Tips to Successfully Navigate the COVID-19 Disruption

COVID-19 has upended the business world leaving no industry unaffected. In this video, Loretta Faluade interviews Geoff Web, VP of Strategy to discuss the disruption that’s taking place and outline strategic tips that leaders must consider to position their business for success in this new normal.

Highlights

[0:51]: What has been the biggest impact COVID-19 has had on businesses today?
[1:57]: The acceleration of digital selling motions and the rise of B2B eCommerce
[4:03]: The migration of buying power to eCommerce
[4:43]: What can sales leaders do to aid their sales teams in this new environment?
[6:57]: Using AI to augment sales intelligence
[9:58]: How do business leaders need to revise their eCommerce strategies to meld direct channels and eCommerce channels together?
[12:30]: Advice on how leaders can navigate their organizations through this disruption

Full Transcript

Loretta Faluade: Welcome to Coffee Chats with the Pros. My name is Loretta Faluade and I'm a Solution Strategy Director at Pros. And today I'm joined by Geoff Webb, who is our VP of Strategy at Pros. Welcome Geoff....

Geoff Webb: Thank you.

Loretta Faluade: So, today we want to talk and have a conversation about the business impact of COVID-19. So, there are a lot of leaders who have been disrupted and there are a lot of disruption that has gone on in many industries. And I honestly can't think of an industry that has been unaffected. A lot of businesses are seeing demand whittle away while some are seeing demand surges. And, I know this is the situation that we really have not seen as a society, but I know you've been working a lot with a lot of leaders. How has COVID impacted businesses or what has been the biggest impact that you're seeing today?

Geoff Webb: So I think you're right, first of all, this is very much an unprecedented situation and the impact has been across every single industry. Even those that are doing well, are doing well because they're being put under enormous strain to respond to a huge spikes in demand. And of course, most industries are seeing the opposite effect, where they're seeing demand drop off. Simply as a result of the global effects, the global level of disruption that this has caused. What has happened in the background, and I think we'll really start to see this come to the fore over the next few months, is there has also been a weird shift in the way that business operates and people buy.

Geoff Webb: And that's really driven by the fact that simply, we've had to move into a world in which people are primarily working from home in many cases, working remotely, having to buy through digital means. They're not able to have face to face interaction with vendors and likewise vendors are no longer able to really have those, direct across the table interactions with their customers. So, what it's doing is it's accelerating a move that was already taking place, which is a move towards digital selling motions, towards people buying online. And towards, I think, a drive to a much more sort of channel fluid, embracing of digital selling overall as part of the, just the core of the way business operates.

Loretta Faluade: So, if you think about organizations that now are really focused on digital selling, do you think that this is something that's going to be more in the short term, or do you think that this is something that's going to be, that's here to stay? Are they going to have to eventually adapt their businesses longterm, or even maybe midterm to what's going on or to this change that we're seeing in the industry?

Geoff Webb: Yeah, it's a little of both. I think there is a definitely short term pressure that businesses feel right now. And much of that really, from the conversations we have and the conversations I've had that we're seeing occurring today, has been around really understanding the revenue drivers for the business. What is actually driving revenue in those cases where you are maybe driving revenue in a diminished market or with a change in a big disruption in what people are buying or why they're buying? So, the first step has been for many businesses just to understand, what's going on, what's driving revenue? What are the right short term correct responses, not incorrect reactions to make? Very quickly though, what's become clear is that the plans that many businesses had to adopt digital selling and within that e-commerce is one of the channels with digital selling. Those plans that may have stretched out over a year or two years, must now be compressed into a matter of months, because again, the buyers themselves have been forced to move to buying online, to digital selling motions.

