25-02-2021

RETHINKING THE SALES TOOLBOX

In the absence of face-to-face interaction, businesses need to think creatively about how they can engage customers in different ways

Author: Ellie Martin

Getting products in front of potential buyers to prove their capabilities is critical to the sales process and a fundamental aspect of customer engagement for most B2B brands. Where showrooms, demo suites and live events (all opportunities to meet and converse with prospects in person) would ordinarily be the ‘go-to’ for B2B brands to showcase a latest product or service, the pandemic has shown that we can no longer take these in-person opportunities for granted. Instead, businesses are having to think more creatively about how they can engage customers in less traditional ways, but still with maximum impact.

In just under a month, we’ll be celebrating the first anniversary of Lockdown 1.0. Yes, it’s been a year of singing happy birthday while washing our hands, social distancing and panic-buying toilet rolls (ahem, not me!) But what has the last year taught us about engaging with customers remotely?

While there’s no real substitute for face-to-face interaction when it comes to B2B sales, the absence of these platforms doesn’t mean the sales process stops. Over the last year, we’ve been working closely with our clients to find new ways of working and creating high quality sales engagement assets which they can use as an alternative to face-to-face interaction. Here are a few ideas for creating maximum impact virtually…

Attention-grabbing video

Video is a great, impactful way to get a prospect or customer’s attention. Whether it’s a product video, an animation or an interview with a product expert, they all offer their individual benefits depending on the outcome you want.

And just because the pandemic has restricted travel and kept offices closed, it doesn’t mean that videos and interviews aren’t possible. We’ve created a number of videos in the last year, finding new ways to approach the process, such as recording over Zoom, on mobile devices for a ‘docustyle’ video, or by sending production equipment to the subjects for them to record footage locally, all achieving high-quality filmed content.

Video also has a role to play in the customer journey leading up to virtual live events and product launches. For example, you can create anticipation and buzz with your audience ahead of your event  by creating a teaser video, hosted on your website, teased in shorter clips over social media, or distributed as the event invitation. Eye-catching visual content is likely to get people talking and potentially deliver more ‘bums on seats’ at the event itself.

The personal touch

In the absence of person-to-person contact, there are still ways to bring the personal touch to customers virtually. Why not pre-record a demo of your latest product to host online, or present it live? Use product experts as spokespeople to humanise the topic and demonstrate their subject matter knowledge. This content can be streamed live as a product demo or delivered as a webinar that can be accessed live and downloaded later.

In addition, think about adding an interactive element to these virtual events to bring the audience into the conversation. This could be in the form of a poll or Q&A session, or you could send an information pack or ‘goody bag’ in advance to get customers involved during the event and increase engagement. It’s about bringing back that personal element that is missing in so many virtual interactions.

In-depth content and case studies

Written content is still very valuable for prospects and you can choose to host material online for download or mail out to prospective customers. Customers at a live event or exhibition would have access to a range of sales, technical and marketing experts all of whom could provide relevant information to support the sales conversation. Consider capturing all of that information and insight into a single, designed technology guide to share with customers. This content can then be repurposed across multiple channels to connect with a wider audience.

‘Voice of customer’ content is one of the most powerful B2B marketing tools because it uses an independent endorsement to explain the merits of your product. Customer case studies can be written or filmed to provide powerful online content and they can achieve brilliant engagement when shared digitally on social channels and in direct marketing to potential customers.

These are just a handful of the sales tools available to marketers looking to increase and sustain sales momentum without face-to-face interaction, and of course they work best when they are planned to work together as part of a considered customer journey. Naturally, some of these tools require investment, but these assets have a shelf-life long past lockdown. They have huge scope to be reused when we’re able to engage in person, to support demos, live customer events and exhibitions. Just because we’re creating assets now, doesn’t mean they have a limited lifespan.

For more information on the sales enablement tools you can be creating now to drive your business through 2021 and beyond, check out our guide on ‘Expanding the Product Engagement toolbox’.