The world has now lived amongst the COVID-19 outbreak for over nine months. From shelter-in-place to a turbulent economy and mounting cases, this pandemic has created panic, uncertainty, fear and instability in both our personal and professional lives.
Chances are, it has lasted far longer than many of us thought it might. Which is why the question everyone continues to ask is, “When are things going back to normal?”
If we are talking about the medical side, and when a vaccine might become available to protect our health, then the answer hopefully is “soon.” But if we are asking when things will go back to normal from a business perspective, then the answer is likely “never.”
It was just two short months ago that we blogged about branding in the age of COVID-19 and what to do during this turbulent time. But the truth is, many of the tactics quickly implemented during the onset of the pandemic have now become preferred means of conducting business – pandemic or not.
An in-depth study from McKinsey looked at the shifting of habits of both B2B sellers and buyers during the pandemic, and how both have pivoted in a time without face-to-face interaction during the sales cycle.
About 96% of B2B sales teams have fully or partially shifted to remote selling, which comes as no surprise. But perhaps a bit more shocking is that only 20% of B2B buyers hope to return to in-person sales. During a time of tightened budgets, travel restrictions and Zoom technology, it seems that 70% to 80% of B2B decision makers actually prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service. Going even further, 65% of B2B decision makers say remote communications are equally or even more effective than what they were prior to the pandemic.
In an age where eCommerce is part of our everyday consumer life, it makes perfect sense that these tendencies would begin to infiltrate our business lives as well. It only took a global pandemic to push this over the edge. A whopping 75% of existing customers, and 76% of new customers, believe in the effectiveness of remote selling and communications in the world of B2B. In fact, 76% of prospects actually prefer to meet by video vs. phone.
While that’s the case for the evaluation phase of the sales cycle, what about the purchasing phase? Are B2B sales actually happening without the traditional face-to-face or even human interaction? In short – absolutely. It seems that 70% of B2B decision makers are open to making fully self-serve remote purchases in excess of $50K, with 27% willing to spend more than $500,000.
Gallup popularized the phrase “The New Normal” back in 2010 to address the conservative and reluctant spending approach by Americans following the financial crash of 2008. But it also encapsulates the fundamental shift in how we go-to-market during, and even after, this pandemic. What began as safety precautions at the onset of COVID-19 have now become preferred means of doing business, and likely even permanent changes in how we do business for the foreseeable future.
In fact, 79% of companies believe current COVID selling shifts will continue throughout 2021 and even beyond. The question is: Is your business prepared to close the sale when you can’t be close to your customer? How do you maintain a face for your brand, when you can’t be face to face? The following six tips are a few effective ways to connect with, and convert, buyers from afar – both today and tomorrow.
Build Better Backgrounds
During these COVID times, 54% of the United States workforce now regularly takes part in videoconferences. In fact, American businesses hold approximately 11 million meetings a day, with the average meeting length being 31 to 60 minutes.
And by now, we’ve all seen videoconference participants who have used the beach background, or perhaps appear in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
But have you supplied your organization branded backgrounds for videoconferences? Think about the number of daily impressions. Consider creating logoed and brand-relevant backgrounds your team can use during video meetings that make a much stronger statement than stock images.
Put Your Sights on Your Website
Websites generally act as the front door for any business – where buyers meet you for the first time. But they are also functioning as the kitchen table these days where sales are being served up, even in the B2B space. Moving forward in digital sales, strive to fix any buyer frustrations on your site, like technical glitches, difficulty finding products and complicated ordering processes.
Add a Live Chat feature to give the site a human element in a time when we’re limited on human interaction. If a buyer comes through your site, what is their brand experience, and can the sale still close?
Step Up Your Social
The most recent report from The Harris Poll, 51% of Americans claim to be using social media more since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Just like in our consumer world, your prospects use social media to stay apprised of you and your offerings, especially in a time when they cannot be face to face.
Buyers are continuing to buy. The trick is to stay in front of them as much as possible. Participating in online events and conferences, seeking speaking opportunities, and consistently interacting with trade and industry sites are great ways to source meaningful content.
According to HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report (2020), out of 3,400 marketers surveyed, the majority post between one and six times per week. There is not a magic number when it comes to how many times you post in a week. The important part is having consistent content that garners engagement. Social media is the perfect platform to keep people engaged with your brand from a distance…and we’re talking more than a socially acceptable six feet.
Beef Up Blogging
With 9 out of 10 B2B buyers saying online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions, business blogging is one of the best ways to create content that will increase your web traffic, supporting prospects through the sales funnel.
It also helps keep your website fresh and current, while also bolstering SEO. HubSpot reports that blogging leads to 55% more website visitors. And B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t. If you don’t current have a company blog, add one. If you are already blogging, increase your frequency a little more.
Make News with a Newsletter
For some, the world of email newsletter marketing is outdated. However, it’s time to realize that newsletters are an important component of effective email marketing and branding. Ignoring them can restrict brands from growth.
WPP found that 62% of consumers feel companies should continue to communicate with them through the crisis. A newsletter is a way to compile all your best blogs, social content and company news into one convenient communication for buyers.
Go Directly to Direct Mail
An old favorite returns, but with a twist. There is an uncertainty when, and if, people will return to their office space. Best case scenario right now, people infrequently visit the office which makes it difficult to reach them there. So update your Rolodex with home addresses instead.
Remember that a majority of brand impressions through the buying process are taking place without your direct involvement. And Global Workplace Analytics estimates nearly 30% of the workforce will move to work-from-home/remote environments multiple days a week by the end of 2021. So ensure that you find ways to keep your, and your brand’s, face in front of customers now, and going forward.
For more tips on maintaining sales during COVID-19, subscribe to our newsletter