Writing a new playbook, my lessons from lockdown

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

Whatever you do, don’t stop selling

It might be something of an understatement to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses across the globe. It’s hard to believe just a matter of weeks ago (although for many of us it feels like much longer), we could work from an office and most of us were largely unfamiliar with the term ‘social distancing’. The impact of Covid-19 has been overwhelming – we’ve seen major changes to the way we work and relate to each other, both personally and professionally.

In times of crisis, it can be tempting to pull back and you may even question whether new business is a priority. Shouldn’t we batten down the hatches, hunker down and focus on the surviving rather than thriving?

The short answer is no. Sales is the lifeblood of your business, so resist that temptation to slow down and hold back and instead change the way you sell, so you can ensure future success. Ultimately, without sales, no future opportunity exists.

If you can sell today, great! If you can’t, prepare!

If you have major barriers to selling right now, get ready for life after. Those who plan and prepare and pay close attention to building their pipeline will have a running start as life returns to ‘normal’. They will be best placed to succeed in the immediate months and years post-pandemic.

Keep reaching out but change the message

People are understandably less contactable as they continue to work from home. But businesses are still operating and they still have a requirement for your products and services; it may just be less of an immediate priority. You need to change the messaging to resonate with the current climate and let people know you understand the challenges around Covid-19. Conduct your conversations with a positive but sensitive tone and don’t be afraid to be the expert and demonstrate the value you can bring to help, even in these anxiety-inducing times.

Keep going to market

Check out our recent blog, turning virtual – how to change your sales process from face to face to virtual meetings, in which we explore how you can ensure the virtual meetings you do have are as professional, prepared and focused as possible.

If you’re au fait with prospecting on the phone then integrate other methods into your approach, leveraging video and social to tell your brand’s stories. Use LinkedIn to connect with people on a more personal level, joining relevant forums where you can actively engage in solving customer challenges, and keep up-to-date with emerging conversations and themes that could help you tailor your approach.

Tell positive stories

Celebrate success where you can. Shine a light on the good things that are happening in your business and for your clients. People are seeking connection and positivity right now. If you can create content or stories that raise a smile, it will improve your sales relationships and spark conversations that could lead somewhere good.

For more insights on this subject, watch our recent webinar where our MD, Owen Richards, explores how businesses can respond to the crisis while continuing to set the stage for sales success.

Air Marketing are the leading outsourced sales agency in the UK. We design and deliver sales services to deliver the best conversion rates for our clients. To hear more about how we can help your business grow, get in touch today or call us on 0345 241 3038.