Case study: Sales lessons through COVID-19 and beyond
Life changed at the drop of a hat
The biggest challenge we faced in the wake of COVID-19 was having to get to grips with the fact that our daily lives, both personal and professional, had to change at the drop of a hat, along with the indefinite uncertainty.
To address these challenges, we had to continue to work closely and maintain communication with employees. We were also in contact with all of our clients regularly – postponing was a tough call but one that was necessary.
As a team, greater rejection from prospects was a bitter pill to swallow initially, but as the lockdown continued, the team found new business to target, which in turn should support the shows in 2021.
Reminding colleagues to put themselves in the client’s shoes was a powerful message to help them realise how difficult it was for clients especially those in the healthcare sector.
With 50% of CloserStill Media’s shows in the healthcare sector, we had to pivot quickly to online education to maintain the visibility in the market and keep our brands in the mind’s eye, as with many shows there will be a two-year gap.
Within four weeks of the lockdown we delivered our first of many weekly webinars, and to date have delivered 30 across healthcare in three months.
A surprising result for CSM was that Healthcare, though under extreme time constraints, still need education. As such evening and weekend webinars have delivered fantastic audiences. In the beginning, these were delivered with show education partners `free education’. Now they are being purchased by clients and offered to health professional for free.
CSM has a large eLearning portfolio and so implemented training in-house from our American colleagues, who have actually been running online education for 20+ years.
We formed ‘super user’ teams to develop new products and test systems so that we could quickly deliver online education. We even ran webinars for clients (current and prospect) on how to get the best out of webinars.
Moving on from COVID-19
Our long-term strategy is to get back to running physical exhibitions. That being said, the ability to add a webinar to a sponsorship package is enticing and we now have the capability and stats to do just that!
Unfortunately, the exhibition has had to go through some drastic changes over the last four months. We have encouraged team members of furlough to attend as much training either through CSM or externally as possible so that when they return to the business, they will be able to hit the ground running. This will be of vital importance to any business, otherwise, we will find ourselves going through the same initial decline period when the pandemic started.
To thrive in this industry going forward, flexibility is going to be key – not just selling sqms, talking but most importantly, listening to your clients. Ask them how the pandemic has affected their business and put together packages that will help deliver their KPIs. Helping them look good, in the long run, will help you deliver a bigger and better product.
Conduct your own research
Some final advice for other organisers training sales teams is first and foremost, research.
Continue to talk to your audience - both clients and attendees to ensure what you are offering is what they need.
Make sure your sales teams recognise the value of what you are offering – education is fantastic but most people want visibility and access to our databases.
Ensure your sales teams understand what they are selling. Being able to describe previous examples adds credibility – how many webinars have they attended? Have they supported the operations team in delivering them, have you?
This is the same as running a show - put the hard graft in and you will reap the rewards.
Laura Shapiro, Group Event Director, CloserStill Media.