May 8, 2020
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Working at a business-to-business company is now more challenging thanks to the economic chaos and general uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are seeing our sales pipeline slow to a trickle, or dry up entirely as states lockdown businesses in an attempt to flatten the curve.
It's almost tempting to throw up our hands and say, "It is what it is," before rolling over and eating a whole bag of Cheetos. But that doesn't pay the bills, and it sure isn't the mindset that makes us successful. We live in a different world compared to just a couple of short months ago, so businesses have to manage their sales pipelines in a different way that generates sales in this new reality. Adapting will take a mix of new ways of doing business and connecting with clients.
The current economic and social situation isn't going to last forever. We will either find a vaccine and an effective treatment for COVID-19 or we'll learn to live with it. The coronavirus should be taken seriously, which includes adhering to measures meant to stem the spread. As people find themselves in worsening economic situations, the calls to get the economy moving are growing. We may not be going back to the old normal any time soon, but we will move forward. And so will your customers.
Sales are probably down or even in a nosedive unless you happen to work in one of the lucky industries which haven't been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Most businesses are buying less and cutting back on what they can. To keep the sales pipeline flowing, push the value your product has, which fulfills the buyers’ specific needs.
Sales ultimately boil down to the relationships forged with your customers. Yes, a buyer needs to need something first, but thanks to the internet and a global economy, they also have more options than just your company to buy from, so keep those relationships close. Call your customers and see how they're holding up on the social distancing front, even if they aren't buying. If they've been stuck at home for a while, an adult voice would be a welcome change, especially if they have kids.
For sales reps who meet clients face-to-face, make plans for golf or lunch as soon as the lockdowns ease up. In the meantime, share coffee or lunch virtually. That golf game can also be replaced with a little bit of multiplayer in Red Dead Redemption 2, World of Warcraft, or whatever game they like. A simple phone call to see how a client is faring will do wonders.
Depending on how far away you live from your clients, you could even run errands for them. Some of your customers might be in the at-risk category with more severe coronavirus complications. Picking up groceries or prescriptions for someone who needs to self-isolate is the right thing to do anyway, and a customer will always remember the favor you did for them.
Business, as usual, is over for a little while at least, so you should check the health of your sales pipeline more often. Doing so is more vital than ever. Know how many deals are in the pipeline, how big they are, and check on the close-ratio and the sales velocity. This information will tell you what you need to know to navigate the corona-afflicted business landscape.
Some of your company's formerly best leads may now be dead leads while another cold or slow lead might be catching fire. Watching the sales pipeline metrics will reveal which is which. As chaotic as some industries are right now, the numbers should be checked often.
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect things for a while – months at least, or maybe a year or longer. While a v-shaped recovery would be ideal, the economy may take longer to recover than any of us would like. A standardized approach is usually the best course, but that may not be the case now.
Each state is handling the response to COVID-19 differently as they fight to flatten the curve. What we're left dealing with is some suppliers and customers being in a total lockdown while others remain open and need goods.
Adapting may mean finding new suppliers, at least temporarily, and modifying orders to fit the buyer's changing business needs. Some deals are going to take longer to close, and some customers may take longer to pay. The point is that no one knows how things will play out, so be ready for anything.