While the pandemic has changed a lot about business, one thing that hasn’t shifted is companies’ need to attract customers. Sales execution has always been a top challenge for businesses, but they need to continuously be thinking through the best approaches and channels to reach ideal customers.

These topics and more were discussed at the latest CO— Roadmap for Rebuilding event. Event host Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief at CO—, led the discussion, which featured advice about lead generation, supply chain management and much more. Panelists included Alex Cole-Murphy, Recruitment Specialist and Sales Development Expert at Anthony Cole Training Group; Ally Delgado, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Merchology; Rialand Jones, Owner of Lammar Marie's Gourmet Popcorn; and Ryan P. Kelly, Vice President of E-Commerce and Alliance Marketing of FedEx Services.

Here are some of the most critical points from the discussion.

The best sources for sales leads

Cole-Murphy, who works to recruit and train salespeople, notes three best ways to source leads for sales. They are:

  • Introductions and referrals: Both of these are important, but there is a distinction between the two. Referrals are when a personal or business connection suggests you talk to another person, and they only give you contact information. Introductions occur when that same connection goes a step further and actively introduces you to the potential client. Cole-Murphy suggests trying to make that connection be a strong advocate for you and your business.
  • Social and online selling: This is when you collect leads through online means, including social media and search engine marketing. Cole-Murphy says you need to be active on the channel you are most interested in engaging with customers on.
  • Cold calling: While the act of calling someone without an introduction is an old-school method, Cole-Murphy says it can still work. Her top tips are not spending much time on research before calling and when you call to only “say your name and stop.” She says that these calls are not about pitching but really to have a conversation.

People want to find information, they want to find pictures, and they want to feel like their transaction is secure online. But they still want to know there are people behind the screen, and they want to call to discuss their needs.

Ally Delgado, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Merchology

Offer customers both excellent technology and human interactions

As the pandemic changed consumer behavior, more people have shifted to an online-first approach to buying. That said, Delgado notes that customers still expect clear-cut and responsive human support.

“Service is just as important as ever, but it needs to be paired with technology,” Delgado said. “People want to find information, they want to find pictures, and they want to feel like their transaction is secure online. But they still want to know there are people behind the screen, and they want to call to discuss their needs. You need someone there that is taking care of you.”

Take a more personalized approach to landing customers

One trick for growing your sales that Jones suggests is to go after potential customers in a more personal way, including filming custom videos and sending handwritten letters.

“It costs a little bit more, but the impact is greater,” Jones said. “One of those things for larger orders is, I make a video and send it to this person. Or I’ll write a letter and send it to this person. The letter is not technology but people like getting stuff through the mail that’s personalized to them. That’s how we approach it to have that human aspect. And it’s not just emails all the time.”

Make sure you have supply chain resilience

Another vital thing impacting sales today is strained and inconsistent supply chains. Kelly suggests that businesses need to think more broadly about how resilient their supply chain is to never run out of products.

“The big picture is ‘don’t have all of your eggs in one basket,’” Kelly said. “Whether you fulfill out of one location or only ship with one carrier or only sell on one channel, that creates a tremendous amount of risk to your business and your team. It goes back to having options and having a backup plan. Imagine the people who have inventory stuck in the Suez Canal still. What are you going to do when you run out of inventory?”

Learn from your larger competitors’ mistakes

Small businesses that want to improve sales can find an edge against larger competitors by studying what their competitor is doing wrong, Jones suggested.

“Look at whoever you perceive as your top national competitors,” Jones said. “What do they do well and what do they suck at? You can figure that out by going to their reviews. Anything three-star and below, look at that. Not one-star reviews because they are just angry. The two and three-star reviews will tell you what people are really thinking. A lot of big businesses lose the human feel. Use that to your advantage. If people hate, for example, that a processing time is too long, then how can I make my processing time faster?”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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