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Winning In Sales In A Pandemic, One Year Later

By Trina Rizzo, EVP of Sales at InMarket

Over a year into the COVID pandemic, there is a growing sentiment that the digital-first adaptations that began as patchwork have become ingrained into our standard approach to doing business.

When social-distancing restrictions took hold and our team at InMarket was forced remote, we had to reassess our company’s role in a fragmented advertising industry and rethink how we engage customers and prospects in the omnichannel sales environment. Despite these challenges, we were able to make 2020 a record year for our company. We worked with brands and agencies to help them rebuild their marketing approach, and collaborated on new ways to create value for them and their customers with a focus on value and creating great omni-channel experiences.

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While Q2 marks increased optimism for our gradual return to normal, our extended time social distancing has permanently changed habits. Now, it’s imperative that we reflect and take our learnings from the past 12 months to inform our go-forward strategies for growing revenue in 2021.

Looking forward at the uncertain road ahead including potentially returning to offices and doing face-to-face calls againk, we’re going to double down on what got us here: tailoring our offerings and interactions and aligning internal strategies to better meet clients’ needs. Here’s how:

Lead with value

When the pandemic and stay-at-home orders took hold, there was–understandably– a tremendous impact to consumer behavior. For marketers trying to operate in an uncertain environment, responding to quickly developing situations is essential. As an outbound sales expert, we need to relate to this need and rally behind it leading with value and information that helps folks be better informed.

For InMarket, this meant building our COVID InSights Center to be the go-to source for any brand looking to navigate an evolving landscape and to better reach their customers. Across marketing and sales departments, we leveraged these crucial insights to share information and start conversations. Our survey capabilities helped brands and agencies better understand what consumers intended to do, location data tracked changes in movements in the physical world and our proprietary transactional data helped brands understand how consumer purchase behavior was evolving.

With a focus on ROI during an uncertain economy we launched new offerings including InHome Moments and CTV solutions to reach consumers where they were spending more time – at home. We implemented new functionality into digital advertising efforts including click to cart, and online to curbside pickup functionality to support shifting consumer behaviors and growing health concerns.  We also expanded our Breakthrough Moments program to highlight success stories of leading consumer brands that pivoted in the face of unprecedented times to grow their brands and campaign performance when doing more with less was critical to success.

In retrospect, we reacted and adapted quickly by staying focused on helping our clients by leading with value and creating great experiences throughout the consumer journey.  We also had to shift the ways we engaged with prospects, customers and internal colleagues to engage and get the job done including:

How to build non-transactional customer dialogue

As dinners and in-person meetings became obsolete, these isolating conditions undeniably disrupted the traditional methods of communication with customers and prospects. In every interaction, there must be understanding and empathetic of their situation–factors like Zoom fatigue and burnout are rampant–to make communications succinct and pointed at every opportunity.

Just as companies have internally sought to create ways aimed at cultivating connections and community among employees, similar tactics can foster strengthened relationships with customers. Taking the time to get to know them personally and relate to their situations will further differentiate you from the competition. At InMarket, we strived to surprise and delight with care packages to recognize the new reality and new interactive virtual events offering a respite from our groundhog day existence and connect with a wide variety of passions and interests including custom cooking, wine tasting, chocolate and fitness events.

How to work across departments

Prior to the pandemic, it felt as if marketing and sales departments had marched toward different metrics in pursuit of the same basic goal – growing revenue; the pandemic has proved this mentality as flawed time and time again. The reality is that by collaborating with the marketing team, sales receives greater insights into useful data that lead with value and emphasizes knowledge of the situation. In order to win in Q2, these teams will have to continue to collaborate regularly to power every initiative.

Internally, we rallied to create a symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales–separate in space but equal in our role to help the company grow. InMarket’s sales team noted a myriad of benefits from tapping into the marketing team’s resources, including stronger and more effective strategies and compelling data analyses. Together, we leveraged this data to help educate and build awareness around shifting consumer behaviors through a series of lunch and learns and briefings covering our finding and diving deeply into a variety of topics from the emergence of iOS14 to the implications of the forthcoming crumbling cookie. I can aptly say that without the hustle and determination of our sales, marketing and client success teams, we wouldn’t have succeeded.

Although physical separation of companies has greatened, the digital-first work environment provides increased opportunities for communication with other departments. To continue winning in unprecedented times, teams will have to be hyper-vigilant about adapting to the ebbs and flows of economic recovery.

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