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Communicating with your Customers During COVID-19

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the market right now as we simultaneously face a global health pandemic and an economic crisis.

To combat this uncertainty, we recently launched our Weathering the Storm: 2008 & Now webinar series to provide tactical guidance for our enterprise community of startups, corporate executives, and investors.

Our inaugural session featured two senior Wall Street IT execs who shared tactical advice around how startups can best communicate with existing customers and prospects during this time.

First and foremost, customer empathy is always important in enterprise sales, but especially during these times you’ll need to up your game in order to differentiate yourself from the competition.

We broke the tips down based on whether it’s new outreach, an active customer conversation, or an existing customer.

1. New Outreach

Most Fortune 500 companies are on pause and their priorities are changing on a dime. The goal for startups while corporate checkbooks may be mostly closed, is to use this time to educate potential customers so that you’ll be in a position to pounce when budgets open up.

What matters the most in this environment is finding the right person inside an organization and trying to develop a texting relationship.

There are two ways startups can position their products — a desire for gain or a fear of loss.

In this environment, pitches need to master the “fear of loss” approach. Remember that people don’t just buy your product. Instead, they buy the solution your product does for them.

  • Market your product as “you can save X%” or “ you can avoid Y% of outages.” This resonates with customers, so it’s important to communicate that upfront.
  • Put your product ‘win’ in the subject line of your emails.
  • Do your homework and use this extra time to really diligence your customers. Read through the company’s website and understand what they truly do and what they want.

The more thoughtful you can make your email, the better chance you’ll get a reply. Keep it brief and don’t include an attachment.

Once you land a phone call, don’t make assumptions about their needs. Ask the right questions to find out what’s going on, learn where you can offer specific help, and come up with suggestions.

Stay in touch with people but don’t always make it about selling something. Instead, during this time of continued uncertainty, make it about asking the right questions so that you stay attuned to the customer’s changing needs.

In general, if your product is not a top priority for a Fortune 500 company right now, be aware that they may not engage right away.

  • The network is crucial and it is your job to be creative to figure out a slightly better way to send out your messaging. Leverage your investors if they have strong networks in the Fortune 500.
  • In tough times like this there are areas that are growing exponentially so it’s critical to identify where those areas are and identify who’s going to spend money.
  • Things that are falling on deaf ears are: (i) unrequested offers for free software, and (ii) emails from companies that haven’t turned off their recurring emails come off as thoughtless.

Remember — enterprise sales is a 12+ month slog anyway. Use this time for relationship building to your strategic advantage. Though you may not be able to sell right now, you can position yourself best for a sale when things resume normalcy.

Active Sales Conversation

The key thing right now is to have a cadence on the phone with your customers to continually understand their needs as things evolve.

  • Keep asking the right questions and be direct — ask what’s going to happen and don’t settle for vague answers. Re-qualifying the needs for your product is critical.
  • Be pleasantly persistent, but understand that corporations are working from home en masse for the first time ever, and many people are now juggling kids, elderly parents, and other concerns at home.

Existing Customers

If you know your customer well and have a strong relationship, be thoughtful in your messaging: Instead of saying a generic “how can I help?” give them “three specific needs” where you can help out the most based on other customers you’re working with. This actually can help them in a time of stress and present an incredible upsell for you.

This is just one part of our Weathering the Storm series, so be sure to sign up for our Enterprise Weekly below to keep posted on future webinars.



Work-Bench is an enterprise technology VC fund in NYC. We support early go-to-market enterprise startups with community, workspace, and corporate engagement. Sign up to get our digest of top content & industry news weekly:

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Jonathan Lehr

All enterprise tech, all the time || VC @Work_Bench, Founder of @NYETM, and @KauffmanFellows Class 19 || I also tweet (a lot) about the @MiamiHEAT