Most AV integration companies have spent most of the past five months since the coronavirus pandemic began its spread across U.S. shores thinking in terms of business preservation and survival, but what they really should have been thinking about is how to make the businesses even stronger.
Yes, instead of thinking about furloughs, layoffs and scaling back operations in all areas, your focus should have been on the ways you can grow your sales pipeline while much of the world around you is struggling to stay afloat.
It sounds simple and maybe a bit counter-intuitive, sure, but it’s the truth. The problem is you would have had to start planning for it months or even years in advance to ensure the system and the process was in place whenever the next business disruption struck.
That means, once you’ve dug yourself out of the depths you’ve likely found your company after the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to do to make sure this scale of devastation never befalls you or your staff again. That’s only possible with a strong sales pipeline.
“We can’t rely on word-of-mouth anymore,” said Larry Walsh, CEO of The 2112 Group, in a recent CompTIA Channel Con virtual session. “We need to really rethink the customer journey. Most customers don’t know or care about the technology being used. It’s about the experience for them.”
Business leaders need to shift their thinking from how to get a sale to how to keep the customer, said Walsh. That comes through continuous engagement with the customers to ensure they stay in the sales pipeline every step of the way and then return the next time they have a problem you can solve, he said.
As you might expect, this process is right in the wheelhouse of AV and IT integrators, assuming they keep in mind the idea of continuing to delight and stay connected with the customer, not just reaching out when they need to boost their numbers or feel like it’s time to refresh systems they’ve installed.
“Technology plays such a huge role in all of this,” said Heather Margolis, chairperson and founder of Channel Maven Consulting. “There’s been a very positive spin to digital marketing. Things are changing so we’re not filling that pipeline as quickly as before.”
Increasing Your Sales Pipeline
To keep that connection with your customers throughout the sales pipeline, it often takes an executive to hand off the pain point they’re experiencing to a Millennial or someone with a bit of digital marketing and social media savvy, said Margolis.
That person will leverage content either produced in-house by your company or that was produced by one of your partners but delivers the message you want in the way you want it delivered and you believe it can help the customer address whatever need they have at that particular time, she said.
Building up that stream of communication and sharing resources with your customers will show them you’re more interested in them than just as a way to line your pockets or bail you out when times get tough, said Margolis.
Connections can come through demand-generation education, connecting with people on LinkedIn and learning more about them and their companies through that platform or by sharing relevant multimedia content that might help them quickly solve a problem or think of you as a resource of knowledge.
“It’s about knowing who the customer is and understanding their business,” said Walsh.
“You need to understand their business, not the other way around. As the economy improves, the customer is going to be coming to you looking for answers. Now is the time for you to be reaching out to them.
“The rules were already being rewritten. The pandemic just sped things up,” he said.