Leadership in a Changed World                                  Driving Post-Covid Business Development

In the months to come, many organisations will be navigating  a rapidly changing landscape, but with change comes the  potential for new and exciting ways to achieve the extraordinary.

This, the final article in our Leadership in a Changed World series - Driving Post-Covid Business Development, focuses on how we drive business development within this changed world. What is different, what key trends still endure and how we can utilise this information to drive business development in a whole new way.

Driving business development in a post-COVID world relies upon understanding how our new working practices are affecting not only how we work but also how our customers work. Remote working, reduced team numbers, uncertainty and adaptations to business plans are just as real for our customers as they are for us.

According to a LinkedIn annual state of sales survey conducted in December 2019 and January 20201 that tracks how sales are evolving to meet changing circumstances and buyer needs.

  • 77% are holding more virtual meetings.
  • 44% anticipated a decrease in responsiveness to first-time contact from salespeople to new customers.
  • 44% said the customer sales cycles have already increased and are likely to continue to increase.
Adapting our own techniques in acknowledgement of these changes is vital to our new business development models. Teams now need to work on a more strategic level with a partnership approach, helping customers to navigate the new landscape and achieve their own strategy, we are actively working to achieve our own.

Using Key Leadership Behaviours to Drive Business Development

leadership behaviours

We can draw upon the key leadership behaviours discussed in earlier articles to support our customers through the crisis and lead our teams to drive business development.

  • Model the way with a human touch - Be person centred when communicating with customers and clients.
  • Create a shared vision - Talk with your customers and agree new expectations.
  • Focus on solutions - Problem solve with your customers. Use your knowledge and skills to help their businesses survive and thrive.
  • Enable others to act virtually - Enabling the sales cycle and the delivery of services through utilising technology.
  • Understanding customers’ mindsets - Try to understand what your customers are going through and what their challenges are to enable you to support them.

The disruption of the last few months has reshaped the landscape for sales, it has forced the use of new sales processes as we respond to the immediate challenges while putting a fresh new perspective on enduring sales trends.

Enduring Sales Trends

enduring sales trends

A McKinsey survey 2 into how sales have changed during COVID-19, provides insightful detail into how sales cycles are changing and how as a result we need to take a much longer-term view of sales performance in particular.

  • 44% of sellers now expect their pipelines to decrease in some way.
  • 14% of those predict a significant decrease in their customer pipelines or their client pipelines.
  • 60% of sellers report that it now takes longer to close deals.
  • 55% of sellers expect to close fewer deals as a result of the crisis.
  • 60% of business to business customers in Europe had already cut their budgets as a result of the pandemic.

On a positive note;

  • 90% of customers said that they would be willing to engage earlier if the challenge that they are facing was new, risky, or complex.

To stay ahead and continue to drive business development despite decreases in opportunities, budget cuts and longer sales cycles we have to focus on longer term measures including;

  • Communicating and demonstrating the true added value that we can deliver to our customers.
  • Strengthening our customer relationships.
main buying reasons

What is added value and why is it important?

Added value is an improvement or addition to something that makes it worth more. Added value is not just about giving away or discounting products and services, it is more about demonstrating how your products or services deliver an increased return on your customers investment. This return on investment is most effective as a sales tool when it is closely linked to one, some or all of the key buying motivators.

What drives a customer to buy, (motivators) can be broken down in to four main categories:

  • If the product or service can save or make the business money.
  • If the product or service can save time or increase efficiencies.
  • If the product or service can enhance the organisation’s image or reputation.
  • If the product or service can help the business to survive long term in their marketplace.
To stand out in this new marketplace and ensure that every precious opportunity is maximised we need to effectively communicate and demonstrate how our services meet, benefit and support each of the buying reasons that motivate our customers.

Strengthening Customer Relationships

As budgets come under pressure and pipelines begin to reduce, shifting our focus to protecting our most important customer relationships will ensure that we have continued access to opportunities as they arise.

Adopting a customer centric approach while we are still undergoing change and fluidity in our sales and communication methods is a challenging task. The contacts you once had may be working unpredictable hours or remotely, recorded contact details may as a result be unreliable and redundancies could mean that your point of contact has now changed.

  1. Review your existing customer base and the main relationship points within it.
  2. Focus on building a personal rapport with the customer contact.
  3. Create an agenda that details what information is important to draw out from each customer to assist sales teams.
  4. Utilise active listening skills and be authentic.
  5. Identify and provide sources of insights.

