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The economic impact of COVID-19 can’t be denied. Businesses across the world have had to adapt to rapidly changing economic circumstances. CRM provider Hubspot has been analysing data from 70,000 business users around the world, and the findings are fascinating and incredibly insightful. The full report can be viewed here, but here are some of the key findings.

What’s Changing?

Buyers are seeking out and interacting with businesses more today than a month ago. This is at least partially due to the fact that stay-at-home orders and business closures have moved many transactions online out of necessity, but it shows that for now, buyers are still looking to engage.

However, deal creation volume is down, a decline that will impact most businesses’ sales forecasts. Responses to sales outreach have decreased as well, suggesting that sales strategies need to be adjusted to reflect the current buying reality.

External factors like budgets and industry-specific impacts from COVID-19 will inevitably affect sales cycles, but the data suggests businesses have an opportunity to attract and engage interested customers, even if they can’t close sales right now.

How Metrics Changed in March

The number of closed-won deals and new deals created are declining.

As economic uncertainty has led many businesses to reassess their financial health, the number of closed-won deals dropped and the volume of new deals decreased as well. As a leading indicator of pipeline health, this metric indicates that effective prospecting is more important than ever.

The weekly average of deals created decreased globally by 17% the week of March 16, and fell by 23% by the week of March 30, when compared to prior global averages for those weeks.

The number of deals closed fell globally from previous Q1 weekly averages by 21%, with the most noticeable decrease also happening after the week of March 16.

Your website is an important source of business right now.

Customers are initiating more interactions with businesses today than they were a year ago, and doing more research online.
Average monthly website traffic increased by 13% in March, compared to February.

Marketing and sales teams are both reaching out to their customers more, with varying levels of success.

Marketing and sales teams sent a significantly higher volume of emails in March. However, only engagement with marketing emails increased, suggesting that opportunity exists to improve outreach and connect with the right buyers at the right time.

Sales outreach has increased, but responses are declining.
Sales teams were significantly more active in March, but buyers were less engaged with sales content. The lower response rate to outreach was ultimately reflected in lower deal volume.
• On a per-week basis, companies sent 23% more sales emails the week of March 16 compared to prior weekly averages in Q1.
• Response rate to those emails began falling the first week of March, with a total decrease of 27% in March compared to February.

Marketing outreach, open rates, and database growth have increased since the start of the crisis.
Email open rates increased in March despite a significant jump in send volume. Corporate communications conveying COVID-19 related messages likely contributed to part of the growth in email volume.
Average marketing email volume increased 29% the week of March 16, while open rates increased by 53% the same week. Across the month, open rate increased by 21% overall.

What This Means for Businesses

Focus on education, not promotion.

The increase in website traffic, buyer-initiated conversations, and marketing email open rates suggest that customers are still looking to engage with companies.
Your customers may be more interested in learning and education right now.
Instead of increasing the promotion of your products and services during a crisis, an approach that may be insensitive to your customer base, focus on nurturing the long-term relationship. Identify where you can help your customers today, without asking for anything in return.
Review your sales pipeline.
Depending on your company’s sales process, a dip in new opportunities today may not impact your company’s profit & loss statement until several months from now. Many businesses will need to rethink what prospecting looks like to bolster their long-term pipeline.
Operationally, regularly adjust your sales projections to reflect potentially extended sales cycles or lower deal size so forecasts remain accurate. Just a touch of process (or improvements to existing processes) goes a long way in creating a clear picture of your business over time.
On individual calls, encourage your team to emphasise a helpful, consultative selling approach. Certain factors, like your customers’ budget and willingness to enter sales conversations at this moment, are out of your control. Instead of cold calling your whole database, use your knowledge of your customers’ industries to prioritise reaching out to industries that have been minimally impacted or those that are transforming quickly to meet the new challenges or industries where your solutions are particularly relevant or useful in this moment

The way we sell simply HAS to change under the current circumstances. Get in touch if you’d like to arrange a strategic review of your sales operations.

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