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During the month of January, we have had over a hundred discussions with business leaders of companies based in Belgium or Luxembourg. What each of these leaders shared is they seek commercial ways to improve their business growth.

Author: François Delvaux – Partner

Our business is struggling with today’s ‘low touch’ environment

Business leaders stated that they face challenges to recover or get business growth in today’s environment. An environment impacted by the current health pandemic and the low touch constraints, the unstable political situations that we are seeing among first world countries, the continued growth of the modern buyers and the acceleration of digital transformations of businesses).

Summary business growth related questions we heard from these business leaders:

  1. How to help my commercial team be more effective in this virtual environment?
  2. Can you help us to improve our marketing and commercial levers to fill our sales funnel?
  3. While we invested in digital evolution for our business, how can we build the necessary organizational skills ?
  4. What are the ways we improve our price margins when facing lower sales volume?
  5. How to improve our digital marketing and social selling capabilities?
  6. Do you have interim resources (marketing, digital and Busdev) to fill a gap we have today?

While today’s environment presents business risks it also provides opportunities.  To be able to adapt to this environment, business leaders recognize that their past way of doing marketing and sales will need to evolve. Here are some insights and recommendations per their questions:

Insights

  • 63% of participants surveyed at our recent webinars said that the pandemic has created at least a 20% negative impact on their top line sales.
  • In Belgium one in five companies are on the edge of going into bankruptcy due to the crisis
  • Survey of 4200 companies* shared that their businesses will be focusing their digital investment in a) Marketing and sales and b) customer experience/ engagement. Twice more said would invest in these two areas then invest in operations, finance, infrastructure or supply chain. (* source: HARVEY NASH / KPMG CIO SURVEY 2020)
  • With the importance of virtual selling, most companies said that they now struggle with getting the attention of potential buyers and virtually engaging with them. This is due to the sales teams not having necessary virtual skills and not doing well sales discoveries virtually.
  • Companies recognize that they still need to do a better job at virtually selling their value of their products/services. Have gaps in using content and showing the ROI customers can get.

Recommendations on each question

1. How to help my commercial team be more effective in this virtual environment?

In this new virtual environment, it is important to adapt your sales playbook and think of the following questions. For each we have capabilities to help your organization.

  • How has our sales cycle, productivity and sales stage conversion ratios changed?
  • Have we evolved the skills of our commercial team to be able to sell virtually?
  • Did the sales team get relevant trainings and tools required for virtual selling? 
  • Does the commercial team effectively use social media (i.e. LinkedIn) to support our prospection activities or staying engaged with our target audience?
  • How does my team know what to do to prepare well a virtual sales meeting?
  • Does my sales team use well content and digital tools during a virtual sales meeting?
  • What does my sales person do after a virtual sales meeting and staying connected?
  • Can our front facing teams use well the available digital tools?
  • As sales managers adapting how they coach, motivate, and manage teams virtually?
  • Has our go to market activities adapted to this new environment?

2. Can you help us to improve our marketing and commercial levers to fill our sales funnel?

Over the past 10 months we have seen more companies adopt digital inbound marketing as a way to attract prospects, and tactics to progress potential buyers through the sales funnel. Companies need to select and execute the relevant digital tactics for the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel. To help do digital marketing and sales platforms can help to implement tactics, use marketing automation, monitor responses and optimize.

Minds&More has become a platinum partner of HubSpot based on the number of companies in Belgium and Luxembourg that we have helped to implement digital marketing and sales platforms. We helped companies to improve their inbound marketing and get more sales. We have applied inbound marketing in the B2B and B2C segments across a variety of industries

Key steps that are important include:

  • Define buyer personas and understand the steps of their buyer journey and where inbound marketing can help attract and progress buyers
  • Conduct a diagnostic of available digital assets can use to find/progress buyers
  • Develop content strategy and content calendar relevant to your target
  • Implement digital marketing platform such as HubSpot
  • Define social media tactics to attract customers
  • Develop landing pages with specific forms and call to actions
  • Conduct A/B testing to see what digital tactic works best
  • Create workflows and digital assets to progress buyers
  • Identify behaviours and sales lead scoring for the conversion funnel
  • Implement reporting, review of results and optimize

3. While we accelerated digital initiatives for our business, how can we build our organization’s skills and change our way of working?

As written earlier, companies have accelerated their digital initiatives. Buying technology is the easy part, the hard part is to gain a successful adoption within the organization and apply the new way of working. In our discussions with business leaders and our recent webinars we highlight the importance of the ‘3Ps’ which stands for Platform, People, and Processes.

