Aligning your sales and marketing strategies during COVID-19

Posted May 18, 2020

Audrey weber headshot

By Audrey Weber

Associate Content Editor at Outreach

If COVID-19 has impacted the effectiveness of your outbound sales emails, you’re not alone. A 2020 HubSpot analysis of 70,000 software customers found that response rates to sales emails declined by 27% from February to March this year, so the decline is affecting all of us!

But there is hope. The same HubSpot study found that marketing open rates actually increased by 21% overall over the two months.

These numbers paint a vivid story. People are willing to engage with your company but in certain contexts above others, and the study suggests that people are more interested in educational or informative resources, like your blog or educational assets.

What does that mean for salespeople? As the rules of business are rewriting themselves, you can continue to position yourself as a trusted advisor to prospects and look to create a long-term relationship when the buyer--and budget--are more ready. Even if you don’t have a relationship with a prospect yet, you can build credibility and trust by incorporating inbound learnings into your outbound approach. Here’s how:

  • Work with Marketing to learn what your prospects care about right now
  • Add value, not asks in your sales messaging
  • Revisit your prospect tiering/scoring accordingly

Figure Out What Your Prospects Care About

Most of us are working from home right now, looking for a way to escape watching "Frozen" for the umpteenth time. Your prospects are spending much more time researching companies (and their competitors) online before starting sales conversations. Average website traffic jumped 13% from February to March 2020 for HubSpot customers.

Since your prospects’ priorities have likely changed significantly since COVID-19, your value proposition may not resonate as deeply as it once did - and what they’re searching for may be different too.

Ask your Marketing team to see what content is actually “clicking” (pun intended) with your audience. Key questions to ask include:

  • What are prospects clicking on across our website/emails/blog/social media? Are there specific topics or articles that are resonating?
  • Has there been an activity bump in a specific type of asset, such as case studies, videos, etc.?
  • What downloadable content has driven the most leads since we’ve been sheltering in place?
  • What are our customers and prospects interested in learning more about?

Once you have an idea of what your audience is digesting, you can adjust the content you highlight, as well as update your value propositions and overall sales strategy during COVID-19--here are Outreach’s top recommendations

Add Value—Not Asks—to Your Outbound Comms

With data showing your prospects are more interested in resources and information, lead with messaging that informs, rather than has a hard “ask” (“Can i grab 15 minutes with you this week?”).

Example: It’s been a challenging time for X industry. How are things with your business? Many of my senior manager friends found “New Rules of XX During COVID-19” especially useful. Let me know if you want to brainstorm strategies and what others are doing to stay ahead. Here to help.

Reps can even incorporate this type of content in follow-up conversations or post-demos.

Example: This article, “New Rules of XX During COVID-19” addresses the budget prioritization issues we talked about during our last call. Thought you might find it useful.

This content acts as a value driver, offers support and help for the prospect today, and allows you to be a resource in a time of questions.

Re-Evaluate Your Prospect Scoring

You and your team may have already altered your messaging for COVID-19, but what about your prospect scoring or tiering system? Your customers’ priorities have changed drastically over the last few months, so someone who was once a targeted prospect might now be less certain and able to do business. Conversely, other prospects or accounts that were less of a priority might now be a hot opportunity.

Maximize your selling time by pursuing prospects that are the best fit for your company right now. Look at your current sales scoring or tiering model through the lens of your COVID-19-adjusted value proposition.

We also recommend working with marketing to drill down on your inbound leads.

  • Have specific geographic areas been impacted heavily due to COVID-19?
  • Are certain buyer personas (ex. job level, industries) engaging with your content more or less frequently than usual?
  • Is there an audience that is behaving differently than usual during this time, maybe verticals getting hit harder than others?

Answering these questions can help you prioritize who you are contacting and with what message. For example, if blog posts for HR Managers haven’t been performing as well as usual, you might score them lower than you would pre-COVID-19. Similarly, if your website traffic from New York is down, but other areas are higher, you may rethink how you score by location and at what point in the day you’re giving them a call.

How have your sales and marketing teams been coordinating differently these days? Are you seeing more of a connection between inbound and outbound efforts? Let us know in the comments!


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