Cerius Experts: The What, Who, and How of Business Pivots

Cerius executive experts weigh in on company pivots and the varying degrees of changing what we sell, how we sell it, and who we sell it to.


Kristen McAlister:  [33:13:64] A lot of companies make do paradigm shifts. They pivot their companies, they change their strategies, but this is a time where I think just about every business out there is needing to change either what they sell, how they’re selling it, or who they’re selling it to.

You just mentioned how they’re doing it. They’re selling differently and they’re probably even broadening their account base. We had a meeting recently where a great marketeer was talking about how they had only marketed their tech product to 18 to 28 year olds, but now that everyone has become so tech savvy, especially the elderly population, it completely shifted who they’re selling to, and they’re now selling to a population that was not on their radar three months ago. 

What are you seeing some companies do or hearing some stories or some recommendations on how companies are selling to a different population and how they came about that? Meanwhile, they’re probably not changing their core competencies but are just leveraging it in a different way. 

Aaron Levy: I’ll just address this quickly and then let the rest of the team addresses it as well. But I’ve seen a lot of repurposing. For example, there is a company in Brea. I forgot their name, but they’re the top tee shirt manufacturer in the US and they almost laid off 500 employees when this started early March, mid March.  The CEO made a change and said, “Well, let’s just make masks and the advertise that I’m making masks with the same fabric that they have for the tee shirts.”  And they got million dollars of orders from all over. 

The biggest challenge that I see is the restaurants. It’s a big industry for both employees and for food. People don’t just don’t go out, and even if they do go out, at least 50% of the space will be allocated for spacing between people. So you’ve got 50% dropping revenue right there. And I think that’s the biggest challenge of how do you repurpose a restaurant?

So some say, “Okay, we’ll do the delivery” and some saying, “you know, open only for delivery.” And of course, I think it’s going to be a force to just open everything and let everybody get infected, then we’ll develop an immunity for it. Well, in the meantime, a lot of people are dying from this, so we don’t know what to do with this. But there’s a lot of the requirement to think in terms of repurpose, and that’s how I see the challenge. 

Rob Stultz: I think too, it’s a different strategy if you’re selling B to B or B to customer or consumer. I know personally, it’s almost gotten to the point where I needed to purchase a baling machine to take care of all the Amazon boxes that are piling up.

So consumers have shifted the way they buy. You don’t have to go to the store anymore. If you do, you can do curbside pickup and things like that, as long as you put your order in online. Restaurants are doing the same kind of thing. But I think first and foremost, and Aaron you made a good point – what can it be repurposed to do? Because one of the things I think people are doing is looking at what are my products? Are my products really in demand now? Do I need to shift? Am I selling buggy whips again? So look at what you’re selling before you look at how you’re selling and, of course, to whom you’re selling.

But I think I’d be interested in Robin’s thoughts on this. She’s been in marketing for so many years. The people who are actually quote, “the salespeople of the organizations,” will their jobs be significantly different?  I think they will because going out to lunch with a customer to make a sale is probably in the rear view mirror by now. 

Robin, what are your thoughts on that line?

Robin Schweitzer:  Actually I have a bunch of thoughts in regards to what they sell, how they sell, and who they are. I’ll address how they sell for a second. I do think that people have to, instead of an immediate jumped to change what they sell, they have to sit back and relax and say, “Okay, what are we selling? What would an offshoot be to address the situation?” And some people don’t have to change and some do. So really analyzing what the change needs to look like is important. 

How you sell is going to be very different. And there’s three things that I would say about that from a topical 50,000 foot view. One, is adjusting your sales process for the disruptive.  So the pipeline that you had before COVID isn’t going to move the same way. You have to really be analyzing your current pipeline and be re-establishing where they are on the sales process. You probably have to change your sales process, by the way, because the sales process will not be the same. Where you might have had four steps, five steps, six steps, whatever your individual selling processes is, those steps have changed. You need to address that to realign your organization, the sales and operations and marketing side with that new sales process. 

What do I mean by that? More people are going to be tech. We’ve known for years and years, the consumer is becoming so much more educated. They can go online, they could do their sorting. By the time they get to you, it’s about price half the time, right? But what a good sales force does there is there’s only so much that you can get from a website, or knowledge that you can get until you speak to somebody live or really understand and do a deep discovery.

So deep discovery for salespeople now that people  will continue to do online research is going to be key. How you question your clients about their needs. I think the whole discovery process has to be re-analyzed by sales organizations. You have to get better at it. You have to do value based questioning.

It’s new for the clients too. It’s new for the people that are buying, it’s new for the buyer. So I think that’s part of it. I also think, re-establishing bite size offerings. Right now, there’s an economic struggle for everybody. So where you would never do a trial perhaps, or taken an offering and melding it down to what I’ll call MVP, minimal viable product, and offering that so people can try it and mitigate risk perhaps. I think there’s something in bite sizing your offering as this time of uncertainty is upon us and economically budgets aren’t the same. 

The third thing I’d offer is, creating for marketing side, is high value content. We’ve got to start giving away high value content, like 10 steps of what to do if you are having a remote organization, Or things to consider, literally things that could be acted upon. Where in the old world, agree or disagree, depending where you are in the marketing world, you would gate that material to gain information. Now you’ve got to give that information away. So high value content has got to be where the marketing organization is going to help the sales organization.

