Businesses across the country face uncertainty now that the majority of the workforce is required to work from home.
If your business is used to thriving in a face-to-face environment, how can you pivot to a digital sales model?
While there are certain to be barriers and stumbling blocks along the way, we believe that such a transition is possible — and that it can make your business more healthy in the long run — provided you approach it with the right mindset.
1. My salespeople aren’t meeting with prospects face-to-face anymore. How can we adapt?
For companies who hadn’t brought digital into their sales process with virtual selling, putting the right technological foundation in place is essential so that you can communicate with each other and with clients, all while organizing, recording, and protecting your data.
Solution: You need to get certain virtual tools in place as soon as possible.
The good news is that many tools have free and trial versions — and a bevy of tech support options available for those just getting started.
Free tools like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts might work just fine. Other more robust conferencing solutions like Zoom, Join.Me, and Microsoft Teams are designed for business.
Start by using a platform internally so you can work out the kinks before a client call. Watch online tutorials to help you troubleshoot.
Pro tip: Zoom is nearly industry-standard at this point — enough so that The New York Times published the headline We live in Zoom now late last week. Zoom has a free version to get you started, but there are some limitations (like having a 40 minute meeting maximum for groups larger than two).
2. My sales team is older and not very tech-friendly. What can I do to help them adjust?
The learning curve for technology can appear steep, but it is often people’s insecurities that are the biggest inhibitor. The last thing you want to do is keep your workers in the dark, taking too long to put solutions in place.
Solution: Communicate that you’re going to do everything in your power to make this digital transition quick and smooth. Give them a date by which the plan will be rolled out, and make sure to include mandatory training sessions when you announce any new tool.
Encourage your most enthusiastic, respected team members to participate in the tool selection and the planning for training. They can be your cheerleader and even help support others on the team.
Pro tip: Make a recording of the training available to your team members after the session is over so that they can refer back to it.
Use video so there is a visual component to look back on, and even open up a hotline or support ticket line where sales reps can ask questions and get answers they need to use the tools effectively.
3. With my staff working remotely, how will I know if they’re productive or not?
If you’re used to seeing your colleagues work each day at their desks, an abrupt switch to remote work can feel like a loss of control. After all, how can you be sure that they’re doing all they can?
Solution: As this is a stressful time, don’t make the mistake of hounding your employees. Remember, they’re adjusting too. And, if they are your coworkers, you likely trust them and value their professionalism.
If you have a task management platform or a CRM, all of the information that you need should be at your fingertips.
We often hear that customers’ sales teams use a CRM but that leadership doesn’t know how to determine if the activities they’re logging are effective, or turn into revenue.
Solution: Of course, this depends on your business. If you’re looking to launch an e-commerce platform, there are many solutions.
Or, if you use your physical location for sales meetings, turn that former in-store appointment into a virtual in-home appointment. You can set up a scheduling tool on your website and allow customers to set up virtual appointments online.
When it comes time for the appointment, both the salesperson and the consumer will join the video call, and the salesperson can conduct their meeting as they normally would.
Your sales team can encourage contacts to use the scheduling tool, either by calling them or emailing them to help you generate demand.
You can also run digital ads to drive traffic to your appointment scheduler and generate additional demand. As long as electronic payments and shipping can get the consumer their product, you should still see the fruits of adapting quickly and helping consumers get the products they still need.
Pro tip: Think about what you might ask the prospect to do before they show up for the virtual appointment. Do you have a video that you could send them so they are more educated about your sales process or your product before the virtual meeting?
Doing so can help you shorten your meeting time and open up your calendar to conduct more appointments.
5. A big portion of our revenue came from in-person events and tradeshows. Now what?
Companies often spend heavily to be represented at trade shows and other events. But don’t panic. Remember, no one is attending these events right now. You’re not missing out on opportunities. These opportunities currently don’t exist.
You’ll still be able to reach qualified buyers, and you won’t spend as much to do so.
Solution: It’s likely that you’ve been given advice over the years to reallocate your tradeshow budget to digital or inbound marketing.
When you meet with prospective customers at tradeshows, they typically want to know things like “What problem does your product solve,” “How does that compare to your competitors,” or “How much does it cost?”
Now, people will still be searching for these same answers, but they’ll be searching for them online. You’ll want to be the most trusted resource for answers they can find on the internet. All you need to do is write down the answers to these questions and publish them. It’s that simple.
Pro tip: Once people are on your website, they’ll be hungry for more information. Video will get them to convert at a much higher rate than text alone. Here are a bunch of stats to reference about the efficacy of video, but my personal favorites are these:
Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users
Video drives organic 157% more traffic from search engine results pages
The average conversion rate for websites using video is 4.8%, compared to 2.9% for those that don’t use video
6. We don’t know the best way to communicate with our customers and prospects right now
These are unprecedented times, and it’s not always clear the best way to address what’s happening. It’s important to address the elephant in the room, but you need to do it right.
Solution: Be empathic. Set up a time to talk with them, human to human. Listen to their problems and challenges and be the best resource that you can be. Try to accommodate them as much as possible because, when this pandemic turns around, the relationships you’ve built will help your business regain its footing.
If you learn that a customer is struggling and you have another customer that has experience in their particular situation, connect them. Hold a town hall-style meeting, a safe and open space for all of your clients to connect with your leadership and all company employees.
On your website, in emails, and on social media, keep your messaging consistent. Show empathy, but underscore the fact that business goes on and you are there to help your customers succeed.
Pro tip: Get ahead of your receivables, but with kindness and empathy. Do not hide behind email to collect payments or harass customers.
If you have an invoice coming due with a particular customer that has been impacted severely by the pandemic, call that customer or send them a video message so they can see your face, then do your best to help.
Managing the shift to digital
First, embrace the messy. Any abrupt transition is going to be tough. Work hard, knowing that everything will not be perfect the first time you host a video call, for example.
Embrace the messy and learn from each experience. You will get better. But if you spend too much time trying to make things perfect before you get started, you’ll never move forward.
Second, live in the solution. In trying times, it’s easy to look back and think of how you could have handled things differently. With COVID-19, there was not much most businesses could have done. Regardless, focus your energy on the solution.
You can’t change yesterday. What can you do today, tomorrow, and next week?
The COVID pandemic has changed the world of business. If you spend the time waiting for normalcy to return, there’s a chance you might not survive. Smart businesses are diving into digital solutions, knowing they might not get it all right at first.