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How Can B2B Sales Go Digital-First Even After Covid-19?

digital-first b2b sales

Covid-19 has taken growing trends and accelerated them at exhilarating speeds. This has made it difficult for businesses to keep up with new consumer needs and best practices. Juggling social distancing and quarantine periods has been difficult enough; now organizations need to figure out how to thrive in a post-Covid world.

One such trend is that of digital and virtual sales. A study conducted by McKinsey and Co. shows that 90% of B2B decision-makers are confident that virtual sales will continue even after Covid-19 has passed. While remote/digital sales became necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, businesses should prepare to make this a part of their full-time strategy entering 2021.

Changing your B2B sales strategy is easier said than done. To help you make the transition effectively, keep the following tips in mind. They’ll help you get started on the right foot.

Embrace New Technology

Transitioning to digital sales will be a challenge if your business isn’t equipped with the right tools. A carpenter will be much more productive with a table saw than a sheet of sandpaper. Your digital arsenal will need a boost if you hope to find success with virtual sales.

Here are the types of tools you’ll need to succeed with digital-first B2B Sales — especially during and after this pandemic.

  • Videoconferencing tools enable more fluid and personal interaction with customers.
  • Customer relationship software keeps track of customer information and sales leads.
  • Data analytics tools let you know which strategies are working and which aren’t.
  • Email marketing software automatically sends email messages to generate leads and close sales.
  • An online sales navigator organizes the sales you make online over platforms such as LinkedIn.
  • Sales presentation tools broaden the capabilities of your videoconferencing calls, increasing their effectiveness.

While even one of these tools will help, the best strategy implements multiple tools. Start with your digital sales goals and pick out the tools that will help you reach them.

Learn How to Build Relationships Digitally

A huge part of sales is the relationship-building process. How can you develop close ties with customers and partners without seeing them in person? Just like with sales pitches, you’ll need to take a different approach to really reach your clients on a deeper level.

Charles Gaudet, CEO of the business coaching and consulting firm Predictable Profits, offers the following three-step guide for building relationships digitally:

1. Social Selling

Your social media sites can be used for more than just marketing. Interacting with clients’ pages by liking, commenting, and sharing their content helps establish a digital relationship with them.

2. Video

As with sales pitches, video is more effective than text or voice alone. Video calls are more personal than emails or even phone calls. While all three should be used to a degree, great success comes from making sure video is a part of your relationship-building strategy.

3. Steady Communication

As important as the platform you use to contact customers is how you communicate with them. Such is true with any partnership or relationship. Prompt follow-ups, honest inquiries, and genuine care expressed through steady communication will go a long way.

These three simple steps will help you start developing relationships with your customers virtually. As you get used to the process, you can adjust it to meet the needs of your customer base and fit it to your team’s strengths.

Learn How to Sell Virtually

Traditional sales tactics aren’t as effective in the virtual world. Some techniques will translate over nicely, but your general sales approach will need some tinkering to align with virtual interactions. These small adjustments are what set a successful digital sales strategy apart from the rest.

For example, in-person sales meetings often involve reading and expressing body language. Body language helps the sales rep gauge buyer interest and figure out what keeps them engaged during a presentation. Your appearance, expression, gestures, and posture also carry more weight in an in-person meeting.

What methods will you use in your digital sales strategy?

Virtual meetings don’t allow for as much physical expression, so you must learn how to generate interest and attract attention using other methods. For example, a study performed by Gong.io shows that deals close 127% more quickly when video is used. Video allows you to connect with customers more effectively and use visual resources that can be of great benefit to a sales pitch.

Be Aware of Pitfalls

Digital sales isn’t a fairy wonderland of endless cash flow and paying customers. There are still pitfalls and obstacles that stand in the way of success. Recognizing and anticipating these pitfalls will prevent you from getting stuck in a sales rut.

“The biggest pitfall of a digital-first sales approach is the ability to get and keep your prospects’ attention,� notes Gaudet. “With every enterprise sales organization using a digital-first strategy, inboxes are flooded with messages. To counter this challenge, companies must use an omnichannel approach to prospecting.�

An omnichannel approach means using a variety of sources to contact and connect with customers. Email, social media, and cold calls are all methods that work better together than separately.