So those are just a couple of my thoughts around how to sell.

John Morris: Robin, I just really agree with you on a couple of points. The digital brand, the digital content has to be very engaging. People are going to learn that putting somebody onto the landing page, the homepage isn’t enough.

I need very custom tailored landing pages that are giving my searcher with intent exactly what they want. I also think that the little pop up chat page that you often see on better websites will become a real point of contact in trying to find the user’s need. 

I also think the quality that the sales people that we have now, we put them on an airplane and we try to get them a meeting in somebody’s office to do it in person. That will go away, certainly in B2B worlds. The digital marketing space will explode as a lot of companies realize their brochure isn’t going to do it anymore. They can’t rely on the senior guy that was getting the commission check. He has lots of expenses. He has lots of hours on airplanes because he sees people in person and he has a very compelling presence. That model’s gone or broken. So I think the lowly little chat person will rise up and have a big impact.. 

Robin Schweitzer: John, you’re so spot on. The last couple of teams that I’ve run, chat is a very big channel. I have always thought chat will be a feature channel that could be moving to a one, two, three spot. It varies. 

John Morris: I think it will be huge 

Robin Schweitzer: Actually with the technology that’s going on in the chat world between chat bots being able to filter through, there’s so much efficiency going on in the chat channel that absolutely chat will, whoever’s paying attention to chat right now, that will be a virtual sales organization and it should be.

John Morris: And the concept of regional sales isn’t really relevant anymore. I don’t want to get on an airplane. And the reason we have regions is so I can go on short airplane rides instead of long ones. Now I don’t have to get on any. So I can put my best people in touch with my best customer candidates and be more mindful of a closing process that leads to a better outcome than just flying people around in a region that is managed by regional manager. I think that whole concept of organization goes away because a lot of people are now going to be virtual and they can talk to anybody in the country. 

Robin Schweitzer: Yeah, and if you think of everybody on this call, if you think of your personal behavior five, six years ago, I’d go for the instant contact than the phone. Now I go to chat. I go straight to chat. 

John Morris: Yes, email is is going to lose to chat in terms of connecting with somebody that has intent. I am seeing it in my own efforts. A cold email is a horrible way to try to introduce yourself. So chat will be important. But the landing page, the richer content -giving somebody that has intent more material earlier in the process, putting them in a funnel where you can pull them through the funnel with some trials and tests, some white papers, that kind of thing, to keep them engaged intellectually, that is where you want to be.

Aaron Levy: Robyn, basically, I agree with you. Doing a survey to validate what you’re offering will be great to see what customers need out there. But I’ve done something really interesting recently. People who are we were not able to get hold of them, like John said, via email, cold call, and so forth, I’ve sent messages, like “How you doing in COVID-19. We’d love to connect with you through Zoom,.”  And I’m getting responses like people are excited to build this zoom thing. It’s easier to connect with people saying, let’s zoom and they’re Zooming and I think they want to try it. 

Then it goes back to originally a lot of people who like the face to face communication in meetings. They miss that. So the closest one they get is zoom versus a phone call or an email. So you get that kind of crowd on zoom and you, after getting used to this media, they react and respond the same way that they would be if they were face to face because this is what it is. In fact, especially in Los Angeles, I’ll repeat that again. I’m not sure how it is in South Carolina, but in Los Angeles, the traffic is so horrendous here, that if I have a client in orange County or in San Diego, we’re talking hours. 

John Morris: Oh yeah, yeah. Two hours. Two hours one way. 

Aaron Levy: Yes, one way. And people talk about this every single day, so there’s more responsiveness for some reason today, “Let’s Zoom together. Let’s catch up in zoom,” and people respond to it. It’s kind of interesting.

Rob Stultz: Let me make one observation that kind of ties in with all of this. In the sales process, I think we’re going to see people from a company brought into the sales process that never were maybe in the past.  For example, in B to B kinds of industries, If I’m a buyer, a potential buyer, I may call up an organization and I want to speak to the engineer who designs the product that I want to use, and I want to zoom with that engineer. That engineer may have nothing to do with sales, but we need to train that engineer in that process because what that engineer says to that potential customer is so vital.

Robin Schweitzer: I’m only laughing Rob because whenever I have IT on the phone in the past, I’ve  held my breath and almost passed out because I’m like, “What are they going to say?” If you have the techie in the room that really does want to know the coding and the sequence and so forth, and you’re like, “Oh, please just don’t let them kill the deal.”

Now, we can have a more global approach to the client. Think of a key ring, right? You have a key to ops, you have a key to technology, you have a key to marketing, you have a key to HR, a key to billing. But you are the holder of those keys as a sales associate. If you position yourself correctly, you don’t have to be all those keys, but you have the ability to turn those keys and bring those departments in. And really adapt at cross-functional field cause you really shouldn’t be, as the marketer or the IT guru, you want to show the depth that you’ve got a developer who all he does is develop the interface and the customer experience. Also, getting off path just a bit, I think that the average sales person needs to become a little bit different than they are today and be able to sell differently, and get to the value and the intent. I also think a lot of times on the sales side, you have to meet the buyer where the buyer is. A lot of times they’re so misaligned that’s why they’re not closing.  

John Morris: Most sales professionals only spend 45 minutes in front of  a customer or a customer prospect in the course of a day. So it’s a pathetic touch.

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