Guest post by Richard Mabey

The pandemic had a huge impact on most businesses, but SMEs were possibly hit the hardest.

Larger, well-established companies may have had reserves of cash to help them through this difficult time and IT departments who could help transition companies to universal remote working.

For SMEs, particularly at the early stages, growth is all that matters, and pressing pause on strategic plans isn’t an option.

And yet, pushing through can also be a massive struggle – how do you secure customers in such strange circumstances, when businesses are winding down and may be hesitant to buy? How can SMEs make sure they’re still serving the market when the future is so uncertain?

At my startup, Juro, we were fortunate enough to keep our team working remotely through the crisis, and even launched a freemium version of our contract automation platform to help our customers and small businesses with their contracts. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way about how businesses can get deals signed during lockdown.

  1. Make your sales process more efficient

B2B SaaS (software-as-a-service) tends to be an area that attracts a lot of venture capital. Sales in this sector can become complicated, with plenty of stages:

  • Site visitors become leads
  • If the business feels it can address and resolve the lead’s pain points, a sales rep will contact them to find out if they’re a qualified lead – as in, whether it’s a deal worth pursuing. They’ll be passed on to a senior salesperson
  • That senior member of the sales team will offer a demonstration of the product
  • If the lead is interested in buying, then sales will work with them to close the deal and turn that lead into a customer

Making this process more efficient doesn’t involve skipping stages; each stage is essential for a proper, well-informed qualification that allows customers to make the right decision. Teams skipping a stage also run the risk of showcasing a product that doesn’t address the customer’s problems, which is a waste of time for everyone involved.

Instead, be sure to look for time savings in the workflow itself.

  • Find tech that can do the heavy-lifting. Manually inputting lead data is time-consuming, so find a solution that lets your sales team get back to closing. Software like Clearbit or ZoomInfo can help sales teams enrich their lead data, adding in key details such as the industry your contact works in and their current role at the business
  • Build urgency. Booking kick-off meetings during the sales process can emphasise the urgency of the deal, and make sure that the interactions don’t lose momentum. Similarly…
  • Involve senior salespeople at an earlier stage in the deal, so you can plan ahead and close deals faster
  1. Use eSignature to sign deals faster

With each closed deal comes a lengthy contract process – sales teams need to distribute order forms, NDAs, routine sales contracts, and more, to keep both parties aligned and make sure the business protects itself in this relationship. And the contract process can get time-consuming, especially if it involves multiple Word files, email chains, and a signing process that usually requires a printer, scanner, and physically signing the document.

But contracts don’t need a wet signature to be valid anymore, except in certain circumstances. SMEs are increasingly turning to contract management software to automate routine paperwork, so sales teams can self-serve on documents without having to wait for other teams – saving them time and enabling them to focus instead on building a positive relationship with their new customer.

  1. Pivot if you can

When COVID began to spread, demand in industries like travel, or the arts, unfortunately dwindled. But there are industries that have maintained activity, and even increased it, since lockdowns came into play – and focusing the business’ attention on those sectors may help SMEs thrive during a difficult period.

Food delivery, for example, had to deal with increased demand as people were restricted to their homes. In the weeks following the outbreak, we saw some dramatic usage patterns in Juro, where some of the biggest food delivery marketplaces manage their contracts. We saw some customers increase their usage by more than 300 per cent week on week, as they worked to manage skyrocketing demand and welcome new restaurants onto their platforms.

Healthcare was another industry that saw huge spikes in demand. For SMEs in healthtech, the pandemic brought a different kind of problem – businesses in their earlier stages may not be fully equipped to handle the sheer volume of demand coming their way. SMEs in this industry may be looking to ramp up hiring so they can address the surge in customers, for example, or open to buying products and services that make their day-to-day operations a little easier.

We decided to launch free accounts to help our customers in food delivery, healthcare, and other industries impacted heavily by COVID. Through these free plans, customers could collaborate on contracts without leaving the browser, and save time on high-volume documents, like NDAs, employment offer letters, and order forms.

The launch paid off – we noticed the volume of contracts being signed for some customers skyrocket, increasing 300% week on week, as businesses tried to find alternative ways to handle their documents.

By following these strategies we’ve been able to close deals through lockdown and continue to grow – which is essential at any early-stage business. The lessons we’ve learned through this challenging experience have been invaluable, and will surely help businesses thrive in the future, when life starts to return to normal again.

Richard Mabey is the CEO of Juro, the contract automation platform.

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