The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just take lives and livelihoods – it reshaped the foundations of customer behaviour and sales strategies. Startups that saw their sales tank overnight now face a transformative new landscape defined by digitisation, value focus, and unprecedented customer expectations.
Simply put, the old sales playbooks are obsolete. In this new normal, adapting sales strategies quickly is non-negotiable for startups seeking to survive and compete. The winners will be those agile enough to retool their sales machine so it aligns with post-COVID, digital-first customers prioritising flexibility, transparency, and ultra-relevant buying journeys.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to shift your sales strategy to a digital-first approach.
- The importance of content as the new sales workhorse.
- Strategies to demonstrate tangible customer value in every interaction.
- Techniques to personalize the sales journey for each customer.
- The need for specializing your sales team to cater to specific customer segments.
- Innovating sales operations to adapt to market volatility.
- Upskilling sales leadership to navigate and thrive in the new normal.
These steps are vital for startups striving not just to survive but to thrive in this transformative landscape.
1) Shift to a digital selling strategy
The digital-first customer mandate has made online sales enablement a must. With in-person meetings and event attendance still unlikely to reach pre-COVID levels, sellers must embrace video calls, virtual product demos and digital relationship building as standard practice.
The challenge is replicating the experience and ‘human touch’ that builds sales rapport. Useful techniques involve:
- Personalising display names and backdrops on video calls
- Sending handwritten notes and surprise gift boxes to prospects
- Leveraging chatbots and lifelike avatars to engage website visitors.
On the tech enablement front, sales teams need the right stack supporting video conferencing, sales forecasting, customer analytics and competitive intelligence. Mobile optimization is also a must – By 2025, over 80% of sales interactions will occur on digital devices. The scalable sale will likely be the distant sale.
2) Lead with generous content
Content has stepped up as the new sales workhorse. Pre-COVID, startups relied heavily on inbound inquiries and outbound pitches. Today, your owned media channels need to pull their weight to drive the complete sales cycle.
From attracting awareness to fueling consideration, content marketing makes or breaks the complex B2B journey in many scenarios. Strategic startups are creating binge-worthy assets like:
- Market research reports
- Competitive comparisons
- ROI calculators
- Customer case studies tailored to each decision stage.
Repurposing evergreen thought leadership content across channels and communities. The goal is mapping content to the context-specific needs, questions and triggers of the modern buyer. This content-powered approach earns customer mindshare while establishing thought leadership credibility.
3) Obsess over customer value
The pandemic altered buyer psychology and economic reality. Customers emerged far more cautious, scrutinising every purchase for tangible value. Startups’ sales strategies can no longer just sell visions or promises, as clients demand proof and measurable ROI.
This means reframing sales messaging around quantified business outcomes and cost savings. Be ready to prove how you’ll impact revenue, productivity, risk mitigation, or other metrics your buyers care about. Going granular on the value you deliver is now sales table stakes.
Moreover, customers need education on adapting to post-COVID. Provide valuable thought leadership content around topics like digital transformation, work-from-home strategies, changing industry dynamics and relevant tech innovations.
Position your startup as an expert guide helping customers navigate uncharted waters. The sales experience must feel like an insightful consultancy.
4) Personalise the sales journey
Customers crave human connection and sales interactions tailored uniquely to them. Startups must leverage data and predictive analytics to hyper-personalise outbound messaging and inbound site experiences.
Segment contacts based on firmographic and technographic attributes to customise content and campaigns to their contexts. Track engagement metrics to serve up dynamic recommendations and offers. While personalisation technology is essential, nothing can replace the human touch in closing deals.
Encourage sales reps to showcase their distinct personalities and build genuine rapport. Have customer-facing teams regularly share their own stories, struggles and motivations when engaging prospects.
And authenticity establishes trust and drives sales, especially when tactfully highlighted through corporate storytelling. The winning sales strategy will combine scalable personalisation technology with vulnerable, irreplicable human moments.
5) Specialise your sales team
Gone are the days when a sales charm and scattershot prospecting brought in deals. Today’s customers tune out any rep unable to address their precise pain points. This demands that startups structure their sales teams around niche roles and specialisations aligned to customer segments.
Hire and develop reps with micro-vertical expertise in either industry domains, company sizes or use cases. Complement with sales engineers fluent in specific applications of your product. Not only will conversion rates rise when customers feel deeply understood, but specialised reps will unlock targeted upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
Underpin specialisation with ongoing training and coaching programs levelling up reps’ segment and product mastery. Sales organisations structured around niche domains of value outperform – and outsell – generalist peers. The new winning edge lives within a sales team blossoming with expertise.
6) Innovate sales strategies & operation
Nimbleness is now a competency for a competent sales strategies and effective sales teams. With market volatility the norm, customers and deals cannot be constrained to static pipelines. Startups must rethink outdated sales operations geared toward stability rather than agility.
KPIs must shift from lagging indicators like revenue attainment to leading drivers like activity volume, pipeline velocity and win rates. As customer needs seem to shift quarterly today, sales operations must enter continuous innovation mode rather than chasing elusive best practices. The mantra is “structure for change” while keeping customer-centricity constant.
KPIs must similarly shift from lagging indicators like revenue attainment to leading drivers like activity volume, pipeline velocity and win rates. As customer needs seem to shift quarterly today, sales operations must enter continuous innovation mode rather than chasing elusive best practices. The mantra is “structure for change” while keeping customer-centricity constant.
7) Upskill sales leadership
While sales strategies keep evolving post-COVID, inspired sales leadership remains immutable. The volatility of recent years calls for managers to become steadfast coaches building organisational resilience, adaptability and empathy.
Sales leaders need to prepare teams to expect constant change while providing the psychological safety to experiment with it. They need to liaise more broadly across marketing, customer success and product teams to promote enterprise-wide customer intelligence sharing.
And leadership skills must be selectively upgraded through access to executive coaching and change management boot camps that turn uncertainty into an opportunity. For startups, the cost of stagnant sales leadership will only compound amidst post-COVID uncertainties in the coming years. Upskilling managers mitigate sales risk today and tomorrow.
Summary: the new sales strategy
While the sales scene has permanently changed post-COVID, the need for a revenue engine remains every startup’s priority. Follow the seven steps outlined – digitising processes, leading with content, obsessing over value, personalising touchpoints, specialising reps, innovating operations and transforming leadership – to realign sales to the next normal.
As customer behaviours and market forces keep shifting, build a sales machine primed for flexibility, resilience and customer-centricity above all. Adaptability is the new sales superpower startups need today to emerge stronger.
Are you ready to transform your startup’s approach to sales and emerge stronger in this post-COVID world? Take the first step today, and let’s navigate this journey together. For more insights and practical advice on thriving in the ever-evolving sales landscape, stay connected with our blog.