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How to Update Your B2B Sales Prospecting Strategy for 2020

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How to Update Your B2B Sales Prospecting Strategy for 2020

Even as we're coming out of lockdown, the impact of COVID-19 will be felt for many months to come. Here's how to adapt your sales development strategy.

Maybe it didn’t feel like it at the time, but in 2019, there were prospecting opportunities everywhere you turned. Without a shadow of a doubt, your prospects’ priorities have shifted monumentally over the past few months. 

Even as we’re coming out of lockdown, the impact of COVID-19 will be felt for many months to come. For sales managers, this means they must find ways to adapt and overcome the challenges the pandemic has provoked. 

Back in March, you might have even thought about throwing your sales development strategy and sales playbook out of the window and starting from scratch. However, while it’s true that your sales strategy might need an update, the key to improving prospecting during COVID and its aftermath is by pivoting your strategy, not abandoning it.

Here at Bloobirds, we’re committed to the Smart Sales Development philosophy. In real terms, this means that while the COVID-19 crisis is still here, sales managers need to do four things to enable them to survive and thrive through unprecedented times and beyond: 

  • Find cost-effective solutions  
  • Strategize to adjust to a shrinking market
  • Become more relevant to prospects’ needs now
  • Build a pipeline for the future.  

Don’t stop prospecting just because of the changing times. In this prospecting guide, we’ll go through how sales managers can utilize their SDRs’ skills in different ways, update their messaging, re-evaluate their sales tech stacks, and find their niche market using real-time data. 

  1. Start pivoting your strategy now
  2. Use your resources wisely
  3. Adjust to a shrinking market
  4. Keep calm and build out your pipeline
  5. Update your messaging to meet your prospects where they are
  6. B2B Prospecting During COVID-19: Pivot Your Sales Strategy for Success 

Pivoting Your Sales Development Plan

Sales development teams are still outbound prospecting during COVID-19. Your prospects’ focus has more than likely seen a complete overhaul, but there’s still a lot of value to this method, as long as you change your outbound strategy to adapt to your prospects’ situations. 

81% of sales organizations still view outbound prospecting as a key strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales Hacker

How you can start pivoting your strategy now

Right now, the most challenging part of the sales funnel is the bottom, where the hard to close deals live. COVID-19 has its own bottom of the funnel roadblocks: 

  • Shrinking budgets = decision-makers are hesitant to purchase new software
  • Shrinking budgets = fierce competition from other key players
  • Spending freezes = deals are delayed indefinitely. 

But, don’t be tempted to freeze your team’s sales development activity right now, as doing so only delays your future growth potential. Rather than seeing this as a time to hibernate and wait for the storm to pass, look at this period of time as an opportunity to regroup and start building out your pipeline. 

Prospecting during a recession Bloobirds
Prospecting during a recession is tough, but better to start now to avoid falling behind in future sales.

Bloobirds data predicts that the average sales cycle will lengthen by at least 3 months, so use this time to build relationships and have deals waiting when spending unfreezes.

Here’s how to do that by focusing on top of the funnel activities: 

  • Refine your sales development processes and tech stack
  • Start meaningful conversations with prospects now
  • Redefine how your team currently works
  • Use real-time data as a competitive advantage. 

Taking the time to look at each of these activities will set your team up for future growth without completely forgoing your original sales development strategy. 

Prospecting in the “new normal” – don’t abandon your strategy, adapt it. 

How to use your resources wisely

Now is a great time to take stock of your resources and identify not only where costs can be cut, but also how you can restructure resources and capitalize on your current capabilities.

#1 Take inventory of your tech stack 

Now that you’ve got some time to breathe, this is a great time to evaluate your current sales development tech stack. Is your stack truly serving your business needs? What features are you missing that would foster business growth? Is the sum of the stack truly cost-effective? 