Geoff Webb: The thing that's interesting though is, as that was a trend that was already occurring, it's very, very likely that they're not going to suddenly switch back. So, what we'll see is, that there's been a huge migration of buying power to digital selling to e-commerce and the race is on very much. Probably at the worst time that most organizations can think of, right? Everything's disrupted, everything's difficult yet the race is very much on to adopt those digital selling motions. To reach the customers where they are, which is buying online and to do so in a way that provides a really well integrated, very seamless buying experience for the customer. And therefore, for your current Salesforce and for your future sort of sales channels a much more seamless, well integrated selling motion.

Loretta Faluade: Yeah. And I want to unpack that a little bit and kind of talk in two different buckets. So first of all, it just couldn't address the fact that there are a lot of salespeople right now that are virtual, right? And they still have to somehow support their customers. As they are looking to support some of their customers in this new virtual environment, what recommendations would you provide to sales leaders to kind of help aid their sales teams?

Geoff Webb: Yeah, the sales leaders have always had a challenging task. And, I guess we all knew that going into the next several years, there was a storm coming, right? And that storm is very much the transformation of the sales process, especially in the B2B world. The role of the B2B salesperson has been evolving and that evolution has been accelerating. Well now, it's gone into overdrive, because the role of that B2B salesperson increasingly has become to be that the center of excellence when it comes to understanding the products. When it comes to recommending the right strategies for the customer, when it comes to delivering... Real understanding of the context of the business decisions that the customer is operating in. So, if B2B salespersons has become a critical element in the way that you deliver huge value to customers, alongside the sort of more self service buying channels that organizations are starting to spin up.

Geoff Webb: And that's, I think the really key point here, is that when you think about the future of B2B salespeople, it is as a deeply integrated element of an overall selling motion, which delivers overall a really good buying experience for customers. Because fundamentally, the most powerful differentiator you can have as a business, regardless of what you do, is to deliver a much better buying experience than your competitors. And B2B salespeople need the tools, they need insight, they need support, they need a whole bunch of new technologies to enable them to reach out to customers who are probably going to be remote for some significant part of that buying process. So they need a lot of support, but the successful ones will be wildly successful in delivering differentiation for their business.

Loretta Faluade: Yeah. And you know, something that you just said that just made me think. I think, one of the areas where B2B salespeople are really going to need or what would, how would I say it? They would get a lot of help is with having those AI driven insights, right? Because it allows them to understand things about the customer. Because they're not going to be in front of a customer, so they don't have any context clues as to what the customer might be thinking. So, I think right now those additional insights or any insights that an organization can provide to a salesperson to help them move the sale along or to provide the personalization like you're talking about, is going to be really critical.

Geoff Webb: Yeah, absolutely. That the melding of analytic tools and salespeople capacity to deliver empathy and context in the selling process is really, really powerful. I mean, this sort of concept of a digital workforce of AI tools that can deliver insight based on analysis of a massive number of transactions, a massive number of signals from the broader markets and then signals from those individual customers and sales, aggregate all of that, deliver that to a sales person who can then utilize that to really... Again, demonstrate that they better understand the context that that customer is facing, that the market around them is driving them towards and deliver for them the absolutely best personalized offers around the right product, right pricing, right packaging, right terms and services, right support offerings and everything else. That's where the next decade of selling excellence is going to be.

Geoff Webb: And it's really, and again, that melding of augmented intelligence and decision making from AI delivered through the capacity to consume huge amounts of data that often is housed in large data lakes, directly into the hands of a sales person. In whatever form that person needs, to then engage effectively with their customers at the points of engagement. And it's, again, it's an amazing frontier, it's an incredibly transformative approach. And the future for B2B salespeople is incredibly bright, when you think about what it will look like for them. They are already extraordinarily skilled, what we'll be doing is melding that skill and that experience with knowledge and insight, that will absolutely power them to be again, the real difference makers in their capacity to sell to their customers.

