.
The playbook for conducting business has dramatically changed, whether you are a small business or a large corporation. The most seismic change has been in working remotely. Every business leader has struggled with the decision of whether to bring people back into the office, and if they do, how to create a socially distanced workplace that accommodates collaboration. This will be a differentiator for all organizations over the next six months.
COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place orders caught most every business leader unprepared for remote working and business shutdowns. It created a heightened need for every company to embrace a digital transformation in all four functions of their business: sales and marketing, operations, human resources, and finance.
Partnership with sales and marketing
There is a mantra in business that states, “without sales there is no business,” and of course, being in sales throughout my busines career, I believe it to be true. Business is built upon sales, and when businesses grow, the economy accelerates the creation of opportunities. The challenge for growing businesses post-pandemic is how to connect with the customer when they are not leaving their home to go to work, to shop, or to socialize as in the past. How do you find customers if they are not in their office when you knock on the door?
Marketing and sales teams need to work together more than ever before in this new digital business world. If you do not have an in-house marketing person, then hire a digital content marketing company to help you develop a marketing strategy. The companies that embrace digital marketing now will have a better opportunity to increase revenue. This is the time to develop a marketing plan that has an objective and strategies that help differentiate your company’s brand to the consumer. Be sure to measure your marketing results by establishing return on investment (ROI) metrics that demonstrate increased leads along with increased profitable revenue.
Marketing can play a major role in helping sales develop content that is tailored more to what the buyer wants to hear and less on products, services, and value propositions. Marketing content should educate and create thought leadership on challenges and issues that are unique to the target market. Marketing should be focused on a buyer-centric strategy that encourages conversation. The content must be relevant, valuable at each stage of the client’s journey, and found on the channels where the client searches for information.
Here are five marketing tools that the marketing team can create for the sales team to use as touch points with a target market:
- Articles, blogs, whitepapers, infographics, and slide decks that support ongoing conversations. These should be posted on social media sites as well as your company’s website.
- Video testimonials recorded by current customers to be posted on social media sites or embedded in emails to prospective clients.
- An inventory of pre-written emails in your CRM. This ensures all emails are written with correct spelling and grammar and have a clear, concise point. They can be personalized and customized to the context of your sales team’s conversation.
- Thought leadership videos that can be used on social media sites and company web pages or embedded in emails, social media messages, and text messages.
- Live group learning webinars and podcasts that create value for a target market to gain insight on how to resolve industry-specific pains.
5 Tactical Steps for Holding a Virtual Sales First-Time Meeting
Virtual selling, even for the best sellers, requires rehearsing.
1 | Build rapport
Do your homework on the people who will be in the meeting. Start with social media and review their profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Look on their company’s website for profile information or blogs. Do a Google search—you never know what you will find. Be deliberate and make time for personal discussion and connection at the beginning of each virtual call.
2 | Be organized
Create and share an agenda. Buyers are even less tolerant of aimlessness in virtual conversations. You must be organized to discover their needs. Demonstrate that you have researched their business and their potential pains and needs by asking targeted questions. Virtual selling requires exceptional questioning and listening skills. Virtual selling also requires you to take the lead and manage the setting from start to finish.
3 | Create powerful presentations
Have well-prepared visuals that paint a picture of how you can help the other party with their needs and pains. Storytelling is the most convincing framework to help a buyer understand how you can help them. Virtual sales allows you to use whiteboards and forms to make your presentation by plugging in numbers or drawing results from the information gathered. Leverage the technology available.
4 | Strike a balance
Do not present too much information. Just like in-person selling, do not “show up and throw up.” Be deliberate by checking in with the customer every five minutes to ask, “Is this good information? Too much detail? What am I missing?”
5 | Follow up
Have a follow-up plan outlined with a call summary and next steps. Have the next touch ready, based on the response you get from your meeting. Be prepared and be deliberate in your touches.
Virtual sales plan
Just as the marketing team should have a marketing plan that outlines the message and platforms used to create prospect engagement, the sales team should have a plan that outlines the virtual sales process from prospect engagement to the first order and through to maintaining the client.
The sales plan begins with a sales objective that is supported with measurable metrics. The next step requires the sales and marketing teams to define the target markets (customers). Who are you wanting to do business with? How can your company’s services or products resolve the target market’s needs and pains?
Sales and marketing teams need to recognize that Shakespeare’s famous quote, “the world is your oyster” does not hold true for them due to limited capacity and budgets, so they must limit the number of target markets. Narrow your focus and personalize your sales and marketing efforts to target the best accounts. This strategy is known as account-based marketing. Once the sales and marketing teams understand the needs and pains of the target market, they should conduct a SWOT analysis of the competition and of your company. This analysis will uncover areas where opportunity for differentiators exists along with the differentiators your company can already offer the defined target market.
The biggest opportunity for all businesses in the current climate is to create a well-designed, documented sales method that is executed the same at each stage of the sales process. Start with defined approaches for each prospect and then lay out a tactical map from the first touch to the close.
Accept the reality that face-to-face selling is not coming back. Accept the new virtual sales process. Learn alternative forms of communication.
Map out every touch point in your sales process that supports your virtual meetings. Your goal is to stay top of mind with the prospect by continuing the conversation even when you are not talking to them. Here are some touch points clients I work with have found successful:
- Follow-up emails with an embedded video message
- Follow-up emails with value-add handouts (VAH) attached
- Handwritten notes sent through the mail
- LinkedIn messages with a video message or VAH attached
- Text messages with a video message or VAH attached
- Purposeful phone calls.
Do not underestimate these touch points, as they can differentiate your company from the competition. If you spend time planning for success, you will have much more success in selling virtually in our post-pandemic reality.
John Monroe is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Monroe is a leading expert in marketing, sales, and sales management for the restoration and cleaning industries with over 30 years of experience in those fields. Through Violand, Monroe works with companies to develop their people and profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call 800-360-3513.
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February 21, 2023