Selling technology during a time of social and economic uncertainty can be challenging, awkward, and may even feel a little improper to you. While these feelings are certainly normal, just like you have your job to do – so do technology buyers. Companies determined to make it through this crisis will continue to spend on solutions that help their employees and their businesses succeed.
How do we know this?
1. We see it on our network
As soon as the current global situation started to cause widespread shutdowns, we saw a dramatic spike in research on topics and technologies that support remote workers. In fact, 24% of our overall network traffic right now is dedicated to researching technologies that will support secure, reliable, and productive remote work environments, including traffic growth on topics around unified communications, video conferencing, VPNs, cloud services, virtual desktops and more. But it’s not just remote working technologies that are still active right now. In fact, we are actually seeing surges in research on technologies like disaster recovery/business continuity, digital transformation, cloud security, endpoint security, enterprise content management, social networking, HR software, and more. If you want more information on this, this video will help.
2. We hear it from our audience
TechTarget’s audience engagement team has continued to reach out to prospects from the moment the shutdown began. Our callers found out very quickly that the prospects they’ve interviewed are not only responsive but have been more open to having longer conversations. Our team continues to generate the same volume of leads and confirm just as many technology projects as they did before the crisis started.
This doesn’t mean everything is perfect. We had to move our highly efficient in-office call team to a distributed remote workforce, which took a few days to organize and get used to. Our reps have also had to learn new sales techniques to be successful in this new environment.
5 things that we’ve learned about selling during this challenging time
#1 – Pick up the phone
The moment that US communities and businesses began to be affected, our audience engagement team was concerned that prospects wouldn’t be reachable anymore. While our email response rate is about the same, our call response rate is surprisingly up. While we don’t fully understand why this is happening, our working theory is that many sales teams may have just stopped calling during this time and are relying too heavily on email outreach, leading to clogged inboxes and open phone lines. Additionally, we have found that many IT buyers have set up their desk phones to auto-forward to their cell phones – improving the chances they will be prepared to pick up.
Pro-tip: When calling into main lines, we have successfully reached receptionists and gatekeepers who have been able to provide direct or mobile numbers for prospects that are now working remotely when asked. This approach is certainly worth an attempt during your prospecting efforts.
#2 – Try social selling
With many of us stuck at home, staying connected is a priority. Many tech buyers are now turning to social media, digital meeting places, and other web-based communities to connect with peers and solve problems. Our team has significantly ramped up our social outreach to try and reach prospects where they are right now. In addition to calling, we’ve been able to connect with active members of our audience on LinkedIn, at virtual events, and even on Twitter. While tech buyers are not known to be the most active users of professional social media sites, we have had more success leveraging these channels than we did in the past.
Pro Tip: We’ve found that reps are having more success getting prospects to take a meeting if they have connected with them on LinkedIn first. Try sending a connection invite before requesting a meeting.
#3 – Prioritizing active buyers is more important than ever
During times of crisis, people have far more challenges in front of them than usual. Whether they’re dealing with personal issues or working hard to keep their business up and running, most of us have more to worry about and less patience. That’s why it’s critical to focus on people who are actively working to solve the problems your solutions can address.
While this is true even in good times, it’s especially important now. In a recent study we conducted across 6.5M content marketing emails, we learned that when you target prospects who have been recently active with a message that’s highly relevant to their research behavior, you will see a 12x increase in email response.
Don’t test your prospect’s patience by contacting them on topics and technologies they have no interest in – increase your success rate and improve your personal and corporate brand by helping people who are actually dealing with problems you can solve. If a prospect is researching solutions at a time like this, there’s a very good chance they’re going to be more receptive to your outreach.
#4 – You should be a helper to customers and prospects
While we don’t recommend centering your message around the current situation, it will inevitably come up in your conversations. When it does, it’s important to take the right tone. Here are some key considerations when crafting an email or while on a call:
- Never use this situation to create fear – this is not only ineffective, it’s also unethical
- Don’t make this the reason for your outreach
- Don’t open your messaging with anything related to COVID-19 or pandemic
- Be considerate, understanding, and patient and, above all, sympathetic
- Ask questions about what they need and how you can help them
Remember, regardless of this situation, the best approach is always to be consultative and helpful. Offering your assistance by asking what they need and how you can help will be appreciated. Even if you don’t make a sale, it’s a show of good faith that can help build a lasting relationship.
#5 – Personalization is the only way to break through
With most people stressed and distracted, getting them to notice you requires a personal touch. Reps who spend the extra two minutes to research a prospect’s recent interests and weave it into a call are 19X more likely to book a meeting. Some companies have realized the importance of this and are opting to do away with canned templates during this period altogether.
If you do intend to continue using email templates, be sure to include a significant amount of personalization at the beginning and the end of your messages. Reps should learn to customize these templates using the intent data they have available as well as social media research. Our team leverages Priority Engine to do this and has found it to be effective in this current environment.
At the end of the day, we are all determined to keep moving forward and to get back to normal soon. We hope these words of advice will be helpful to you as we all navigate through uncertain times.
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