I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to write about lessons learned a year into our shared COVID-19 experience. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the pandemic is a continuation of the constant change we experience. Technology increases the rate of change in society as well as our personal lives. Over the last century, radio, television, and the internet have all made tremendous changes in how the business of sales and marketing is done. COVID-19 is another step along the way.
Over the course of our careers, technology-induced changes can feel gradual. Certain events make for huge impacts short term, that then blend with the past to be part of the gradual change.
Accelerated COVID-induced change has created a lot of talk about the “new normal” or “next normal.” But these two concepts insinuate a steady state, a lack of change. But normal is fleeting. There is only the “now normal.”
Customer Journey Changes
The internet brought a big change in the way customers buy. Self-served information, available 24 hours a day, has permanently decreased buyer reliance on sales personnel, shifting control of the selling process to the customer.
So What’s A Marketer To Do?
What do these really mean, and what can we do about it?
- Create awareness – of your company and how you help customers.
- Earn Trust
- Build a community of referrers
PR professionals have the expertise to get your company mentioned in industry articles to build awareness. In Trust Is a Marketing imperative I showed several ways you can earn trust. Trust alone helps with the sales process, but trust combined with a community accelerates the lead generation process.
Successful marketers build communities that refer their companies. No matter how good a fit your company is for a prospect, if they don’t have a compelling need to make a change, they’re not going to buy from you any time soon.
But people talk to people and engage in communities of like-minded people on social media. People generally like to be helpful, especially when it’s easy to do. Making a reference is one of the easiest ways to help.
When people understand how you help your customers and combine this with trust, people won’t hesitate to recommend you when they hear of a need that you may be able to solve.
Buying Process Changes
As I wrote in Are You Selling Print Like It’s 1989?, customers are now 57% to 90% of the way through the buying process before they ever reach out and talk to sales.
It is difficult to reach a B2B customer with the exact offer they need at the right time. Serendipity does happen, all successful sales professionals have made a call and heard “I’m glad you called, I was just…”
The more you know your customers and their problems, the higher the likelihood that this will happen. But for most of us this doesn’t happen often enough to rely on.
So What’s A Sales Person To Do?
Sales professionals need to continue to send emails, connect and engage on social media, and make calls. All good salespeople generate a lot of business from referrals from happy customers. Salespeople today should also be marketers and share useful information to build their own communities that can recommend them.
Rather than fearing the increased power customers have due to the internet, embrace it. The internet allows today’s sales professional to find opportunities by monitoring:
- press releases and other news
- company blog posts
- what people at your customers are posting on social media
- job openings and other personnel changes
The more you embrace change, the better prepared you are to succeed today and in the future.