All three ‘Ps’ need to be in good balance:

  • PLATFORM: Selecting well and making the necessary investments in technology platform(s) to help your business create value for your customers, employees and shareholders. Example of this is investing in a SaaS marketplace platform to enable your marketing, sales, service activities.
  • PEOPLE: Ensuring that people in your organization are well aligned on the ‘why’ this digital platform will/is being put in place for your business. To implement well a platform will mean a change in your organization – a change in how things are done versus the past. You need to implement well the change management elements. It is important to also count time/budget investment in your people and build the relevant skills and organizational capabilities to be able to effectively use this platform/new technology.
  • PROCESSES: Ensure that your digital platforms will fit and enable the processes that you want to be followed by the organization. For example, does a new sales digital platform fit with your sales processes and what you want to be done at each stage of your sales funnel. Will the platform enable how your teal finds and manage sales opportunities? Will your platform help you to comply with the data governance? Will the platform follow the process of onboarding a new customer and creating customer delight?

4. What are the ways we improve our price margins when facing lower sales volume?

From our experience it is still possible to improve the bottom line of a business even if the unit/volume sales were to decline but depends on how big is the sales volume decline or the value created for your customers. Of course, companies should have as ambition to grow both their top line and boost their margins.

Price margin is defined as the difference between your cost and the price at which you sell. Either you look to increase your price or find ways to reduce your costs. Focusing on the pricing lever (how much of the value you create gets captured by your business), the following barriers that we see on price realization:

  1. Is there a good alignment internally on what are the pricing goals and is there a clear pricing strategy that your organization understands and executes? Is there clear ownership when it comes to pricing decision and necessary level of governance? Who does the commercial team go to if were to change price? Do you have a chief pricing manager or a CPO who leads the organization in pricing decisions and management during this pandemic and evolving market dynamics?
  2. Are there gaps in your price execution and price management?  Do you see unwarranted price variance (discounts, different price points, free services) being applied by your sales team or sales channels?  Are your commercial teams reactive in their pricing?
  3. Is your offer (product, service, price) not aligned to the different value requirements of segments that you serve. Are you capturing the value of your services? Is your price metric aligned with how customers buy/use your products or services? When pushed on price is your offering flexible or does it stay the same?
  4. Do we miss opportunities to ensure keep the differential value of our products and services over time? Has our product portfolio evolved over time or has it evolved as we see changes in the modern buyers and new competitors we compete against?
  5. Is our front facing team (sales, customer service, channels) not effectively communicating your value to the market and to those who get this value? Does our business face gaps when it comes to changing/influencing customers’ perceptions of the value we create? Are we effectively selling our value through our virtual communications or virtual meetings?

5. How to improve our digital marketing and social selling capabilities?

This question is very relevant given that businesses are realizing that virtual selling is here to stay and will be around even if the current pandemic goes away. Why? Because the modern buyers are increasingly using social media to get informed, join communities, to find solutions to their needs, qualify the credibility of providers and select partners to work with.

As shared earlier, 65% of participants at our events last few months, said that they expect that digital marketing and virtual selling would have a significant more important role in 2021.  Benefits of effective social selling:

  • Develop and reinforce the credibility of your team on professional social media
  • Gain/keep visibility among your target market and increase engagement
  • Leverage professional social media and social selling to get new contacts and sales leads
  • Deliver value to your target market with your insights and reinforce your differentiation

To build these capabilities there are specific training alternatives but ensure that your team applies what they learn, so look for pragmatic training.  When it comes to social selling, we provide a four-step approach with time between training for the participants to apply what they learned and get coaching when necessary.

Step 1 Ensure we positioned on professional social media. Ensure create a professional profile on social media (i.e. LinkedIn) and know how to conduct research to find contacts among prospects and existing customers

Step 2: Gain credibility. How to find relevant content to share via your posts. Plan and share your content online to reinforce your credibility and visibility

Step 3: Create Engagement. Learn how to create engagement using your content. Having good follow up (via notifications/ alerts). How to stay connected / follow contacts on LinkedIn

Step 4: Personalize and optimize. How to continue to evolve your dialogue via LinkedIn (personalization)with your contacts or prospects. How to ensure that ‘social selling’ is an ongoing part of your commercial routine

6. Do you have interim resources (marketing, digital and Busdev) to fill a gap we have today?

Since 2010, Minds&More has been helping companies by providing interim experienced resources in the area of marketing, sales or digital. With our team of 150+ associates we help fill a people gap in your organization, or reinforce your team for a specific initiative or project.

The areas where we provide interim resources in:

  • Customer experience (CX) managers
  • Segment management
  • Digital marketing communications – operational roles
  • Marketing communications (MARCOM)
  • Category Management
  • Product Management
  • Project management
  • Transformation manager
  • Analyses, insights and research
  • Key Account / Trade Marketing
  • Business development
  • Pricing

Keep an eye on our social media to stay up to date on all upcoming (virtual) workshops and seminars!

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