As we journey through the COVID business landscape, B2B product and service providers have mostly found that the process of selling to their current clients has successfully been transferred to virtual methods, that is, videoconferencing and the telephone. But the biggest shortcoming of virtual communication is revealed when the goal is to meet and cultivate new clients.
As business (and education, government, fitness, worship, et al.) has transitioned to remote functioning one glaring truth has emerged— it’s much easier to shift existing relationships into virtual mode than it is to create new relationships, business or personal, by way of Zoom. That’s especially true in B2B sales. While many Freelancers and other business owners and leaders have directed resources toward strengthening existing client relationships, facilitating new client acquisition has folks wringing their hands.
It’s been conclusively demonstrated that it costs at least five times more time and money to acquire a new client than it costs to maintain a current client, but it remains a fact that every business must put into motion a client acquisition strategy. New clients represent the potential for future growth and they are an essential component of a healthy business ecosystem.
The problem is, relationships are more easily created during face2face interactions and we’re just not able to meet people anymore! The lockdown has either closed or severely restricted nearly all public gathering spaces. Video and voice calls keep us connected, albeit at a distance, but those relationships are in many cases already established.
So our question of the day is—-how can a business effectively grow its client list when access to new prospects is unexpectedly limited? Let’s consider some alternatives to the once customary networking formulas.
Low hanging fruit and a system reboot
Mine your client data, knowledge and relationships to discover how you might persuade those with whom you’ve been doing business to do more business. Find the low hanging fruit on a tree familiar to you. In some instances, it may be necessary to reboot certain relationships if clients were forced to cease or curtail operations due to the shutdown and its aftershocks.
Create reasons to contact clients whose organizations were adversely but not fatally impacted, perhaps by emailing COVID business resource information as a conversation starter. While trading emails or calls, you’ll be able to inquire about the location of where business is now conducted—in the office or from home.
Ask those clients how they’re responding to the COVID environment and listen carefully for a way, however small, you can help get his/her company up and rolling again. You may rewarded with a handful of billable hours as conditions improve. This strategy is working for me, BTW.
Conversely, some businesses are experiencing growth during the pandemic and you should make it a point to identify those organizations and include those for whom your products or services can be a fit in your marketing efforts. Maybe you can get a referral from a friend, family member, or client?
Referrals confer to you the golden status of being considered a known and trusted quantity. Other than a Super Bowl ad, there is no better endorsement for your business than a referral. People who read reviews of books, movies, restaurants, or hotels are in reality searching for a business whose customers give it good referrals.
Create the conditions for good word-of-mouth about your service by excelling at superior customer service at every client touch point. Present a 360 degree pleasant and efficient experience from the intuitive navigation of your website, the relevance of your content marketing posts, to your follow-up and willingness to go the extra mile to provide the necessary solution, to your project proposals and invoicing.
Give your clients lots of good things to say about doing business with your organization. Ask them to spread the word. On client invoices, offer a 15% or so discount on their next invoice if a referral is made and a sale results.
Case studies and testimonials showcase how clients feel about your finest work. They are a form of referrals and business owners and leaders are advised to include such valuable endorsements on the company website and on social media platforms.
Get found with Inbound Marketing
Revisit your understanding of the ideal clients for your company’s products or services. Do you know who the decision-makers is? Do you know who is likely to influence the decision-maker and other important stakeholders? When writing your content, it’s imperative to know to whom you are speaking.
With a heightened sense of your ideal client in mind, evaluate, refine and expand your company’s online presence and popularity with content designed to fill the sales funnel with prospects who have authority, who make decisions, who have influence. Create email marketing subject lines that catch the eye and resonate with those prospects. Align your white papers, blog, newsletter and case studies to address goals and questions that are meaningful to your prospects. Appeal to what motivates prospects to take the leap and do business with you. Post content to Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to expand your reach.
Finally, why not experiment with developing relationships through online communities? Investigate LinkedIn groups, for example, and search for one or two that seem like a good fit. Follow conversations and learn what active members discuss. When you feel ready, pose a question or respond to one. Whenever you participate, your LinkedIn contact info is accessible to interested parties and the seeds of follow- up are planted.
The sales landscape has changed for the time being, but the fundamentals of selling remain. If your product or service solves a problem, provides a solution, for a potential buyer, if a price can be agreed upon a sale will be made. Pursuing introductions and attempting to build relationships with new prospects in the virtual space is not without challenges but it also brings certain advantages. Geography is no longer a barrier.
Moreover, most prospects begin the buying journey online, searching Yelp and other rating sites to find out who can and cannot be trusted, cruising through social media and visiting websites that appear in the top 10 of their text or voice searches (those would mostly be big companies, for those wondering why there is no mention of SEO here).
Buyers are acclimating to the virtual space, becoming more accepting of the new normal and what it entails. The scope of relationships hatched in the virtual space may not be quite what we’re accustomed to, but I predict that both buyers and sellers will adapt as necessary to do business.
Thanks for reading,
Image: Athena, a special guest character on Lost in Space (CBS-TV 1965-1968) appeared in season 2, episode 16, of the series on January 4, 1967.