The new customer journey

Engaging prospects in the “new normal”

It’s a tough time for business, and particularly for new business. With operations halted, uncertainties looming, and even handshakes becoming a thing of the past, sales pipelines have thinned and everyone is looking for ways to convert more new business.

But while we’re selling less during the pandemic, the fundamental need for sales hasn’t vanished—it just looks different. As we continue to prepare for a multitude of unknowns, one thing is certain: the customer journey has changed, maybe irrevocably so.

With face-to-face interactions no longer a prerequisite for closing major sales, businesses have had to embrace a digital-first sales process, and a multitude of different touchpoints are now in play. Below, we explore some of the most important entry and inflection points of the new journey for B2B customers—and what you can do to create the excellent experiences that turn prospects into buyers.

The pitch meeting, revisited

In-person pitches are pivotal moments in the customer journey. They’re your opportunity to gut-check your chemistry, to impress the room, to dig into the nuances of solving your customer’s problem. Without face-to-face meetings, sales teams need to pivot.

First, if you’re able to catch it at all, prospects’ time and attention span is limited. One Sullivan client’s large field sales team has found that previously multi-hour meetings are now contained to around 30 minutes. Teams should rethink their talking points and presentation materials, relying less on long decks and favoring tighter, more focused messages that bubble the most important content to the top.

We’re also seeing a trend of fewer formal pitches and more truncated phone calls and one-on-one check-ins with various decision makers. These personal interactions can help expedite an otherwise long or bureaucratic sales process. People tend to be more candid one-on-one, surfacing concerns they may not have in a larger group setting. And these calls often provide a glimpse into someone’s homelife. You might not have known your prospect has a dog or kids before they started appearing in your calls, but now you have opportunities to connect on a human level that goes beyond business.

Use these moments to build rapport and trust—ask the tough questions and allow prospects to ask theirs. Identify where shorter calls can and should take place in the customer journey, and use each one to build your relationship with prospects.

Surprise & delight from home

With pitch meetings, business lunches, conferences, and events all now taking place remotely, your prospect’s home has become an unlikely new entry point in the customer journey.

It would be easy enough to move all of these parts of the sales cycle to videoconference or phone calls—but your prospects will grow fatigued, and eventually, stop showing up. Instead, think of ways to complement virtual communication to break up the monotony of the remote lifestyle.

Many companies have embraced food delivery services to send their prospects and their families lunches or a nice meal. Coffee tasting or wine pairing kits take the place of wining and dining and add the option for interactivity. Sending coloring books to prospects with children feels far more thoughtful and useful than the traditional vendor gift (and don’t forget to brand it so they think of you)!

New prospects and long-standing clients alike will appreciate being thought of and supported. Even small gestures will stand out and can go far in both preserving and expanding business.

Hardworking digital touchpoints have more company

Your digital presence has always provided crucial entry points for prospects throughout the customer journey. Pre-pandemic McKinsey surveys showed that companies who provide buyers with outstanding digital experiences are more than twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier than those who provide poor experiences. In a virtual world, it’s likely these digital touchpoints have outsized impact.

Indeed, several Sullivan clients have forged ahead with our plans to redesign their websites even amid current turmoil. Clarifying their offerings and value propositions, optimizing navigation toward relevant resources, and creating more differentiated brand experiences support both immediate and long-term sales goals.

With many companies reducing ad spend, owned channels have become more important. New digital touchpoints—like branded Zoom backgrounds for video meetings, or opportunities to go live on LinkedIn or Instagram with company executives and thought leaders who might normally be traveling—are more ubiquitous and offer a chance to engage with your brand differently.

Virtual conferences have become another crucial touchpoint. Crafting engaging “booths,” panels, and keynotes can seem tricky when broadcasting from home, but with the right preparation, content, and tools, the experience can be valuable. The key is to remember to engage your prospects and encourage participation through Q&A, polls, voting, and audience interaction, so you’re not just talking at them.

Charting your organization’s new customer journey will not only highlight the important changes in your sales cycle; it will illuminate gaps in how you might be servicing prospects. Your teams will emerge from this exercise prepared to leverage new tactics and be helpful guides for customers along the new journey.