Your 2020 revenue projections are obsolete. Regardless of whether the business impacts of COVID-19 on the B2B sales profession are short-term or long-term, you need to work toward (virtually) aligning sales and marketing strategies sooner than later. The most powerful alignment strategies, at least the ones I can think of, involve tight collaboration. In this blog post, I will break down five proactive steps that the sales and marketing functions can take to keep the pipeline active.
In coming months, your prospective clients are going to be less open to the idea of letting you walk through the door and shake their hand, and no one really knows how long this will last and whether it will lead to longer term changes.– Forbes
Step One: Kickstart Active Customer Listening and Documentation
Most B2B sales organizations have granular 2020 projections by customer and by sales professional. (If your organization doesn’t, this is a starting point for being able to pivot strategies.) By mid-April, account champions need to have conversations with customers and prospective customers to understand the impact of COVID-19. Based upon the discussions, they should be tagged with one of the following statuses (based on a methodology created by Bain Consulting):
- Surge: Sales with this customer will increase due to COVID-19.
- Secure: Sales will be as projected in 2020.
- At-Risk: The pandemic is having a negative impact, and sales with this customer are likely to decline.
- Unknown: We’re unable to get a status update.
The marketing department can assist with setting up a custom field in your CRM system, facilitating the tagging of accounts, and ensuring conversations get documented. They can also help set up reminders to continue outreach to any prospect or customer whose status is unknown. A report should be run daily to monitor the percentage of accounts in each category, and this information should be communicated across the organization.
If you have a large percentage of the pipeline falling in the “Surge” or “Secure” buckets, breathe a sigh of relief. Otherwise, continue to Step Two.
Step Two: Analyze At-Risk Trends
The marketing department can analyze documented conversations of “At-Risk” accounts to establish key trends. As an early step in aligning sales and marketing strategies, the professionals in those departments should discuss key trends and develop positioning strategies and potential solutions to keep those accounts in the pipeline.
How can your company be more flexible? Can it package solutions differently? Once various scenarios are established, contacts should be further tagged to facilitate consistent outreach using marketing technologies.
Step Three: Communicate Consistently
Marketing can create personalized email messages and automated workflows by potential solutions. Once contacts are enrolled in workflows, marketing should ensure that automated messages are sent to the sales team based upon the activity of contacts. In doing this, targeted messages are being disseminated using the powerful scale of marketing technologies. The sales team can spend time addressing “At-Risk” accounts in priority order based upon measurements.
Step Four: Explore New Target Markets
Modern marketers are used to being agile, proactive, and strategic. Sales professionals should huddle with marketing to explore the possibility of targeting new markets with existing or repackaged / repositioned offerings. Usually when there are threats, there are also new opportunities. How could your B2B products or services be helpful to new markets or buyers? Marketing and sales action plans can be created and executed quickly to capture those opportunities.
Step Five: Reallocate Trade Show Resources
B2B sales organizations typically have large trade show budgets. Since most events through August have been cancelled, reallocate some of those resources towards digital marketing. People are still working, but in a different way. Align your outreach to leverage one of the only methods to reach current and prospective customers – digital. I caution B2B companies to not sandbag all those funds, even though times may be tough. Redeploy them to keep new contacts coming into and moving down the funnel.
Learn More About Aligning Sales and Marketing Strategies
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