How to Pivot Your Post-COVID Business Development Strategy

A lot has changed since the Coronavirus put a stop to business as usual. 

Priorities shifted. Budgets slashed. Conferences, trade shows, and in-person networking events canceled and substituted with a virtual replacement.

Even though some businesses are benefiting from these sudden shifts, the majority are struggling to figure out what industries are spending money now and how best to get in front of them– handicapped by an online-only model. 

So unless you have mobile numbers, the only way forward is through email and social media. 

For a few weeks, my inbox was eerily quiet while everyone tried to figure out what to do. But since then, I’ve been flooded with templated email sequences that have nothing to do with me or my business.

I guess it’s safe to sell again. 

So how can you pivot your strategy quickly so that you can refill your sales pipeline and build a sustainable business development strategy into 2021?

The Dilemma of Diminishing Returns

Over the past 15 years, our tried and true prospecting tactics have become less efficient as buyers took back control.

Instead of talking to salespeople to get the information on products and services, people search the web for videos, whitepapers, articles, webinars, and so on.

That’s why anything disruptive, irritating, or non-contextual goes unnoticed–think about how we avoid cold calls, delete templated email sequences, and get annoyed with mobile pop-up ads. 

I always have difficulty closing them with my big fingers.

The days of non-contextual fishing expeditions via templated email sequences have gone the way of the cold call–they may work sometimes, but it’s so inefficient that you’ll be lucky to stay in business. 

 So we can thank Coronavirus for forcing all of us to examine our past transgressions and get smart about prospecting, which is what we should have been doing all along. 

Honestly, these disruptive marketing practices were never sustainable–but they did work for a while–and I suppose that’s why we still do them. 

Prospects are still willing to talk to knowledgeable salespeople at any point in their journey if they think they can help them. 

That should be good news, but you have to change your approach and do the work.

There’s no easy button that will turn the complex sale process into a passive order-taking utopia. 

The More Things Change…

The goal of content marketing for lead generation has always been to replicate the process of in-person prospecting digitally.

Fundamentally, nothing has changed:

  • People still do business with those that they know, like, and trust. 
  • People buy emotionally and justify rationally. 
  • People buy products and services because they have a problem that must be solved.

And just like meeting a prospect in-person, if you talk too much about you instead of asking them questions and listening, they’re going to bow out of the conversation. 

The same is true with all forms of marketing and business development. It’s not about your “messaging” and “positioning.” It’s about “what’s in it for them, why now, and how you can add value.” 

Instinctively, you already know this. You delete the emails and avoid the calls.

And when you have a problem, what do you do?

Most likely, you start searching Google and social media for videos, articles, whitepapers, webinars, and so on. You’re not ready to talk to a salesperson yet and you want to remain anonymous while you do your research.

The same goes for your prospects, so the goal of marketing is to create content that helps them solve the problems they’re searching for and get it in their search path.

With that strategy in mind, all marketing and business development efforts should map to this process, especially if you need to talk to buyers and prescribe solutions before they can become a client. 

Identifying the Triggers

When you start with your sales process first, marketing falls into place.

For example, a demand generation agency I work with knows from experience that when a company hires a new head of marketing, it’s usually not because everything was working well.

That new head of marketing has a lot to do in the first 100-days to turn it around quickly–and they’re likely to evaluate the company’s legacy resources, bring in their past connections, and search for new ones. 

When someone steps into that role, it’s a buying trigger for the agency. So they developed a whitepaper called “The New Head of Marketing’s First 100-Day Plan: B2B SaaS Edition” to help new marketing leaders set expectations with leadership, get their arms around the organization’s current state, gain agreement on the issues to be addressed by marketing and build a plan to drive the goals that she deems most important.

Written collaboratively with other CMOs, the whitepaper provides a lot of value to an overwhelmed head of marketing that’s new in the position. 

They use this document in two ways:

  1. When someone downloads it from the website, they now have some actionable intelligence about that prospect. And assuming that the company fits with their ideal client profile, they can now reach out in numerous ways and find out how they can assist in the transition.
  2. Proactively, they can set an alert in Linkedin Sales Navigator to see who has recently accepted a new position as Head of Marketing and send this document to them (with a congratulatory note.)

The point is that all outreach in our Post-COVID world needs to be researched and contextualized to get a response. 

It’s not about you–it’s all about them.

When Prospecting Becomes Fun

Let’s face it–the work involved in prospecting is not much fun (making calls, sending out emails, researching target accounts). There’s no guarantee of success, and we sometimes defer to quantity over quality as the pressure mounts.

But skipping over the necessary research to engage with prospects authentically only produces more frustration for you and more irritation for your prospects. 

Think about why you’ve responded to pitches in the past.

  • Did it seem like the perfect time because you had that problem?
  • Or was it their eighth email so you thought you’d be polite and take the call?

Prospecting with context takes a lot of research time and you want to be efficient. That means working with marketing upfront and through the entire sales cycle.  

You simply can’t get there through force. 

But on the back end, it’s so much easier when you find actionable sales intelligence–something that you can use to prompt an intelligent pitch that leads to a conversation.

And when someone reads your blog post and responds with a meeting request, well, that’s what we live for as salespeople. 

To find out how to map your content strategy to a sales process, check out this recent post.

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