With many B2B suppliers struggling to hold onto revenue streams as corporate buyers cancel orders and withhold payment, finding new customers is critical to surviving the volatility. Digitization and automation in B2B customer outreach has enabled marketing and sales teams to elevate the volume of interactions with potential new clients — but in B2B sales, human interaction reigns.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that sellers’ top source of person-to-person customer outreach — trade shows — are no longer an available sales avenue. According to Bob Good, founder and CEO of Good Leads, chief marketing officers and their sales teams are left scrambling to adjust their outreach strategies.
“The immediate impact of coronavirus is that no one is going anywhere,” he told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “CMOs are in a bit of a panic, because they were counting on first- and second-quarter trade shows to generate top-of-the-funnel leads. They don’t have that anymore, so they’re looking for alternatives.”
Trade shows, Good explained, often account for a significant portion of B2B vendors’ marketing budgets. With those events now canceled, CMOs now have to reallocate that cash through other avenues.
Digitization and automation are undoubtedly essential components of the B2B sales process, from customer outreach all the way through to payment. While platforms like email campaigns and LinkedIn remain important tools for B2B vendors, Good noted that this digitization of the buyer-supplier relationship has led many in the industry to “frown upon” a more traditional approach: phone calls.
Yet the reason why trade shows continue to secure such a large portion of marketing budgets is because of the importance sellers place on human interaction with potential buyers. In many cases, the phone call can be the next best thing.
“They count on that face-to-face contact,” Good said. “The face-to-face is important. At the end of the day, deals are still done people-to-people.”
As a result, some organizations are taking into consideration the value of targeted phone outreach, with outsourced service providers providing an enticing option to help sales teams connect with viable potential customers most likely to lead to a sale.
Preserving The Buyer Relationship
While targeted phone calls can be effective, Good acknowledged that many sales teams that have shifted away from the tactic offered by outsourced service providers can be reluctant to embrace the strategy. In addition to phones being seen as an outdated tool, CMOs are also uncertain about how outsourcing the customer outreach process could hamper the company’s ability to maintain control of sales and the client relationship.
“Our common competitor is the company that wants to just do this themselves,” Good said. “The companies that find the need to outsource have a fear of giving up control.”
What’s critical to this approach is collaboration. Just as human interaction is key to connecting B2B buyers and sellers, it’s also important for the vendors themselves when they are interacting with outsourced service providers, including in their marketing strategies. Also key, Good added, is that any outsourced provider is able to be diligent about its own workflows, putting resources into highly targeted connections rather than mass-calling any company that fits the profile of a target customer.
As the sales workflow progresses, cooperation between outreach and a vendor’s sales team is an important component of preserving the buyer-supplier relationship – and preserving revenue.
More Adjustments Ahead
As B2B suppliers continue to make changes to their sales strategies, there are more kinks to work out – for instance, the product demonstrations traditionally done at trade shows must now occur online or via video conferences. Good also noted that sales teams are feeling the weight of having to strategize customer outreach while working remotely.
But as these adjustments are made, he also predicted that there could be some more permanent changes to the way B2B buyers and sellers connect.
CEOs, which Good noted have historically raised concerns about the high cost of trade show participation, may lower their trade show budgets for CMOs as more sales teams rebuild revenue streams without these events.
And while digitization will continue to promote efficiency and cost savings for organizations of all kinds – in marketing, sales and elsewhere — Good predicted that this event may reignite B2B vendors’ interest in the telephone — and a highly targeted approach to outreach.
“I think you’re going to continue to see an uptick in that,” he said. “People will continue to use digital media and email targeting, but you’re always going to have to meet and talk with people. I think people will use this trade show void to get reengaged with outbound calling.”