Loretta Faluade: Yeah. And the second part, because I remember I was going to say there were two parts. So, the second part I wanted to kind of dive into, is you kept talking about when we started around the role of e-commerce and how it's basically being accelerated. Now, I know a lot of organizations will think to themselves, well, e-commerce, they already have a website. But I know e-commerce is very different than actually having a website. It's having somewhere where your customer can self serve and actually transact on. You talked about the melding of sales and also the role of e-commerce. How are you seeing these kind of come together in the future? And what do organizations or business leaders need to be thinking about now that they're looking at their e-commerce strategies?

Geoff Webb: Yeah. And you're right, that there is a... Organizations have started to move into the world of e-commerce and there's a lot more to e-commerce than just spinning up an e-commerce portal that you can start to sell through from the website. It's essential that there's at least a couple of things going on. One, that the backend technology supports the way that e-commerce actually impacts your business. Because the difference is, a lot more happens outside of your control. It happens fast, it happens at its scale, it happens without you being directly engaged with that customer. So, in many ways you're very reliant on a whole bunch of infrastructure and technology to deliver a good buying experience or else you're in real trouble. That's the first thing that you have to have. So, it's not just the commerce portal, everything behind that. It's, can it scale? Can it support? Is it fast enough? Is it reliable enough? Is it secure enough?

Geoff Webb: The second part is that the e-commerce motion must be well integrated with the rest of your sales process, especially in the B2B world. Where transactions tend to be, they will vary between low consideration transactions that may occur at volume to potentially very high consideration transactions. Where somebody's making decisions on very, very significant amounts of money, very significant purchases. And they need to very easily step between a self service mode where they're essentially looking at and compiling information and starting to build that up, into a mode where they're speaking directly to a product knowledge expert who can help them directly with the right answers at the right time. And then back again, and moving back into self service when they're ready. So it's essential that as businesses start to adopt e-commerce, do so in an integrated way.

Geoff Webb: And by that, I mean that the backend infrastructure is integrated. The processes are integrated. The mindset across the business is integrated and each of the steps of the sales function itself are well integrated, so that I can move between them. And again, there's building a digital selling process in which you already set up channel conflict within your own organization, there's a recipe for disaster, we've all seen that. The stakes are so much higher now, because so much more of the business is moving online. And e-commerce as an element of digital selling is very critical, but it's also critical you build it the right way.

Loretta Faluade: Yeah. So I know, to kind of start to wrap up. I wanted to ask you, if you had some advice for leaders who are watching this video and for those who are thinking, okay, I've got to figure out how to navigate my organization through this trying period, over the next, let's say three to six months. What advice would you provide to leaders right now?

Geoff Webb: So I think that the mantra that we would live by and it's very straightforward is when you're thinking about how to transform your sales process. It's really three things. It's listen to your customers, listen to the market, look for the signals that tell you what's going on. Look for the signals that tell you what people are buying and why, and what value they see from that and what are your competitors doing? So it's really listening, gathering information. It is then using that information to shape the offers, to personalize the right offer, to personalize the packaging and the pricing and how you deliver it. So that you can demonstrate to those customers that you really do understand their world, their challenges and their business. And then build the capability to engage with them in the right way at every step, engage with them through your direct channels, engage with them through your partners and your resellers, engage with them through your digital selling motions and e-commerce.

Geoff Webb: So, think about it this way, simply listen to the markets, personalize those right offers and then engage them where and when they want. If you build around that and you drive that with a transformational mindset, in other words, connect the dots, right? Simply, really think about transforming the whole end to end sales process with the right tools, the right technology, the right partners, the right internal support and the right attitude as far as bringing your customers with you, then you're much more likely to succeed getting through not just the next two or three months, but the next two or three years, and then the next two or three decades.

Loretta Faluade: Yeah, I appreciate it, Geoff. Thank you so much for that great advice. So, you guys heard it, listen to your customers, personalize those offers and engage with the customers exactly where they need or where they are. So, I want to thank you so much Geoff for being here today, and this kind of wraps up this session on Coffee Chats with the Pros. So if you guys have any other interest in different topics that you would love to hear from us, definitely please drop us a line in the chat. Until next time. Thanks.

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