How to Build Sales & Marketing Pipeline During the Coronavirus

The ongoing economic stress caused from the COVID-19 pandemic still has every company in the world asking themselves the same question: “What can we do to be successful this quarter?”  

Sales and marketing teams, specifically, have abandoned chasing (demand gen) waterfalls or examining funnels. Instead, go-to-market teams are tirelessly doing anything and everything they can to hit their numbers today.

But what about next quarter? Or the one after that? 

What everyone seems to be forgetting is that building pipeline for Q3 and Q4 is just as critical as making sure deals close in the short term. Looking beyond here and now isn’t easy, but even as states plan to slowly re-open the American economy, dwindling pipeline will be yet another hurdle go-to-market teams need to address — and address now. 

With multiple studies across the world highlighting shrunken marketing budgets, campaign delays, and hiring freezes…where should your sales and marketing efforts begin? 

Work Smarter, and Harder (and Together).

Work Smarter

Focus your efforts where they will make the most impact.

Yes, I said “and.” Now more than ever, it is critical that sales and marketing leaders establish a strategy and KPIs for short and long-term success in 2020. Market segmentation needs to be beyond reproach and sales metrics need to be measurable and projectable. 

Basic firmographic and demographic data points simply aren’t enough to hone and engage prospective buyers in a good economy, never mind the current climate. Go-to-market teams need a better understanding of what the new market looks like in order to cut through the noise.  

  • Segment your marketing and sales efforts to focus on industries that demonstrate performing during the pandemic, and identify outliers by using indicators such as growth rates, product launches, funding rounds, and deeper insights (specific department sizes, technographic installations, org charts, etc). Conversely, use the same approach to eliminate accounts normally in your sights that currently not in position engage.

With a general understanding of your targeted market, you can formulate a playbook of possible expanded offerings, segmented value props. 

  • Use buying signals, intent data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to know when companies are looking for your products and services and when they’re ready to buy.
  • Reconsider your gating strategy to offer more content for free so you can seed the market for short and long-term growth. Use marketing techniques like re-targeting and suggested content to keep them engaged.
  • Shift more focus to up-sell and cross-sell opportunities within your existing customer base. They already know and like you — use that brand affinity to your advantage!
  • Work with your product and finance teams to create freemium or discounted offers to generate more business. Just be sure those offers are not being taken advantage of using disposable emails.

Work Harder

Increase activity to expand your reach.

Your sales function should understand expectations have to be heightened. Take a look at the average number of dials and emails your sales team is reporting per day — now, figure out how to increase that volume by 25%.  See if that level of increase will fill your pipeline. If not, keep increasing that number. They say every “no” brings you closer to a “yes,” and in this environment, you’re going to get a lot more “nos.”

Embrace the upside of everyone being home.

The silver lining to everyone being home, is that it’s actually easier to connect now with people than it ever was before. Think about it. People are using their cell phones for business, and if your sales team has access to those numbers, they don’t have to deal with voicemails that are never checked or gatekeepers that won’t pass along their messages. They are getting through. Chris Hays, the Chief Revenue Officer at ZoomInfo, estimates that we saw a 20% increase in connect rates the first week we were home.

So how can you help your team make sure they are making those connections?

  • Make sure they have access to mobile numbers. Take a look at your contacts and upgrade your data to include mobile numbers if you don’t have them already.
  • Create a call script that takes into account the current environment. Put people at ease and they are much more likely to continue the conversation.
  • Get a tool that helps your team manage their prospects by time zones to ensure they are calling at appropriate times. If your team needs to have boundaries respected between work and home life, so do your prospects.

On the other end of the spectrum, pipeline is the name of the game for marketing leaders. As such, adjusting resources to double down on campaigns that bring in more qualified opportunities is an obvious move. But marketing must also be ready to pull its weight and support the here and now, with concentrated sales enablement programs, whether it’s a nurture email, targeted go-back campaign on previously lost opportunities, or even help putting together a custom sales presentation

Work Together

Stay connected in a remote world.

We can’t recommend this enough: continue to establish a new normal to encourage productivity. People thrive when they have established routines — but with all of the variables present in a work-from-home environment, how can you carry on your in-office culture?

According to Harvard Business Review, work from home burnout is very real and you need to create an environment that gives your employees the tools to combat and overcome it. Employees that suffer from burnout are not working strategically or methodically, and they certainly will not help your team hit their pipeline and revenue goals. A few guidelines to consider as we move toward May: 

  • Determine your team’s working hours: When your commute is from one room to another in your home, the lines between work time and personal time can get very blurred. Work with your team leaders to establish a start and end time to each day —  and make sure everyone respects it!  
  • Encourage collaboration and agility with regular team meetings: Use technologies like Zoom, WebEx, Slack, and Messenger to stay in touch with your employees throughout the day.  From daily meetings to quick questions, it’s important that your team does not feel isolated or out of the loop. Constant collaboration is essential for making sure everyone is working towards the same goals and adjusting when necessary.
  • Carry on your in-office traditions: Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t virtually “bang the gong” or wear crazy suit jackets on the last day of the quarter. Use your video conferencing and Slack channels to share pictures and memes to celebrate wins. Make sure people turn on their videos when you’re in conferences so you can see one another’s faces so you can maintain that sense of camaraderie and connection. If people forget who they’re working for and why they love it, their productivity will decrease.

Keep Going

Marketing and selling is important for the future of your business and the economy.

We need to stop feeling guilty about prospecting and campaigning. The world didn’t end, and we need to stop behaving like it did. Yes, this is a strange time and people are losing their jobs and companies are folding —and that is awful. But, we need to stop apologizing or feeling awkward about pitching our products and services to companies that need what we have to offer. 

Obviously, we need to be sensitive and aware that not everyone we approach will be able to move forward with an agreement right now. But, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s our job to reach out to companies who could use our products and services, either right now during the pandemic or for the long-term. We need to overcome those immediate knee-jerk reactions to a cold call or an email so that we get the opportunity to demonstrate the value our companies can provide. 

We need to build pipeline, close deals, and ultimately hit our numbers — that much hasn’t changed. But, we can’t do that if we’re walking on eggshells. 

Now is the time to act. Make sure you are focusing your efforts where they can make the biggest impact for your short and long-term goals. We as sales and marketing professionals are on the front lines for helping to jump-start our economy on the path back to financial prosperity.