The start of lockdown seems like a lifetime ago now, but when I cast my mind back over the past few months it’s clear that it not only represented a turning point in all of our lives but marked a big change in the way we do business. As a sales professional, I’m no stranger to the challenges of a fast-changing and unpredictable environment. As many people in the sales community will attest, it’s all part of the deal. But this was very different. As soon as lockdown was announced, there was an immediate shift in mindset. It felt like the market froze overnight, paralysed by the uncertainty of well… everything. Before the lockdown, we had a warm pipeline of opportunities almost coming to fruition that seemed to drop immediately. People’s faith was understandably crumbling in new and uncertain territory, and sales was not immune.
When you have no idea what the future holds, decision making is harder than ever and that was reflected in the numbers. Slowly but surely, we started to see a gradual change in mindset and attitude as lockdown measures were eased and the market recognised that this may be the ‘new normal’.
From an outbound perspective, prospecting was a challenge in the early weeks of lockdown. We experienced a dip in contact rates and getting hold of decision makers became more difficult. We noticed that the quality of the opportunities coming through our inbound channels improved, with people being ready to buy rather than making a general enquiry about services. Another silver lining was this also meant an increase in conversion rates.
In hesitant times, the purse strings tighten. We saw the average sales cycles increase, most likely due to revised budgets. The decision-making process was taking far longer, with more levels of sign-off from decisions makers before making the final commitment, due to sensitivity around spending.
Reaching a turning point
In the past 8 weeks I’ve noticed a significant change in attitude to outsourcing sales and marketing, and the decision-making process has streamlined and accelerated. In my opinion, this can be attributed to decision makers accepting and adapting to the ‘new normal’ and making that leap of faith to reinvigorate their sales and marketing plans.
With internal teams being furloughed, the flexibility and scalability of the outsourced sales and marketing model has an additional appeal to businesses right now and we have seen a growth in our enquiries from prospects looking to outsource.
Ultimately, there was no playbook for surviving sales in a global pandemic and companies have had to keep selling and building the pipeline for a life beyond lockdown. I feel like my perspective has certainly shifted. As a sales team we’ve adapted our approach and it’s been a good thing that we’ve been able to have empathetic conversations with our customers and prospects, as all good partnerships are based on honesty. Now more than ever, it’s important to be human and employ empathy and reassurance in our business and personal lives.
Opinion piece by Marco Alfano-Rogers
Sales Director, Air Marketing Group