I’d actually started writing this before I happened to make contact with Steven Smith, Managing Director at The Lead Generation Company, for the previous article Expert Tips On Prospecting For New Customers In The UK.
Episode 5 of this podcast was titled B2B Sales With Simple Content Marketing. In it, I talked about simple content marketing work that companies can do to support their sales work. This was based on work I had been doing during the first quarter of 2020. Then, of course, the world was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. My work was agreed and my time was scheduled, but I did stop to think “Should we continue prospecting during the Coronavirus lockdown period?”
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Prospecting for Leads in Early-2020
My initial concern was ‘could it be perceived as insensitive to start the sales process at this time?’ Peoples lives had been disrupted. EVERYONE’S life has been disrupted to varying degrees. Then, in a short email exchange, one of my customers said “Shall we proceed due to Corona?… I think there is no need to send letters in this situation.” At first, I thought they are putting the project on hold. Actually, it was just one small aspect of the work – sending material through the postal service – that they were delaying. It made me think, though…
My customer manufactures consumer products and we are approaching professional buyers, in the USA, with a range of seasonal products. Even if these buyers are working from home, they ARE still working and should also be thinking about winter 2020. If they need this product, then they still need to place orders. Someone will be doing this work. That was my rationale as I started this prospecting work during March 2020. Work that would involve connecting with people on LinkedIn, then sending direct emails and follow-up LinkedIn messages with product info and links to content, in order to find engaged buyers and activate them to talk with us, in an online meeting. An online meeting is a much more familiar scenario to people now we are keeping a social distance.
Responses Received from Selected Contacts
So, back to my example. I was curious to see what response we would get from these Buyers. Were they receptive to new product proposals? OR had I misjudged things completely? Here are some of the replies I received:
- Auto-reply “The… team and I have been furloughed and will be out of office for at least the next 30 days, returning mid-May. Please note, we will have no access to (work) email or systems while out. We will respond to your request upon return.”
- Auto-reply “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working with a reduced staff at our Home Office. If your inquiry requires immediate attention, please contact (name of alternative contact)”
- “Mark – Good timing, working on the 2020 Winter… program as we speak. Please email me pricing and digital catalog. Couple quick questions (about our products and pricing)…”
- “Good morning Mark… we’re in the midst of a total stores shutdown and pandemic. Why don’t you put me on the calendar for a mid-June email to discuss further? We need the dust to settle a bit around here.”
- “Thank you for your inquiry. At this time due to COVID-19 we are cancelling orders with many vendors and not looking at new products. Feel free to check back in after 6 months.”
Quite a mix of responses, some are not working, others are working at home but may not be as responsive because they are covering for colleagues. Some are not buying or, even, cancelling orders, while others are actively planning their winter range. The responses I received were matter-of-fact but no-one was upset that I’d made contact, even if they were not yet ready to engage.
Lead Generation Experiences (March-May 2020)
If you listen back to episode 8, you will hear my conversation with Steven Smith from The Lead Generation Company in the UK. As well as giving us ‘Expert Tips On Prospecting For New Customers In The UK’, he also said that the fact that people are working at home has created new opportunities. After eight weeks of lockdown, there is now more positivity and some companies are starting to make purchases again.
Also, people who have been working at home are more willing to take calls in an attempt to stay connected with the outside world. Also, potential barriers to prospecting are being removed and, in some cases, it is easier to make direct contact with company executives. He agreed that people are much more accepting of a video call for the first meeting, currently, a video call may even be preferable. I’d actually started writing this episode before I happened to make contact with Steven. It was reassuring to hear that his thoughts matched my experiences.
Should We Continue Prospecting?
In the past few weeks, I’ve found my workload to be a little lighter than I’d hoped. So I too decided to focus on searching for new customers, in Finland, for my company. If you’re reading this because I recently connected with you, then welcome, I hope you find this useful somehow. Not everyone has responded and not everyone is interested in what I’m offering, but no-one has been offended by receiving a sales approach. So, my conclusion is that we should continue to make those connections, keep trying to find new opportunities but tread carefully and be aware that some people (especially overseas) are in a worse situation than most of us in Finland.
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