This last point is more powerful then it first appears. Customers value information that educates and enlightens them and sharing insight is an excellent way to reinforce how you can provide added value that directly links to each of the four buying motivators.

strengthening customer relations
COVID business development

Ongoing sales coaching

Remote selling is not a new concept by any means, it is almost certainly a process you and your teams are familiar with and are no doubt successful in. However, remote selling in our pre-COVID working practices was usually supported by some degree of face-to-face contact whether it is through meetings, networking, seminars or workshops. Now we are relying on remote selling and relationship building techniques without any face to face or in-person contact at all. In this virtual and technologically reliant world, trust has never mattered more.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen R. Covey

Earning a customer’s trust requires strategic counsel and active listening to comprehend and respond in a relevant and constructive way to what our customers and our clients are communicating.

How can you demonstrate trust?

  • Always communicate with honesty and transparency - even if it is bad.
  • Deliver on your promises.
  • Collect reviews, testimonials and feedback.
  • Ask questions to build genuine and deep understanding of your customers situation.
  • Demonstrate your competence.
  • Show that you can give valuable advice outside of your specialism.
  • Carry out research and provide valuable insights.

A trust-based relationship is built by demonstrating and providing trustworthiness over time. If you’re the first point of call for a client with a critical business problem, then you are in a strong position to establish credibility and trust. Through the progressive solving of problems and the provision of valuable advice and ongoing support, your customer will come to trust that you understand them and that you have their best interests at heart.

Leadership in a changed world

Using social media to drive a higher response rate

Gone are the days where we simply pick up the phone to make initial contact with a new prospect, now it is standard procedure to conduct research prior to making first contact with a potential customer. The use of social media and social networking platforms can assist us to step-up our research and reach out to a customer to begin building a relationship long before we pick up the phone.

  • Research the relevant sectors and businesses and how COVID has impacted customers within those industries.
  • Keep up-to-date with current affairs, the recent government announcements and how they might impact certain sectors of your market.

Using recommendations and reviews to attract opportunities

One third of customers in the UK 4 state that they are more likely to select a vendor when a seller is recommended by someone in their network. The fastest and easiest way to drive an increase in recommendations and reviews is to simply ask for them. The best time to request a recommendation or a review is straight after delivering a value added service.

The same is true for Google reviews, LinkedIn recommendations and evaluations that collect evidential data on the quality of your service.

How can data drive new approaches to planning?

Data is particularly relevant with so many uncertainties, unknowns and rapid changes happening around us, one thing we can be sure of is accurate data.

With thorough planning and defined data capture processes, we can aggregate, govern and leverage data to provide valuable insights into past sales, performances and efforts as well as future forecasts. The regular capturing and analysing of data ensure that we are always reviewing what is and what is not working in terms of customer interactions.

Competitor analysis can highlight potential opportunities

Regular competitive analysis - identifying the strengths and the weaknesses of our competition, can help to identify trends, successful tactics, potential gaps and new opportunities in the market that might be underserved or not served at all.

Your competitor analysis should begin with finding out which key players have left the market, who is closed and who is open for business. Also research how your competitors service offerings or approaches may have changed and adapted in response to the pandemic.

  • Check their websites. What are they promoting? Are they writing blog posts or thought leadership articles?
  • Talk directly to your customers, who are they being called by and what are they being offered?
  • Ignore your own biases. Let the data and the information gathered inform your decisions. Data without action is useless. Make a strategic plan around your findings and execute that plan.
  • Periodically revisit data and reconduct analysis.

As this last article in our Leadership in a Changed World series draws to a close, now is the time to move forwards, working as a collective and embracing your role as a leader in creating high performance environments and driving business development.

  • Communicate and engage through a shared vision.
  • Understand what shared personal and professional challenges your team members are facing.
  • Discuss those openly with a strong focus on active coaching.
  • Share key insights and innovations that can enhance the whole team’s conversations with their customers.
  • Communicate and share your successes.

References

  1. LinkedIn State of Sales Survey 2020 Europe Edition [PDF] Accessed October 2020
  2. McKinsey [Internet] April 2020 https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-b2b-digital-inflection- point-how-sales-have-changed-during-covid-19
  3. “Opportunities for banks to cross Sell insurance products in Greece” [Internet] September 2004 Konstantinos Lymberopoulos | Ioannis E. Chaniotakis | Magdalini Soureli https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Ranking-customer-attitudes-towards-trust-trustworthiness- staff_tbl4_233658823
  4. 017 Global Online Consumer Report. The Truth About Online Consumers [Internet] January 2017 https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2017/01/the-truth-about-online-consumers.pdf

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Our Leadership in a Changed World articles explore the framework of strong, consistent, informed and inspiring leadership. This article, You – The Leader is just the beginning, the six key topics that make up the series provide ideas, suggestions and actionable insights that can be explored and implemented at every level.

  • You – The Leader
  • Your Team
  • Creating a High-Performance Environment
  • Understanding Motivations of Individuals
  • Managing Performance
  • Driving Post-Covid Business Development.

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