Here’s how you can start taking stock of your tech stack: 

First, analyze direct costs of your tech stack

  • How many user licenses are you paying for with your current stack? Identify tools where their license costs completely outweigh their benefits. 
  • Are you paying for outside consultants, such as a Salesforce consultant, to help you utilize the solution? Is this necessary, or could you handle this in-house?
  • How many add-on tools—dialer, sales engagement tool, etc—do you need to benefit from your current CRM? How much does each solution cost? 
  • Ask yourself: Are we spending too much on expensive point solutions to achieve one goal? Is a multitool stack really cost-effective, or would an all-in-one prospecting platform make more sense for my team? 

Next, analyze indirect costs of your tech stack

  • How much time is your patchwork tech stack costing you? How much time do the custom process builders, constant tab and context switching, and copy and pasting cost your team?
  • How much time are you wasting chasing SDRs to remind them to follow processes, make more cold calls, and fill out fields? 
  • Does your current CRM or sales engagement tool provide you with enough insights to help you make better strategic decisions?

#2 Utilize your SDRs skills and knowledge in different areas 

Your SDRs may not be selling as much as they were four months ago, but there are other ways you can use their skills and knowledge to flesh out other areas of the business and prep your prospects for future business. 

68% of sales organizations have experienced a decrease in booked meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales Hacker

SDRs are both your product and customer experts, which makes them a goldmine of fresh content. Why not get them to work with your marketing team to help build out some strategic content, such as bottom of the funnel collateral that only their expertise can provide? 

Here are a few examples of content your SDRs can contribute to: 

  • FAQ-style one-page documents that outline some of the most common questions SDRs come across while prospecting 
  • Real case studies that clearly demonstrate the value of your product. SDRs can help inform on the problem and solution that was addressed by using your product or service
  • Infographics that highlight return on investment. Focusing on how much time and money can be saved by using your product is a good place to start!
  • Content that highlights how your product or service can address new working conditions/situations brought about by COVID-19.

How to adjust to a shrinking market

If you haven’t started adjusting to the current situation, it’s not too late to start. Forget about your usual automated email sequences and planned pipelines: It’s time to address the shrinking market by finding your sweet spot and reviving old relationships. 

#1 Find your sweet spot

Right now, your sweet spot is where your prospects’ needs fit with what makes your product or service stand out above the rest of the noise. You may find that new opportunities arise and that your prospect persona has changed.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer: What needs, wants, and pain points are new, which are old, and which have become more or less of a priority?

Here’s how to find your sweet spot: 

  • Use real-time data to create informed hypotheses (e.g. A secondary feature of your product addresses issues caused by COVID-19 more than its main feature)
  • Fail fast, and learn from each failure. Finding your sweet spot is like conducting a systematic experiment — you have the time to experiment, and right now, settling on one strategy is a losing strategy.
  • On a weekly basis, reevaluate each strategy. Are you talking to the right buyer persona? Are you targeting the right industry? Are you presenting the right value proposition? You’ll need to use strategic data as feedback to adjust your strategies.
  • Once you find your sweet spot, focus on increasing the conversion rate of delivering your pitch to generating an opportunity. Exploit your niche to the fullest using targeted sales messaging and concentrate on high-conversion rates before moving on to the next target market. 

#2 Revive old relationships and nurtured accounts 

One of the worst things you can do right now is to burn your market by continuing to use automated sequences without any insight into each account’s current situation. 

One of the best things you can do, however, is to revisit old conversations where perhaps the timing wasn’t right, identify where you left the conversation, and reconnect on the prospect’s new priorities. 

Maybe your product has changed. Maybe you’ve added new features that are more relevant to old accounts. Or maybe your messaging and value proposition is more clear and easier to get on board with. Right now is the time to check back in and see which accounts you can target based on this pivot in strategy. 

To succeed with this strategy, you’ll also need to review your sales success formula. Instead of giving SDRs new companies to engage with, identify old accounts, and create a strategy and process whereby SDRs can recycle old accounts.

Here’s an example of the sales success formula

The Sales Success Formula for a B2B Prospecting Process | Bloobirds
Plug your current conversion rates and ideal number of opportunities per week to find out how many accounts you should prospect.