Grab Hold of Digital Assets

Prospects will do their research when shopping online for products, services, or business partners. Due to their careful research, you’ll need to have your digital assets lined up and displayed to attract their attention and lure them to your company.

Your first digital sales weapon is your website.

Your website is often the first exposure a customer will have to your brand. Your website should have educational resources, clear pricing and product/service options, as well as a certification of authority in your respective field.

Your online sales and marketing strategies will bring customers over to your website and social pages, where the content they find will influence them just as much as any sales pitch would. Take the time to review your digital assets to look for ways to strengthen them, display them better, or add to them.

Give digital sales a try — and get good at this type of sales.

Ready to give digital sales a try? Remember that your remote sales team is important and will need training for these unprecedented times. Better now than later, because this trend will sweep you in its direction eventually whether you like it or not.

The sooner you start working on your digital sales strategy, the sooner you can optimize it to shatter your sales goals in 2021.

Image Credit: pexels; pixabay

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Grow Hack Tech

Is Technological Progress Slowing Down?

Technology is amazing. And it seems to get even more impressive every year. Every day, there’s some new gadget or breakthrough in the news worth getting excited about. And every year, our collective capabilities as a species seem to be getting broader and further-reaching. 

For decades, we’ve seen a veritable explosion in technological development – an exponential curve of innovation that constantly takes us to new heights. And we’re told that this technological curve is continuing – that we’re still growing exponentially, with massive leaps forward every year. 

But is this really true? 

There’s a compelling case to be made that while technological progress is still moving forward, it’s slowing down. And if that’s true, we need to be prepared for the consequences of such a shift in momentum. 

The Low-Hanging Fruit

Our first clue that tech innovation is slowing down is a change to the traditional model of tech development. In many ways, technology is all about solving problems; every new tech advancement is a solution for some long-standing issue. It makes sense that our current wave of tech advancement resembles an exponential curve because new technologies make it faster and easier to solve other, often unrelated problems. 

For example, the development of the internet was revolutionary for technological development overall. People now can review massive databases of information, communicate with other like-minded professionals, share ideas, and even publish their ideas to a broader audience. These capabilities have led to new ideas and new technologies that otherwise could never have been possible. 

But this trajectory is limited. In the course of tech development, we often explore new territory very quickly – but only for a limited period of time. Think of it this way. As early human beings began exploring new territory, they found themselves surrounded by an abundance of game animals, trees, and fish. But as they hunted, harvested lumber, and fished, many of those resources began to dry up. In other words, they’d taken all the low-hanging fruit, and were forced to come up with new ideas. They had to explore new territory, invent new agricultural methods, and even find new sources of nourishment. 

Our current burst of technological progress could be almost exclusively focused on low-hanging fruit. We’re solving the easiest problems first, and we’re solving them in quick succession. But the hard problems – like general intelligence-level AI, efficient battery storage, and even finding a cure for cancer – show little progress even over the course of decades. 

Any futurist will tell you that all of humanity’s problems can be solved eventually. But we have to understand that our pace of innovation tends to slow down as we master all the “easy� problems and start looking at the “hard� ones. 

Digital Innovation vs. Chemical Innovation 

We also need to understand that most of the tech progress we’ve seen in the past 30 or 40 years has been limited to the digital world. These technologies have been astounding, accelerated by novel high-growth startups, but they’ve almost been exclusively focused on digital communication efficiency. The internet, software engineering, and AI have all taken amazing strides forward. But on the level of chemistry and physics, we’ve advanced very little. 

We’re still incredibly reliant on non-renewable resources to fuel our consumption. We haven’t discovered any groundbreaking new elements, molecules, or chemical processes. And our understanding of the universe at the base level of physics hasn’t changed much, if at all, since the 1980s. We’re still struggling to reconcile major physics ideas that were first introduced nearly 100 years ago. 

So what? Digital innovation may be so incredibly fast-paced that it can be the conduit through which we solve all other problems, right? 

