Consumers Want You To Stop Selling Them During COVID … and Start Educating

Stop Selling to Me

That’s the silent (and sometimes not-so-silent) message that many businesses are experiencing. It’s a weird, odd time. No one is denying that. We’re being pulled in a million different directions – personally and professionally – and the last thing we want is to be hit-up by a salesperson. Truth. 

Check out these stats from HubSpot, our favorite inbound sales and marketing geniuses who have been tracking deal volume and sales response rates during COVID-19:

  • Sales teams are sending upward of 50% more emails out to prospects then pre-COVID. Likely because it is the easiest way to reach a large number of prospects in the least amount of time.
  • Response rates to those emails sent during our COVID timeline hit an all-time low at 2.1% (lower than Christmas week).
  • Deals created are down by 21% compared to pre-COVID levels (i.e. when a prospect takes an action that could lead to revenue, such as booking a meeting with you to discuss your product or service).
  • Deals closed (sales win) are down 28% compared to pre-COVID levels.

That’s kind of a big deal in the world of sales. Now to me, this seems obvious. The whole “not-going-for-the-direct-sale” thing given our current state.  At least in the business-to-business world. But I recognize it’s not obvious to everyone. Some businesses are in panic mode. They see the numbers dropping and sales teams feel pressured to fill that gap. And you can. But there are other strategies to consider. The email thing isn’t working so great for those in the sales arena right now (although there are signs of sales activity starting to rebound a bit – so remain optimistic!).

Start Educating Me

Your target audience may not want to be sold to, but they do want to be educated (buyer interest is at an all-time high!); marketing can assist with that. And if your marketing message is relevant, email is, in fact, the way to go. Some more insightful stats from HubSpot:

  • Unlike sales emails going out, marketing emails are seeing an uptick in open rates – as in the highest open rates of 2020 thus far – at an average of 25% higher than pre-COVID numbers (check out the chart below).
  • Monthly website traffic increased by 13% in March compared to February (implying people are out looking for that relevant content); April declined slightly but is still outpacing pre-COVID traffic.
Chart displaying total marketing emails sent and open rate by week

Chart Provided by HubSpot

Marketing emails are not being opened because of promotions running. They are not designed to sell. They are designed to connect. The more you can show human connectivity, particularly among a specific community or group, the more successful you’ll be. As a matter of fact, 69% of U.S. Edelman Trust Barometer survey respondents said they will avoid brands, in the future, they see placing profits ahead of people during the pandemic.  For more on this topic, take a look at The Consumer’s Post-COVID Expectation of Brand Authenticity, authored by Micholyn Fajen.

Sales teams can, and should, leverage these findings. It’s simple: marketing emails are being opened (unlike sales), and your audience is out looking around for content on the internet. They are on the hunt for information – and that is something every sales team can benefit from with the right research and audience knowledge to guide them. 

So where to go to better understand what’s resonating with your priority audience groups? Your marketing team.

Sales and Marketing – Unite!

Aligning your sales and marketing strategies is a must. This is an ongoing struggle in many organizations, but during times like this, you can see the benefit of that alignment when looking at current marketing trends. 

What do we mean by this exactly? Well, sales have a pretty intimate knowledge of their audience base. But guess what? Marketing has quite a bit of insight as well. Especially in the area of analytics. Together, you can conquer a pretty awesome and relevant content marketing strategy designed to educate your audience – and thus engage them. 

Targeted, relevant prospecting is critical. It was before and is even more so now. So why not unite forces, combine knowledge sets, and offer the resources that are most sought after by those out looking. Give the people what they want. Come together and you’ll watch engagement with your brand rise.   

Sales and Marketing Strategies to Consider

Here are a few starting tips for today’s landscape as you work to re-evaluate your sales and marketing efforts:

  • Narrow your focus: This may mean placing your lens on your existing clients vs attempting to secure new customers. Or this may mean focusing on industries that haven’t been as impacted as others, or industries where your product or service is more relevant.
  • Know your audience: Use the tools you have available to understand audience behavior (i.e. email engagement, website engagement, social engagement). Or better yet – talk to them. Consider your marketing team as an option for conducting this dialogue. Then it doesn’t seem like that hard-sale that people are shying away from.
  • Create relevant, educational content: Work to educate vs promote. Get this type of content out on your website or social pages and offer it up for free. Make sure folks can find it, too. Help your customers without expecting anything in return.
  • Turn from outside sales to inside sales: This is basically a requirement at this point, regardless of how your state is reopening its economy. Understanding how to build relationships remotely is key. Start by providing educational content instead of a generic pitch.
  • Focus on people over things: Understand the general mind-set of businesses and individuals during this pandemic. According to a recent LinkedIn article covering the current state of advertising (found here), markets (and people) are feeling fear, sadness, and sometimes anger, distrust, and contempt. There’s a need to become more right-brain focused with your efforts (empathetic) vs left brain (procedural). 
  • Don’t ride this time out: don’t pause your efforts because of our current situation. Find ways to be present. Stay connected through the channels you know work for you. And stay nimble. Nothing is very constant right now.

Looking for Some Strategic Consult?

We’re all learning as we go. I’m learning from people all around me. Every. Single. Day. Now we’d like to help others. And by “we,” I mean myself and my brilliant collaborator – Micholyn Fajen, owner of Fajen Consulting

Reach out and take us up on our offer to host a free Zoom call to talk through your challenges in this space. Or calendar a time directly and we’ll get that Zoom invite sent your way. 

With over 20 years working with Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike, we have developed a variety of strategies and reacted to plenty of changes in the marketing space along the way. Sometimes it simply helps to talk it out, and we love to talk. With purpose. 

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