In the example above, the 30 accounts not turned into opportunities still belong to the target market – and should be revisited. 

Remember, impersonal and irrelevant emails only prompt mass opt-outs and mistrust from your target market. And since markets aren’t infinite, especially in today’s climate, it’s time to prospect smarter.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Mask-Group-1024x626.png
Bloobirds helps to revive “sleepy” old accounts

Bloobirds’ all-in-one prospecting platform can help you make the most of your target markets with a full nurturing subsystem. The simple overview makes sure you don’t forget your non-converted, but still target, accounts.

Keep calm and build out your pipeline

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to build out a solid pipeline to help you convert your target market into opportunities when the time is right. Use this ‘downtime’ to test markets to find your niche, organize and prioritize accounts, and get your cold call scripts in order. 

Looking beyond the situation as it stands is tough, but creating a solid pipeline now will ensure you’re ready to launch post-crisis. 

How to build out a pipeline: 

  • Use a precise approach instead of high-volume automation. This means having a tight definition of your ICP, combined with relevant and powerful messaging
  • Focus on increasing conversion rates from first contact with ICP to opportunity
  • Plug your strategy into a multichannel cadence
  • Segment customers and prospects into industry categories to create separate approaches to narrow your focus.

Update your messaging to meet your prospects where they are

91% of sales organizations have changed the messaging they use due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales Hacker

Without a doubt, your old pre-crisis messaging is stale right now, but the answer is not to spread fear or dread amongst your prospects. Personalization, empathy, and true relevance are the keys to getting crisis messaging done right. 

Of course, your automated emails should be paused right now, and in place should be highly customized and personalized messages. Acknowledge the crisis, but don’t be glib, and don’t be over-the-top. 

Here’s an example email that worked for us at Bloobirds

Prospecting messaging example 1 for COVID-19 | Bloobirds

With the email above, we were able to garner a response on the first message, because it contained the following: 

  • Acknowledgment of the crisis, plus sincere well-wishes
  • Leads with a common interest, with an injection of personality and humor 
  • Short, snappy, and relevant product messaging 
  • Email sign off includes ‘no strings attached’ messaging.

Below’s another example where this messaging strategy worked out for us because the email: 

  • Opens with a shared problem/situation, which begins to create rapport
  • Shows that the rep has clearly done their background research on the prospect 
  • Contains a measurable benefit – “….show you exactly how our customers are seeing 20 meetings per BDR per month on average”.
Prospecting messaging example 2 for COVID-19 | Bloobirds

In short, here’s how to frame your messaging to get better response rates:

  • Be empathetic, be human. No one wants to be hit with a sales spiel in the opening sentence right now. Make it a priority to ask how the recipient is doing, and how things are looking wherever they are. 
  • Focus on what value your product or service can bring right now. Find out what that value is before scripting the email, and tailor it to each prospect’s goals. 
  • Go deep with your research. The more you can personalize your messaging, the better. Find out where the business is based, research whether the company has released any messaging themselves during the crisis, and identify clear areas where your product or service could benefit them right now.

B2B Prospecting During COVID-19: Pivot Your Sales Strategy for Success 

“Selling is solving peoples’ problems for a profit”

Connie Kadansky Sales Expert

Kadansky couldn’t be more on the money, especially now, a time where peoples’ problems have been transformed so dramatically. Outbound prospecting is still alive and well, although its focus must shift to meet the priorities of your prospects. Being able to pivot, change your mindset, and become agile during a crisis also makes for a stronger team of SDRs. 

Retreating and halting sales during this pandemic is not an option. Only organizations that make their visibility a priority, while adjusting their messaging, pipeline plans, and employee operations will survive what the future holds. 

Find out how Bloobirds’ all-in-one B2B sales prospecting platform can help keep your team of SDRs on the right track through tough times.

Guide your sales development representatives to glory | Bloobirds prospecting platform free demo

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