This month marks the one-year anniversary of quarantine lockdowns across the world, which ushered in changes for businesses that we will be feeling for years, or even decades, to come.
Employees who could, began working from home. Video conferencing became the standard for communication. Companies in industries not considered “essential,” struggled to survive and many failed. Others found themselves in sectors that suddenly became more essential than ever, but under pressure to meet unprecedented demand. Still others had to pivot, finding new uses for their products and services, new markets to target, and new ways of doing business.
Many companies adapted well, not only surviving, but thriving. What can we learn from those companies to propel us forward into economic recovery?
I speak to B2B business leaders every day. I’ve heard their stories and seen what’s working for them. Here are four key learnings that will help sales and marketing teams on the road to recovery.
1. Maintain an accurate customer database.
Accurate company and contact data has been important in sales and marketing for some time, but finding time to manage it and keep it clean has always been a challenge. The result is that it’s often been ignored and pushed to the back burner.
Companies can no longer afford to rely on an outdated, incomplete or inaccurate customer database, in the wake of a wave of changes in their target markets — mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, dramatic shifts in companies’ revenues, both positive and negative, job losses and changes, moving from offices to home environments, and more.
Marketing and sales organizations that wish to move toward economic recovery must refresh, clean, and enrich their customer database and market intelligence, so they can understand and reevaluate their target markets, and accurately assign accounts. They need current contact information to track people who have moved, to find new decision-makers, and to connect with buyers who are now working remotely themselves.
2. Master virtual selling.
This trend has been in process for years, but was accelerated by the global pandemic and there’s no going back now. Even when in-person customer meetings resume, phone and video conferences will continue to be an integral part of the B2B sales cycle. This change has elevated the role of sales development reps (SDRs). Skilled SDRs can drive pipeline efficiently, even in tough times, when equipped with the data and tools to find new targets and opportunities. More companies will use SDRs as the entry point into targeted accounts and the front line for qualifying opportunities, so account executives can focus on solving customer problems and closing business.
And because account execs are also selling virtually, they need to be more knowledgeable and prepared. No more winging it or showing up with donuts to build a relationship. Reps need to bring value to each online meeting, and make connections digitally. They need insights into their prospects’ business challenges, company events, personal interests, a shared alma mater or sports team, common connections, and more, which means they need ready access to rich, reliable intelligence.
3. Invest in real-time engagement.
People at your target accounts are sitting in front of their screens all day and their primary interaction with vendors is online. That sets an expectation of immediate answers and quick responses to their problems. Successful companies in 2021 will learn to master the art of timeliness and will invest in customer communication and marketing platforms that enable more immediate, gratifying customer experiences. Conversational marketing (aka Chatbots) is one example of technology that enables immediate customer engagement.
4. Embrace Account-Based Everything (ABX).
With the changes of this past year, many companies are tightening teams and looking for ways to cut costs and increase efficiencies. An account-based approach makes more sense than ever in this environment. Volume-based marketing and selling is wasteful and largely ineffective, while a focused approach is more like fishing in a barrel. You focus all your efforts on those prospects most likely to buy and current customers who will generate the most revenue over time. Coming full circle, that means you need to invest in good customer and market data as the foundation for defining targets and executing a cohesive ABX strategy. Then rely on your account-based everything framework to align streamlined teams toward a common goal, new ideal customer profiles (ICPs), and timely, customized buyer experiences, so your company will emerge from this time of upheaval stronger and more efficient than ever.
I don’t expect the world to return to pre-pandemic business as usual. We’ve learned too much. We are better online sellers and communicators. We are more efficient and productive working from anywhere. We have renewed thoughtfulness about our relationships with customers and partners. At InsideView, we are optimistic about 2021, expecting companies to take what we’ve learned to build a recovery based on new ways of working and with renewed appreciation for the importance of high quality B2B data.