The lockdown that followed the COVID-19 outbreak has been an exceptionally difficult time for businesses. Companies in affected sectors like travel or hospitality saw demand vanish overnight; others had to furlough whole teams and find a way to keep the lights on, with or without government support.
By some sources, GDP in the UK coming out of Q2 dropped some 20 per cent. In such a punishing business environment, it became harder than ever for entrepreneurs to get commitment from new customers. This is particularly true in a sector like SaaS, where costs are recurring – prospects with no idea if they’d still be trading six months from now have a hard time committing to a recurring monthly fee, sometimes for years ahead.
Beyond the cold hard numbers, the overnight switch to remote working takes a human toll on team members too. Learning and development is much harder when we’re forced to do it remotely, and the lack of everyday interactions is tough on morale. Sales teams are hit particularly hard – they can’t meet prospects face-to-face, and they can’t learn from each others’ phone calls and objection handling.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Juro has still managed double-digit monthly grow during lockdown – and by taking certain measures and refocusing your efforts, it’s possible to keep deals closing – even during lockdown. Here are four tactics that can help keep new business moving, regardless of the business environment.
1. Simplify your sales process
Inside sales, particularly in a sector that attracts lots of venture capital like B2B software, can become incredibly complicated. Typically, website visitors need to become MGRs (‘marketing-generated requests’), then MQLs (‘marketing-qualified leads’), at which point a business development representative will do a discovery call to find out if they’re an SQL (‘sales-qualified lead’), passing them to a more senior salesperson who’ll do a demonstration and decide if they’re an SAO (‘sales-accepted opportunity’) – a deal that might close.
That’s a lot of stages and a lot of acronyms. While it’s tempting to skip stages or fudge it, that’s often counterproductive – deals ultimately need to be properly qualified, or they won’t progress and will end up being a waste of time anyway. Instead, look for time savings and efficiencies in the process itself:
- Automate data enrichment in your marketing database, using software like Clearbit to find out which industries and roles your contacts work in
- Bring senior salespeople into discovery calls early, if the lead is a customer’s competitor and you know it’s highly likely you can sell to them
- Book kick-off meetings during the sales process to build urgency and momentum into the process
- Automate your order forms, non-disclosure agreements and routine sales contracts so that your sales team can self-serve on documents, without waiting for legal (search ‘Juro’ to find out more on this)
2. Integrate your systems
Context-switching is an expensive behaviour for your team. In an environment where demand is suppressed and every deal counts, you don’t want your salespeople jumping between systems to get things done. You want your revenue generators spending all their time working deals in their system of record – for most high-growth businesses, that’s Salesforce as their CRM.
But there are tasks that sales teams need to carry out that Salesforce can’t handle – like creating and issuing contracts for signing. If you have a contract collaboration platform, make sure it’s one that integrates with CRM so that reps can manage contracts in Salesforce. If data syncs between both systems in both directions, you can be confident your contracts are accurate and watertight, and yet keep your sales team doing what they do best – selling.
3. Now’s the time for unscalable channels
Startups are all about scalable growth, but when times are tough, with a black swan event like a global pandemic, sometimes you need to achieve growth at any cost – regardless of whether it’s a scalable growth channel in the long term.
Things like investor networks, employee referrals, paid customer referrals, lead swaps, former customers now at different companies – now’s the time to max out on these channels. It might not be a tactic that will still work a year from now, but hey – there might not be a global pandemic and a recession a year from now.
4. Pivot to sectors that are still buying
Demand in some industries, like aviation or theatre, sadly reduced to almost zero when the Coronavirus began to spread. But there are some industries that have seen continued and even increased activity since lockdowns became widespread.
At Juro we work with several of the biggest food delivery marketplaces in the world, and in the weeks following the outbreak, we saw some dramatic usage patterns. The volume of contracts being signed for some customers increased 300% week on week, as restaurants and businesses looked to use their infrastructure to connect with customers.
Similarly businesses related to healthcare or healthcare logistics saw huge spikes in demand. That’s why we launched free accounts to COVID-adjacent businesses at Juro – to help businesses not set up for digital contracting to continue and increase trading. Winning customers in these verticals doesn’t have to be particularly profitable for now, but they’ll certainly remember how much you supported them when the crisis eventually eases.
By pursuing these tactics, we’ve been able to keep deals closing and keep momentum going, which is crucial for any startup. Business demand may be down, but it hasn’t vanished entirely – and most importantly, it will be back.