My client phone conversations have shifted the last couple of weeks. We share health updates — and I am happy to report the vast majority of people I have spoken with are doing well. We discuss how we are embracing the dynamics of working from home, online schooling for children and our soreness from more exercise than normal. These are challenging times, but we all agree: We will overcome.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the world we knew. It has led to tragic personal battles for many, and has upended daily routines and livelihoods for virtually everyone. It has also caused significant and unprecedented disruption to business.
Many of us in the B2B space are witnessing organizations — especially consumer-facing— shut their doors, reduce their staff, go quiet. For other organizations, sales cycles are slowing down, pausing or halted. Corporate offices are dark and empty while we all try to press on in home offices with a noisier house than usual.
It is hard to imagine overcoming this tragic situation, especially while still amidst the continued spread and wrenching record-breaking numbers. But someday, maybe two weeks from now, maybe next month, maybe by this summer, we will be on the other side of the pandemic. We will have made it through. And when we look back from a business perspective, we will be able to see what actions B2B leadership took to prepare for the eventual response and rebound of life and business — how they sat in the driver’s seat of the economic engine as we as a global community worked to “flatten the curve” without letting it “flatten the economy” far into the future.
A Semblance to the Past
The 2008/2009 recession was by no means anywhere near a pandemic. International trade imbalances, mark-to-mark accounting regulations and lax lending standards are a weak comparison to a highly contagious, microscopic virus that has a high mortality rate. Yet like the coronavirus, these market plagues led to disruption to businesses and spread across the global economy.
Looking at the aftermath and the “recession rebirth” that ensued, we saw a major shift in the buying and selling environment — and the roles both parties could play.
Prior to the recession, buyers were already looking for a reason to gain more control over the buying journey. They no longer wanted to rely primarily on salespeople as the gatekeeper to product and service knowledge. They had greater tools for research and input by means of the internet, both in terms of on-demand content as well as access to a peer community full of insights. And as the recession ended, they were able to grab hold of that buying power and bypass the salesperson who, begrudgingly, maintained an antiquated sales approach employed for ages. For sellers, “status quo” overcame the market transformation happening in front of them.
This shift did not mean buyers did not want to interact with salespeople either. In fact, CSO Insights research “The Growing Buyer-Seller Gap” found that 90% of buyers were willing to engage salespeople earlier in their buying journey – as they had for centuries. But buyers were after a different kind of value from sellers. Specifically, they found value from salespeople who presented messages that were:
- New for the buyer (34%)
- Perceived as risky for the organization (21%)
- Perceived as risky for the buyer themselves (19%)
- Complex (e.g., impacted several departments) (16%)
Revenue Rebound: A Look to the Post-Coronavirus Future
The toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy has a fuzzy resemblance to the 2008/2009 recession, but its sudden impacts and wide reach put it at a level much worse than what we had already experienced. Sellers should anticipate that the control buyers wielded after the 2008/2009 recession will be amplified on the other side of the coronavirus epidemic.
Because much like the recession from a decade ago, there will be a time when the business environment turns again. At the very least, we all expect to see sales cycles ramping up as we move into the second half of 2020. In this post-coronavirus environment, in the “Revenue Rebound” as I like to call it, many organizations will be calling on different buyers altogether. Others will be connecting with traditional buying audiences who have different pains requiring different value propositions. We will all be feeling the shadow of this pandemic for months after it is over. Moreover, it will play a major role as sellers seek to serve buyers, much as it has exposed fragile structures and status quo of business past — with new buyer needs emerging. Some examples of marketplace shifts I have heard in conversations with executives include:
- Supply chain reconfigurations and their volatility (especially where the supply chain is single-threaded through China) will be an issue to resolve.
- Virtual workforces and customers may remain partially or at least to a greater degree than they were months ago.
- Broad and pinpoint talent assessments are being activated to ensure the right team is assembled for the road ahead.
In the meantime, though, while business leaders, their employees and buyers alike are home right now, with sales cycles and business-as-usual no longer viable, leaders have the opportunity to make the most of this situation — to be prepared for the Revenue Rebound. Some will continue to sit back and gape at the situation unfolding, complaining to friends via video chat and to family trapped indoors alongside them. Others, the real leaders, will close their home office door, sit down at their desk, and take a proactive approach to prepare their business and their teams to be ready to hit the ground running once life beyond our homes resumes again. Stakeholders in the organizations led by this second set of executives will look back at the end of 2020 for the rest of their lives and reflect glowingly on the Revenue Rebound that they were party to after the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Leaders Marching Their Organizations Forward
Over the last two weeks, the Mereo team has been conducting virtual interviews with the core executive team and go-to-market team at a global provider of commerce and communications solutions. This coming week, we are coming together virtually with that same group and core subject matter experts for a workshop to build out differentiated value messaging that will speak to their customer’s pains post-coronavirus. Out of that will come playbooks, playsheets and sales kits. These will feed into custom training that we will roll-out through a virtual environment, across the next couple weeks, engaging salespeople and their leaders in highly-consumable sessions. Why are they doing this now? To capitalize on some margin available in their team’s calendars by preparing for the Revenue Rebound. Their leadership is being proactive. Kudos. All of your stakeholders — customer, employees and investors — will all be better for it.
The future is going to change. We all know this. What will the shift be in your industry? Will you react or respond to the Revenue Rebound? Will you be prepared or rushing to catch-up to competition that took advantage of these coming weeks when you sat at home — literally?
Strategize now—and you will truly serve your buyers when they will need you the most.
We will continue to keep each of you in our thoughts and prayers and are grateful for you doing the same. In the meantime, respond to the Revenue Rebound proactively. Your customers, your employees, your investors and your neighbors are counting on you! If there is any way we can help you either personally or professionally, please let us know.