Selling during a pandemic is extremely difficult. Obviously, there are more important matters happening, however, small businesses still have goals to meet, and creating revenue is a necessity if they want to survive once the fog has cleared.

When March hit, companies had to throw their original sales plans out the window and quickly figure out a way to adapt to the unexpected disruption COVID-19 presented. Many months later, brands still haven’t totally figured it all out.

If you’re still struggling to find your sales footing, know that you aren’t alone. To continue to thrive, though, maybe it’s time to take a look at adjusting not only your sales process, but also your sales pipeline. And while we know there are no guidebooks to follow for how to sell effectively during a global pandemic, we do have some ideas for you to try that are sure to get you moving in the right direction.

Put Sales and Marketing Automation to Work

First up in your new pipeline: a plan for incorporating sales and marketing automation, if you haven’t already.

There are a lot of benefits to automating these core processes, but right now, it really comes down to their utility in helping you engage with people online, as well as their ability to help you quickly adapt when the time calls for it.

Here are some specific functions an automation software (like BenchmarkONE) helps you achieve:

  • Easily create and send emails
  • Manage your sales follow-up through tasks and reminders
  • Organize your contacts, track activity and site interaction with a CRM
  • Tag your contacts based on various characteristics so you can segment them and send personalized emails
  • Create landing pages and popups to convert on-site visitors into leads you can nurture
  • Increase your email subscribers so your brand can stay top of mind

And that’s not even the exhaustive list. But, look at what having a marketing and sales automation solution can do for you. Instead of needing to perform these duties individually or by-hand, you can focus on other important tasks and leave the rest up to your tool.

It’s best to find an all-in-one solution. While most platforms have various integrations, allowing you to use your CRM, marketing, and sales automation together, nothing tops having one solution that caters to it all. The more you can centralize your sales and marketing efforts in one place, the better foundation you’ll have for weathering the storm of what might be (and what’s already here).

Ramp Up Your Prospecting

Conventional wisdom may say that it pays more to focus on retaining current customers than gaining new ones, but conventional wisdom isn’t always enough in the face of a pandemic. While typically customer acquisition and retention are equally important, for various reasons, we recommend stepping up your prospecting game right now. Put a little more energy towards finding — and engaging with — potential customers, even if it’s not something you’re totally comfortable with.

We know reaching out to potential new customers seems awkward right now. But as long as your outreach doesn’t focus on selling and conveys how much you want to be of assistance, you’ll show your prospects that you value their time and building a relationship with them. By fostering this kind of trust, you’re setting yourself and your brand up for success later down the line. They may not be in the right place to partner immediately, but they’ll remember how helpful you were and genuinely interested in their business’s well-being that you’ll be the first they think about when they are ready.

Align with your marketing team to find out what strategies they’re finding most successful. Then use them on your own end to reach out to leads directly, even ones that haven’t been qualified yet. This isn’t the time to let opportunity slip through your fingers, nor do you have much to lose by deepening your sales pool.

Look through your company’s blog content and your knowledge base to pull pieces that can help your prospects. And if you aren’t finding that content, have your marketing team create it so you can show your prospects that you’re listening and can be that reliable resource in their time of need.

Look Into Re-Engagement Strategies

Speaking of not letting opportunities slip through your fingers, now is a great time to re-engage old leads that were once hot but have since cooled off. Consider using drip campaigns to gradually bring them back into the fold or offering some incentives that could encourage them to finally take the leap. You’ve got an advantage since these leads have already expressed heightened interest at some point, so you may as well use it.

Use your marketing automation software to run a report on leads with low engagement. In BenchmarkONE, you can assign a number system to certain actions, so every time a lead opens an email or downloads a piece of content, they accumulate points. The leads with the lowest points represent the least engaged. Our users can leverage that system to determine which leads could need some TLC from a dedicated nurture campaign.

Focus on Upselling

Upselling doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Instead of approaching an upsell like you’re just trying to tack on more dollar signs, consider it as a way to benefit the customer as much as yourself. Your job is to show how your product or service can help them meet their goals, and you know better than anyone else exactly what will get them where they want to go.

Don’t be afraid to suggest bigger deals. As mentioned earlier, make sure you convey that you are more interested in helping Them. While it may sound contradictory, you’re really just spotting a way for your customer to get more value out of what you’re offering them. If you still feel shady about it, then you’re probably somewhat aware that it won’t actually help your customer. If that’s the case, then don’t push it.

Find Opportunities Elsewhere

There may be some sales strategies that you put off in the past because they weren’t aligned with your goals or the reality of the situation. Well, times have changed, and perhaps you should brush the dust off of those ideas and put them to use. It doesn’t hurt to conjure up some new ones, too.

Have you tried out an affiliate program? What about a referral program to incentivize existing clients to send more leads your way? Have you tried swapping services with other brands? Think outside of the box, and you might end up finding a new go-to that really works.

Sell Longer Contracts

Your customers are also likely to be facing some instability at the moment. Longer contracts mean they don’t have to worry about changing things up again anytime soon, and neither do you.

If it’s in your budget, consider offering a special deal in return for an extended contract. There’s a ton of value in doing so, especially when it comes to ensuring a steady base of customers. And in most cases, your clients will appreciate the option.

This method can apply to your existing customers, too. If you know any are being hit extra hard, offer to extend their contract for a discounted rate or to offer a month at no charge. This simple favor could spread enough goodwill that they’d be open to partnering for years and years to come.

Times are tough, but selling doesn’t have to be. Modify your pipeline to adapt to the moment, and you might just find that you’re in a better place than ever when things start to even out again.