There is a reason that the Centers for Disease Control calls COVID-19 a novel coronavirus. We have never seen a virus like this one before, nor have we seen a global pandemic this severe in more than a century.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us, especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and your SMB customers need your help more than ever. The challenge is finding the best way to help them through these unusual times.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about one in four small businesses (24 percent) has closed temporarily. Forty-three percent say they have six months until they will have to close their doors permanently, and 46 percent believe it will take at least that long for the U.S. economy to recover.
As a result, SMB priorities have changed. More than 70 percent of SMBs are looking for financial assistance and nearly 66 percent are looking for penalty-free extensions on expenses such as rent, utilities, and inventory.
As part of SMB sales, you too need to change your priorities and find ways to help SMBs protect their businesses. The future is uncertain, but by collaborating, you and your SMB customers can work together to develop new strategies in which everyone wins.
Understanding SMBs’ New Priorities
In order to survive, you need to adapt, and your SMB customers are currently struggling to find the best way to adapt to a new market reality. Your future SMB sales will depend on how well you can support your SMB customers today, when they need you the most. This is the perfect time to reengage with customers, determine how they are adapting, and ask how you can help.
Start by reminding your SMB customers that you are committed to their success. Provide an update about your operations and remind them that your SMB sales team is still on the job.
Reassure customers that they will receive a timely response to any issues and be sure that there are multiple avenues by which they can contact the Customer Success team. If you are shipping physical products, explain what steps you are taking to ensure customer safety, such as sanitizing packaging and working to ensure germ-free delivery.
Also work with them to understand what their immediate needs are and how you can provide support. Now is the time to apply what you already know about SMB customers’ pain points and talk to them about what has changed and where their priorities are today.
For example, if your SMB customers aren’t structured to support a remote workforce, they are going to need help maintaining a work-at-home infrastructure. Their immediate concerns are going to be setting up robust virtual private networks (VPNs) and teleconferencing services, remote customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) access, expanding connectivity, and reinforcing security. Providing timely services and support reinforces your collaborative role and creates new and future SMB sales opportunities.
Also ask how you can help SMB customers expand their business. If you are offering software as a service (SaaS), for example, can you fast-track new service trials or extend trial periods to help customers streamline their own operations? In what other ways can you offer practical sales support?
One of the biggest concerns for SMBs is going to be cash flow. With everyone on lockdown, sales have slowed or stopped, and SMB owners are scrambling to find loans and delay pending expenses.
Consider revising the terms of your contract or license to give them a break. Can you be more flexible with delivery schedules? Do you need to adjust software licensing fees to accommodate a smaller headcount? Do what you reasonably can to alleviate concerns about cash flow.
Lay a Foundation for the Future
As you develop new strategies to support your SMB customers, bear in mind that many of the changes we are seeing during the pandemic will likely become institutionalized.
Companies like Apple, Twitter, and Facebook have already announced that working from home will become a permanent part of their operations, and for workers who return to the office, the workplace will look quite different with new social distancing and sanitation measures in place. Chances are that much of your SMB sales team may continue working from home as well.
This will require a new approach to SMB sales. Your SMB sales team will have to rely more heavily on technology to do their job, not only to reach out to customers, but also to track their own activities and report back to sales managers.
Collaboration will be different as meetings continue to be conducted online. Customer training and onboarding will be different. Sales mentoring and coaching will be different. As your SMB customers struggle with similar changes, it could present new opportunities to work with them to address these new challenges.
This also is the ideal time to consider outsourcing your SMB sales support. The pandemic has created an uncertain future for all of us, and by outsourcing SMB sales, you can minimize risk and maximize growth.
Outsourcing lets you scale as needed without adding overhead and personnel. You also gain access to advanced sales technology without having to license it, which also means you get advanced analytics and data to help you maximize sales. And you get to bring on the resources you need to target the customers you want without spending more than you need.
The current crisis is having an impact on all of us, and by pulling together, we can all pull through. Just as you are developing new strategies to support your SMB customers, MarketStar is ready to help you succeed through the pandemic and beyond.