That may not be the case. For the majority of the digital age, we’ve depended on the momentum of Moore’s law. Moore’s law is an informal observation that the number of transistors that we can fit on a dense integrated circuit tends to double every two years. In other words, our computing power can double every two years, leading to major breakthroughs in a number of different technologies. 

However, it appears that the age of Moore’s law may be nearing its end. There’s an absolute physical limit to the amount of space on a transistor chip. With exponential growth since the 1960s, we’ve gone from integrated circuits with 10 transistors to ICs with something like 10 billion transistors. How much further can we really go without breaking the laws of physics? 

We may be able to push things even further, but to do so, we’ll need to invest in high-end chipmaking equipment and innovate entirely new manufacturing methods. Doing so will sharply increase the cost of chip production, ultimately negating the cost-effectiveness benefits. 

Of course, there’s a solid counterargument here. It holds that digital innovation may continue at the same rate of exponential growth even if we’re unable to maintain the consistency of Moore’s law; even if the number of transistors on a chip remains more or less stagnant, we can find new ways to use the chips we already have. 

Consumer Products and Perceptions 

We see an endless conveyor belt of new gadgets and new consumer-facing technologies emerging on a constant basis. But how innovative are all these products, really? 

Apple introduced the iPhone, a game-changing new type of technology, back in 2007. It combined several existing technologies into one, comprehensive unit, and changed the way we think about mobile tech forever. In the past 14 years, how much innovation have we truly seen in this space? We’ve seen a flock of competitors coming out with smartphone options of their own. And of course, we’ve seen Apple unveil a new model of iPhone nearly every year. 

But these new, “innovative� smartphones only make marginal improvements to the original formula. Their cameras are sharper. Their processing power is beefier. Their storage capacity and battery life are more robust. But they can hardly be considered new technology, at least not at the same groundbreaking level of their predecessor. 

As consumers, we’re getting used to a slower pace of technological breakthroughs. We’re content to see new smartphones, new video game consoles, and new TVs that offer merely slight improvements over their counterparts, rather than completely changing the game – and this is enough for us to continue thinking that we’re living in an age of exponential technology growth. 

What Does a Tech Slowdown Mean? 

So what does all this mean? Is it really a big deal that there’s a major tech slowdown? 

Much of our economic growth depends on technological innovation. Countless retirement plans like 401(k) depend on the growth of the stock market, which in turn depends on baseline economic growth; a slowdown in tech innovation leads to a slowdown in GDP, resulting in a cascade of economic effects that could cripple the economy at large. 

The larger danger is that we don’t realize the tech slowdown is occurring until it’s too late. Tech stocks are being traded and inflated as if they’re inventing fundamentally new technologies; as a general trend, they multiply in price in response to even the most meager announcements. If carried out for years to come, this could result in a massive tech bubble, or a broader investment bubble, that pops once investors begin realizing just how slow our growth has crawled. 

Of course, this slowdown may be merely a temporary lull. Just as the digital era sparked the launch of a million new problem-solving technologies, we may be on the cusp of another, equally paradigm-shifting breakthrough. To get there, we’ll need to refocus our research efforts and accept the limitations of the digital space. 

Our half-century long honeymoon with explosive tech growth in the digital era has been incredible, but it’s nearing its end. If we want to keep moving forward (as we should), we need to reset our expectations, redouble our research efforts, and start looking into new territory for technological expansion. 

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Branding

Dear Robinhood CEO: Here’s What You Should Have Done Instead

Robinhood

It takes years to build a reputation and only moments to destroy it. Amidst an unprecedented (ugh – not that word again!) trading surge, the Robinhood CEO had an impossible tension to navigate. How to address big-picture business concerns, while appeasing the interests of investors and company employees.

I’m sorry to say that employees got picked last.

Robinhood Employes Not Happy

Robinhood CEO experiences employee backlash.

Employees Feeling Disenfranchised

According to its website, Robinhood’s mission is “democratize finance for all.� But the decision was made this past week to restrict transactions on highly volatile stocks (do I even need to tell you which?). And team members were left wondering if they had been lied to.

