How B2B Sales Teams are Pivoting in the COVID World

How B2B Sales Teams Are Pivoting in the COVID World


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Marketing and sales plans conceived in early 2020 are either no longer relevant or no longer work, so B2B sales teams have had to change how they sell (and sometimes even WHAT they sell) to adapt to the new environment of the COVID world.

In this episode of the Modern Marketing Engine, I talk with Jillian Ryan about some of the pivots B2B companies are making to respond to the changing marketing and sales landscape. Jillian is a principal analyst on the eMarketer vertical for Insider Intelligence. Her expertise and analysis focus on B2B marketing, advertising and sales, as well as trends in marketing transformation and the modern workplace.

As a former B2B marketing director, Jillian has over 15 years experience driving strategy for B2B software companies and digital publishers. She is also a frequent presenter at industry events such as The B2B Marketing Exchange, Advertising Week and Social Media Week and her commentary has been featured in Bloomberg, CNN, The Wall Street Journal and Ad Week.

Listen to this episode as we discuss how B2B sales force is pivoting to succeed in the COVID world.

How can #B2B #sales teams pivot in the #COVID world? Don’t miss this episode of the @MMEnginepodcast with @bernieborges and @Writing_Jillian from @emarketer to find out. Click To Tweet

Two Pivots for B2B Sales Teams

At the beginning of the COVID crisis, many B2B sales teams were left in the dark while executives shifted priorities and marketing teams figured out new sales messaging. Sellers wondered what would happen with their quotas, if their jobs were secure and what would the future look like.

Sales leaders had to pivot and inform their teams that budgets shifted from live events to other channels such as video conferencing and video sales prospecting, thus adding these new channels to their sales plan.

Pivot #1: From Live Events to Virtual Events

For B2B companies, in-person events in a pre-COVID world were a pivotal touchpoint to drive demand, secure active deals and build stronger connections with prospects. These events took on many forms: some companies hosted their own events to launch new products and features and provide their audience with educational and thought leadership content. Other B2B companies relied on trade shows to showcase their products, while others participated in large scale industry events to meet with partners and potential customers.

Today, virtual digital events are the norm. This is what Jillian discovered in her research.

US B2B Marketers who are replacing live events for digital events - March 2020

Pivot #2: From In-Person Meetings to Virtual Meetings

Without face-to-face events, business travel and meetings, sellers have lost critical touchpoints with their prospects during this pandemic. Further, navigating conversations with potential buyers during an economic crisis is not easy. B2B sellers who are consultative, creative and empathic can find success.

The obvious pivot is to virtual meetings with 77% of salespeople in North America saying they are doing more while sheltering in place, according to April 2020 research from LinkedIn®. Phone calls (57%) and emails (51%) also saw increased usage with sellers looking to engage with buyers.

How Sales Video Came to the Forefront in the COVID World

Without the possibility of face-to-face interaction, video calls are on the rise. This includes asynchronous video sales messaging.

Although it’s very easy to hop on a call now because work schedules are less cluttered with business trips, getting a buyer to respond is also increasingly challenging as bandwidth for Zoom calls competes with the pressures of being locked in the home with kids, family members and other COVID-driven challenges. There is no universal answer to these challenges: it depends on the individual buyer.

That’s why sales leaders are increasingly teaching their sellers to use sales video messaging to connect with prospects in a manner that allows flexibility in how they respond while working from home, but also includes the personal touch that is lost in written digital communications.

In fact, according to LikedIn®, video messages have 5x better response rates than written messages. Jillian says that not only the message has to pivot in the COVID world, but also the format — and video is the way to do it.

#Marketing and #sales plans conceived in early 2020 no longer work. What can your sales team do to get back on track? Find out with @bernieborges and @Writing_Jillian in the @MMEnginepodcast. @emarketer Click To Tweet

ABM in the COVID World

Tactics and strategies that enable B2B teams to be more precise with their messaging and dissemination will get results in a COVID world. This includes segmentation, personalization and target account-based marketing (ABM) approaches.

Jillian says that today buyers are being more intentional, so marketers and sellers need to be more intentional.

B2B companies must identify and prioritize their target accounts. Of course, any data analysis and account identification that was done pre-COVID needs to be revisited as it may no longer be valid. Buyers are different now; therefore, the approach to reach them needs to be different.

Some industries that were hit hard by COVID (such as airlines) are harder to reach. “They don’t want to talk to you,” says Jillian, “unless you help them pivot and recover; show them how your solution is a necessity in this period of time.”

Listen to this episode as Jillian explains how to rethink ABM and how to get serious about customer data.

Now is the time to serve and support your customers with their current needs. In the new normal, buyers will remember those sellers that were supportive during the COVID crisis.

Selling with Video Virtual Training for Teams

Featured on This Episode

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:45] Jillian’s work at eMarketer.
  • [4:12] Why marketing and sales plans from early 2020 don’t work anymore.
  • [10:29] The importance of sales video in the COVID world.
  • [17:37] Why the B2B buying process is more complex now.
  • [19:29] The Pivot to ABM in the COVID world.
  • [31:33] B2B pressures ahead.

Resources & People Mentioned

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