Tips for Remote Selling During and After COVID-19
REPEAT: DON’T NEGLECT EXISTING CUSTOMERS
While sales and business development professionals are obviously concerned about keeping their prospect pipelines full, it’s important not to overlook this very important group.
At Marygrove Awnings, Mike Falahee says that while focusing on strengthening search engine optimization and social media marketing has helped drive growth during the pandemic, “the decision to strengthen marketing to existing customers has been an even bigger asset.”
Many companies fail to take advantage of this, he cautions. “Collecting emails and sending out exclusive promotions is a very cost-effective way to create return business. You already have rapport. Use it. Of course, having salespeople maintain relationships with past purchasers is even more effective. Strong customer engagement is vital. Zoom is the best option available for completely safe forms of communication, but being in the same room as someone cannot be replaced.”
Arnof-Fenn agrees. “The most valuable lesson I have learned from changes in my sales strategy that I will apply for future sales success is that it is a lot more efficient to keep existing customers and clients happy than it is to keep filling the pipeline with new ones,” she says.
Companies can save a lot of time and money if they’re able to keep existing customers coming back for more. “Having long-term relationships allows you to make more money over the long term with large lifetime value for each customer,” Arnof-Fenn contends. “We have had several clients for more than a decade, which is gold. Focusing on retention makes sense, especially during a recession or downturn when budgets may be limited, so you can stay connected and focus on being more important to customers you already know and target.”
Whether engaging with current or prospective customers, and regardless of which channels are being used or tested, it’s important to maintain a focus on the numbers, Anderson says.
“My team at Xactly has always believed in the power of data to fuel smarter business decisions, but during the pandemic, data became more than a nice-to-have in the sales department. It became an imperative,” Anderson says. “Our own sales team and many of our customers had to throw their plans out the window when the pandemic hit. With fewer resources, leaders had to find a way to adjust territories and targets rapidly and then continuously adapt those plans, based on real-time market changes. Using data and AI was crucial to adjusting course on a moment’s notice and pivoting with agility throughout the year. With more uncertainty ahead, the accuracy and adaptability this approach brings will be key to setting the stage for recovery and growth in the future.”
Through it all, organizational leaders need to set the vision and serve as role models and coaches to help sales and marketing staff and others successfully navigate this new normal.
As a leader, Anderson says, it’s important to approach the pandemic with empathy. “Expressing empathy is important under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has amplified the need to be even more understanding and patient with one another,” he says.
Anderson has been checking on his team members more frequently via Zoom, and his company has been closing for a mental health day every month to give staff a chance to recharge.
Customers are also part of the mix. “For customers, we are also checking in often, asking how we can go above and beyond to support them during this difficult time,” Anderson says. “While the pandemic has created new challenges, it has also brought about new opportunities that will mark a permanent, and ultimately positive, shift in the way we operate.”
Fundamentally, though, the pandemic hasn’t really altered the way sales leaders should approach their roles. “I believe that physical distancing would be a more fitting term for social distancing because our social interactions haven’t gone away; they’ve just gone virtual,” Anderson adds.
When not physically present with others, though, “every communication counts more than it did before.” At Xactly, says Anderson, “we’ve seen fresh opportunity in this new, digital-first environment.”
Others are seeing the same opportunities. Lessons learned about connecting and engaging with new and existing customers during the pandemic can also be applied post-pandemic. The new normal, if there ever is such a thing, is likely to continue to include a combination of face-to-face and virtual interactions designed to work holistically to build relationships and drive sales, experts widely agree.
Linda Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer who writes for various business and trade publications. Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends, and more.
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