Selling in the Era of COVID-19
June 18, 2020
Your customers can’t visit you right now. Your sales people can’t visit your customers where they are. But customers still need your product. What do you do?
Even with many brick and mortar facilities shut down, life and business continue. The fear and uncertainty that paralyzed us has given way to the resignation that we all now have to do business in the ‘new normal’. The new normal means less face-time with your customers, less opportunity to collaborate in person to solve problems and fewer chances to showcase your products at trade shows and events. At KBMax, we are living in the same world as our customers. Consider what follows as a case study of how one company is tackling the challenges of business in the era of Coronavirus internally and with our customers.
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.
As a company, KBMax had been operating virtually and globally for almost ten years. Over the years we had used Skype, Teams, Go-To-Meeting, Zoom, Google Drive, and other tools to work and collaborate internally in a remote working environment. Culturally, we had evolved in a remote working environment. Our recruiting, business processes, and internal meeting formats are all well attuned to electronically enabled social distancing. Internally, we didn’t have to adapt that much.
Externally though, our customers and prospects were thrown into complete disarray. Customer personnel who had offices with doors now are sharing kitchen tables with children who were remote schooling and dogs that love to say ‘hello’ during web meetings. Sales meetings became phone calls.
In the end, our customers adapted. In some sense, people were freed of the time commuting to the office and walking from meeting to meeting. As a virtual company doing virtual business, we became busier than ever. Customers and prospects had time that was previously consumed by meetings and they had the freedom to meet with us over the web. As a vendor delivering tools that help them reach their customers remotely we were uniquely equipped to help them with the challenges the pandemic provided.
It goes without saying that web meeting tools like Go-To-Meeting, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are invaluable to companies who are now working remotely. Add to that virtual workspaces and collaboration solutions like Google Drive and Salesforce Quip, and you have the basics of a virtual company. As a software firm you add tools like Slack and Jira. Over time HR policies, standards and the like can catch up, but these are the bare necessities for a sales team to work internally.
A lot of companies have been experimenting with remote workforces so a lot of the tools were already in place. The real challenge has been on outbound tools. How do you call your customers when they are no longer at their desk? How do you collaborate with customers on meeting their specific needs when you can’t visit them in the field or review their requirements?
I will speak from a somewhat biased perspective as someone who left a 17 year career in the CAD and Product Development industry to work in the visual product configuration space. “Seeing is believing”, and as human beings, we are wired to process what our eyes take in 60,000 times faster than what we read. There is comfort in being able to see what I am buying before I make a purchase. I know what I’m buying. The salesperson knows what they are selling, and the folks on the shop floor know exactly what it is they are supposed to ship. For anyone selling complex products in a world where you can’t bring the physical product to your customer before they purchase visual configuration is no brainer.
I’ll defer to my colleague, Tyler Beck, who spells this one out really clearly in his piece What Does a 3D Product Configurator Have to Do With Star Wars? It’s a visual thing so you will have to read his article but anyone who has tried to sell a product with a 2D manufacturing print instead of a physical or digital prototype will get it. Human beings are built with binocular vision – we are designed to process information in perspective, in 3D and being able to rotate, zoom and interrogate the products and options we are choosing real-time makes us more comfortable in making complex decisions, faster. As a sales person, my job is really about educating the customer on what my product does and how it does it better than the competition. Anything I can do to accelerate that process helps my customer, but it also helps my bottom line.
I’ll wrap it up with some key points I’ve borrowed from Randy Illig in his Forbes article Put Your Thinking Caps On: How To Sell During The Coronavirus Pandemic. I’ve excerpted some of his article and added a response on how the team KBMax tries to help.
How is the pandemic currently impacting B2B sales pipelines?
What can sales leaders and other professionals do to survive this disruption?
On the whole sales reps are used to working remotely on their own and they have been doing so since the first traveling salesmen left his office millennia ago. Shopping and buying remotely is a relatively new experience that has come into its own in the last decade. Amazon in particular has acclimated us to buying products on-line during the pandemic. As consumers, we will expect the same type of experience at work that we get at home. Customers want to shop on-line and explore products before they ever get face-to-face with a sales person. The world has forever changed, and those of us in the sales world will change with it.
Kevin has over two decades of experience helping customers transform their manufacturing, product development, and sales.