“In the knowledge economy, employees espouse the brand values as much as their title or their paycheck,� says leadership expert, Robert Glazer, of Acceleration Partners. “One wrong move is often met with grace. But wrong moves compounded with poor communication can cause a revolt and an employee backlash�

Robinhood apologized to its one thousand employees by issuing a $40 DoorDash credit. This gesture occurred after the company secured an additional billion dollars to cover margins. A necessary operational response? Absolutely. But not the message they were looking to send internally.

“The recipients were patronized,� says John Ruhlin, author of GIFT∙OLOGY, a playbook for B2B gifting. “Everyone on the planet is watching your every move. And the best you can come up with is a $40 gift card? This adds insult to injury.�

Foundations of Employee Gifting

In Robinhood’s defense, most business leaders are horrific gift-givers. One recent study documents how givers and recipients place different value judgments on the same gift. The disconnect can be so massive that, according to another study, the wrong gift does more to hurt than help.

Ruhlin says he’s seen it happen. “Loyalty is fickle because feelings are fickle. We have clients that come to us and say: ‘we tried gifting, we messed it up, can you salvage this?’ Fortunately the answer is almost always yes.�

So what should Robinhood’s CEO have done? And how can you successfully execute strategic gifting in your organization? The following tips will help.

Choose your words carefully 

The most important part of an apology is to mean it. Jonathan Bernstein, founder of Bernstein Crisis Management and author of ‘10 Steps of Crisis Communication,’ suggests leading with empathy. “Your messaging must make it clear you have compassion – stakeholders must understand your message the way it was meant to be understood.� In other words: you must genuinely care.

Proper wordsmithing is crucial even when you’re not apologizing. Would you rather eat something 95% lean or 5% fat? If your goal is sincerity, avoid clichés and corporate platitudes.

Good leaders communicate from the heart. Not through the lens of legal permissibility or marketing spin.

Get them what they want

While this might be blasphemous to some, these five studies make a convincing argument to involve the recipient in gift selection. Monika Kochhar is the co-founder of SmartGift, a platform that enables business leaders to connect with others in a virtual world.

“Modern day technology allows us to re-imagine the traditional gifting experience. Instead of saying, ‘here – I got this for you,’ we can now say ‘I got this for you – which color, what size, and where do you want it shipped?’� SmartGift uses artificial intelligence to help match recipients with the right item at a pre-determined price point.

No more ‘one size fits all.’ Something Robinhood employees (and critics) might have appreciated.

Spend the right amount

So how much should Robinhood have spent on their gift? Both Ruhlin and Kochhar cited similar numbers from their client experiences. “Our biggest successes are practical luxuries, in the $100-$300 range. It’s high enough to afford quality, but not so low to appear stingy.�

Kochhar suggests not obsessing over price-tags. “Employee gifting is an investment. Leaders don’t audit the salaried costs of two hour Zoom calls. Yet we’re going to pinch nickels with appreciation? Double standards do not serve us.�

It’s not about you.

The fastest way to devalue a gift and turn it into an advertisement is by putting your company’s name on it (this StoryBrand podcast explains it nicely). Over the years, I have received a thrift store’s worth of logo-covered tote bags, clothing, and water bottles. All have been donated, trashed, or relegated to the garage.

Robinhood might not have done this explicitly. But the immediacy of their gesture suggests more of a reactionary appeasement than genuine remorse. You wouldn’t give your spouse a gift with your name on it. Don’t do it for your employees or clients. And never make your gifts about the optics.

The right perspective. Always.

Leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk encourage leaders to play the long game – both with gifting and decision-making. While I am empathetic to the chaos surrounding Robinhood’s CEO this past week, this saga feels less like a passing tabloid headline and more like THE BIG SHORT. Or at least an extended 30-for-30 episode.

Unlike certain investment strategies, there’s no benefit to volatile reputations. In today’s media-crazed environment, brands explode (or implode) when the CEO makes the right moves. Our opportunity as leaders is to build reputations out of stone, not plastic. When we execute strategic gifting the right way, we create an environment of stability and confidence. And a brand to match.

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