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Seven Urgent Tasks for Pivoting Account Based Sales During the Coronavirus Pandemic and Beyond

5 min readMarch 26, 2020

Like many B2B companies, you’ve been running a disciplined account based sales and marketing program. To get there, you invested countless hours analyzing product market fit across industries, segments and individual companies. You relentlessly tested messaging across digital channels, SDR outreach initiatives and events, having little reason to doubt your conclusions. After all, recent headlines like “US economy smashes forecasts, adds 266,000 jobs,” were still fresh. 

But the world has changed. According to TOPO, 87% of B2B companies surveyed have already experienced pipeline impact. Some companies will remain in growth mode, but entire sectors face an economic cliff. Now what? 

There are no easy answers, but one thing is for sure: every company will have to change. Even companies that are remote by design — specifically created to support remote work – have to make adjustments. 

Here are a few of the things needed to fast-track the shifts needed to remain competitive.

Embrace an Agile Culture at the Management Level

Before you can make meaningful strategic and tactical changes, you must get employee buy-in, and fast. Amidst uncertainty, Gartner advises companies to “Lead and lean into the forces of change rather than be led by them.” That might sound easy, but not every member of your team is in an agile mindset. In fact, considering how much preparation goes into creating a tightly coordinated ABS and ABM program, your ABM/ABS-focused employees might be among the most entrenched in previously laid plans. 

While it may be advisable to keep as many of your organizational routines as possible, including regularly set meetings and processes, managers must make it clear that change is needed. Gartner advises managers to “incorporate flexibility into the culture with agile marketing and a focus on quick, nimble projects.” 

Back Off The Most Affected Sectors

Revisiting target market segments are at the top of TOPO’s recommendations. For a sales development rep (SDR) trying to set a meeting with a target account, there’s no worse feeling than getting chewed out by someone who’s about to lose their job. Selling to people who are about to lose everything is awkward at best. Spare your reps and your corporate reputation this trauma by monitoring the latest economic data and adjusting accordingly. More importantly, focus on sectors where new opportunities are opening up.

For economists, these are historic times, so expect nonstop analysis like this excellent report from the Brookings Institution forecasting which industries and areas may be hit hardest.

Be Prepared To Adjust Geographic Sales Territories

This pandemic will affect different geographic areas in different ways. If you organize your sales team or quotas by geography, now is the time to begin thinking about how those will be impacted over the coming months.

Economists and think tanks have been developing models to predict the impact of a pandemic on businesses for decades. Many of them lay out details on which industries and states may be hit the hardest. As you adjust your account-based sales plan, we’d suggest drawing on this data to consider how your territories and quotas are structured on a state-by-state basis. 

In addition to the Brookings Institution reports mentioned earlier, this 2007 economic model from the nonprofit think tank Trust for America’s Health may be a crystal ball into current events. While detailing many of the exact societal impacts we are seeing today in their projections, it also covers a projected state-by-state economic impact on page 8. Page 13 discusses shrinkage volume of a prolonged pandemic economic impact to specific industries. 

Inject Economic and Social Consciousness Into Your Messaging

Between email and social channels, I can easily get 50-100 inbound sales messages per day, mostly from software companies. While prospects are right to think that Revenue.io is well-positioned for a world that works remotely, I’m still astonished at how little social awareness is contained in the automated sales cadences coming into my inbox. The following real email is pretty typical:

I’ve been reaching out to see if you’d be open to having a quick conversation about ?

In the meantime, check out these case studies below about companies who’ve chosen to fuel their growth by moving to :”

In other words, it’s the same non-personalized growth-oriented message that’s been sent over the past several years. Your reps don’t have to talk about Coronavirus in detail, but now more than ever, tailored messaging that focuses on issues that individual companies may be facing right now are the ones most likely to cut through.

As an example, our messaging the best technologies and practices for remote work has been overperforming, and the reason is obvious: despite the fact that most tech employees work remotely at least some of the time, managing a fully remote team is still a huge adjustment. It’s all about adjusting to buyer pain points. 

Make Sure Your Target Buyers Are Still In The Same Roles

Your ABS lists are likely filled with very specific target buyers, and now may not be the best time to simply set and forget all those email cadences. Even companies that aren’t hit hard may be making structural adjustments. For example, someone previously focused on rapid global expansion may be moved to manage efficiency or optimization. 

In times like these, it might pay off to double check to make sure your target buyer is still focused on the same things they were focused on traditionally. If someone new is in the role, you might actually be the first one to reach them and hear their new pain points and objectives.

Analyze Performance Data Often and Increase Cross-Departmental Sharing

Frequent data analysis is required for ABS and ABM efforts, but you should double-down both data inspection and cross-departmental coordination in the near term. Last week, I invited our Senior Director of Sales to speak during our daily marketing standup. In addition to bringing us a really great idea for collaboration, she also shared what she’s hearing on the ground, which is essential as we become increasingly agile. Mid-week, I sent half my marketing team to see incredibly enlightening product usage data from our Head of Product. Next Monday, our COO and Customer Success are presenting data to the marketing team so that we can hear what customers are telling us they’re experiencing. 

Embrace Sales Tech that Supports Coaching, Real-Time Performance Insight and Management Productivity

Some real sales heroes will emerge over the next few months. Meanwhile, other reps will struggle with tactics, targeting and messaging as the market shifts. Things could get messy, especially if your team is working remotely for sustained periods of time. That means your management skills will be needed more than ever before, and you’re going to need to know which reps are struggling and why. Based on our own product usage, we’re seeing sharp increases in sales management usage of real-time insight capabilities as well as conversation intelligence, which makes it possible to focus only on trigger moments such as objection handling, competitor question handling or any other topic of concern. Make sure you are well-equipped as a manager to weather the coming storm.