Sales Tactics to Survive the Extended Effects of the Pandemic

In a crisis, existing customers need to take priority.

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By Patrick Morrissey

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The default setting for growth for most ambitious companies is to try to win new logos. Find new customers, sign new deals, and build the company on the back of this steady stream of new business.

On one hand, this makes sense. New customers obviously mean new revenue, and leads are easy for leaders to quantify, so it's logical for sales teams to start there and consider new business a primary target.

But this model gets turned on its head at a moment like we're experiencing now, when salespeople can't make in-person sales visits, can't meet new prospects at industry conferences or other events, and don't have access to all of the natural, established ways of expanding their pipelines.

Sales in the time of Covid-19

The pandemic has dramatically changed how sales teams have to be operating and thinking about their work. While the hope is for a return to normal over the next few quarters, it looks increasingly like we're not going back to business as usual anytime soon.

Related: 7 Ways to Avoid the No.1 Virtual Sales Meeting Mistake

Right now maximizing revenue matters more than ever. There are plenty of blueprints to help sales teams deal with a recession, and the advice offered is typically solid. However, it's one thing to prepare for a predictable economic drawdown, quite another to deal with an extremely hard-to-predict global pandemic while you're in the middle of it.

Think beyond the account

We're in uncharted waters, but we know where the solution lies: our existing customers.

Even before the pandemic, more than 72% of sales leaders said they didn't believe they were getting everything they could from existing accounts, according to Gartner. This, despite the fact that business acquired from existing customers is six times more profitable than that from pursuing new customers, according to Bain & Co., and that salespeople are seven times more likely to win business from an existing customer than they are to actually capture a new logo.

This new reality reinforces the value of the customers you already have, but it also calls for a new approach in selling to them that goes beyond what most salespeople have been doing.

Because selling to a new customer is incredibly resource-intensive, most companies still follow a campaign strategy that includes an ideal customer profile, a buyer's journey, lead generation strategies and more. If you don't have alignment between marketing and sales and customer success all of the time, the investment that goes into just getting that initial foot in the door is wasted. There are reasons why two-thirds of first sales calls fail to get to a second call, and most of them come down to not knowing enough about the potential customer and what problems they're trying to solve.

Related: 3 Revenue-Generating Activities for Your Virtual Assistant

Selling to existing customers solves this problem if you've aligned your entire revenue team around an account plan.

Selling to current clients requires you to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and then use that to grow engagement with them over time. You don't need to spend time and resources you don't have on research and discovery. You know, or should, how their organization functions, where your products are most needed, and who to approach to make the sale.

It's about having an overarching view and an understanding of the customer's business on an account level so that you can have the right conversations and build the right relationships. The insights and connections you build over time might not be relevant right now, but as you come back for your monthly account planning sessions over and over again, these relationships become an ongoing, living, and breathing thing that continues to fill your pipeline.

Flipping the sales script

It's natural now for businesses to rethink their strategies around sales execution and pipeline development. But this moment is actually perfectly designed for a focus on personal connections and making sure your existing customers are not only happy but getting maximum value. Focusing on your existing customers and developing plans for key accounts and territories is the fastest path to generating pipeline and elevating the relationships which will pay off over the long term.

Related: 5 Ways to Keep Moving Ahead After a Rejected Pitch

With the pandemic and corresponding business uncertainty, leaders need to keep their teams focused on what they can control. That starts with existing accounts and more deeply engaging with those who already rely on you. Doing more for today's clients so that they help you attract tomorrow's, whenever that tomorrow might come.

Patrick Morrissey

SVP/GM Upland Software

Patrick Morrissey is SVP and General Manager of Upland Software, overseeing Enterprise Sales & Marketing Solutions.

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