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Driven newsletter archive

Issue 24. March 28, 2020

How the virus attacks sales pipe | Prospecting in the time of COVID-19 | Better videoconferences

How did your week and month go?

Or where did they both go?

Is your work-from-home life starting to feel like an endless loop of Groundhog Day?

Are you padding around home in flip-flops, sweat pants, and a ratty old t-shirt?

If you look like that during work hours, friend, I hope you get back to your normal routine real soon.

Seriously, let’s all commit to at least making our bed as soon as we wake up. A former navy SEAL wrote a whole book about this.

Today’s Driven brings you more and shorter articles than you’ve seen here in recent issues.

If you like this balance of brevity and variety, I’ll stay with it. Otherwise, we’ll go back to fewer, deeper articles. Tell me what you prefer.

In this week’s issue…

Your prior issue suggested 12 things savvy revenue leaders can do now to power through the next few weeks.

This week continues in a similar vein. What else can you do now to protect your revenue?

Today you’ll see many ideas from TOPO, a sales and marketing consultancy that works with high-growth companies.

I’ve gone all in on TOPO’s insights this week because they’re among the best of the many I saw.

We look at these topics, in order:

  • Survey research: How the virus attacks sales pipes
  • Fast and agile: Sales prospecting and messaging in a time of crisis
  • 2 cool ways to improve the quality of videoconference calls

Reading time

Your reading time this week is about 10 minutes if you read at 200 words per minute.


Survey of revenue teams: How the virus attacks sales pipes

What’s going on out there?

While we’ve been sheltering in place, how has the coronavirus affected the work of our peers in other SaaS companies?

Are they seeing the same changes we’re experiencing? And what’s the virus doing to other peoples’ sales pipelines?

This article answers all these questions. It does so by sharing the findings of ongoing survey research that TOPO began in early March.

Why it matters now

Things are changing so fast, it’s hard to keep pace.

Even so, you have to keep moving, making the best decisions you can with the limited information you have.

The better your current information, the better your decisions are likely to be.

TOPO tracks effects of the virus on 400+ revenue leaders

TOPO launched an online survey to track how the virus is affecting the work of B2B revenue teams. Respondents include anyone who completes an online form.

TOPO doesn’t share the industry segments of respondents. But it’s a safe bet that most are in B2B software. I say that because SaaS is where TOPO appears to do most of its consulting.

The data in this article comes from responses they collected between March 1 and March 21.

How is buyer behavior changing?

The survey asks which changes in buyer behavior have made it harder to generate pipeline.

In week 3, respondents said their buyers’ shift to working from home had the most negative effect of any change TOPO asked about.

That change occurred fast and dramatically, as you see in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Buyer behavior is changing fast

The effects of buyer behavior on seller’s ability to build pipeline

N= 400+, from March 1 to March 21

Source: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact Survey, TOPO.

In week 1, almost a third of respondents (32%) said they had a harder time building pipe because buyers were working from home. By week 3, 81% said it had a negative effect. That number increased by about 250% in 2 weeks.

Prohibitions on corporate travel had the second-most negative effect on sales pipe. In week 3, almost three-fourths (72%) of respondents said it was a problem for them.

Restrictions on face-to-face meetings was the third-most limiting factor. In week 3, 68% of respondents said it’s a problem.

In early March, just 16% of respondents said it was a problem that buyers weren’t booking meetings. By week 3, that number rose to 40%, an increase of 150%.

What’s the likely effect on pipeline?

Four-fifths (80%) of respondents said they expect the virus to have a negative effect on their pipeline. About two-thirds (64%) said the effect would be moderate, and 16% said it would be severe.

In contrast, 8% said they expect their company to see an increase in their pipeline. Most of the respondent who expect to benefit from the virus work for firms providing technologies that enable remote work.

These numbers are likely to change when TOPO releases their new update soon. With ongoing travel bans and work-from-home orders, it seems likely all of the numbers will go up. It will be interesting to see how much.

How are revenue teams adapting?

In this fast-changing environment, revenue teams are changing their tactics. Their companies are…

  • Moving to digital conferences or events: 63%
  • Increasing their use of webinars: 54%
  • Increasing video calls for sales interactions: 54%
  • Increasing outbound prospecting: 46%

Have you already seen a surge in the number of webinars and digital events? I have.

It means more competition for the limited time and attention of buyers working from home.

Revenue teams must make big adjustments

With travel bans in place, all sellers are now doing inside sales. Field sales reps must now learn to do all their business by phone or online.

Most people who work today in Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service have never worked through a recession. They are unprepared to adapt to the new environment. They’ll need guidance and coaching.


  • The situation is changing day by day, and it’s not likely to improve for weeks or months.
  • Companies must develop contingency plans and must reassess them often.
  • Revenue teams must adapt to unfamiliar roles and behaviors. Everyone must be flexible and open to change.
  • Companies must implement fast. Agility and speed are essential.

What you can do now

The TOPO survey continues. Watch for updated results on the TOPO blog.

You can take their survey and share your views here.


“Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact: The Impact of the coronavirus and what marketing and sales are doing about it.” Eric Wittlake. Dan Gottlieb. TOPO webinar. March 17, 2020.

“15% Increase in Buyers Not Booking Meetings.” Chris Moody. TOPO blog. Undated. Viewed March 27, 2020


Fast and agile: Do these 11 things now to generate pipe

How should you adjust your revenue teams, strategies, and tactics to changes in buyer behavior?

Should you stop outbound prospecting? Should you change your messaging?

TOPO shared many ideas in a webinar they aired Thursday. Here are the 11 I think are most interesting:

1. Retarget your revenue-growth opportunities

  • Define or refine your ideal customer profiles (ICPs).
  • Review your market segments, including industries and geographies. Some segments and geographies are so badly hit that they’re unlikely to buy anything until they recover. Others are growing. See which are still viable for the value you offer.
  • Narrow your scope to concentrate your efforts.
  • Evaluate buying-intent data so you can set priorities and timing of when to contact individual accounts.

2. Research how your customers are coping

  • Ask your customers how their roles and goals have changed. Also ask how their daily lives and business routines have changed.
  • Record the conversations if they give their permission. Get transcripts made. Document what you learn. Share your findings with your extended revenue team.

3. Revise your buyer personas

  • Use insights you gain from interviewing your customers.

4. Develop peer insights from your research

  • Develop stories of how companies in an industry segment are coping. These peer insights may or may not relate to the products or services you sell. Their main purpose is to provide value to the companies you’ve targeted.
  • Develop a journalist’s mindset and methodology. Tell the story without making your company or your product the hero. If your company or product plays a part in the story, it should be no more than an enabler.

5. Plan ways to deliver extreme value in every interaction with customers and prospects

  • It’s so hard to win attention now. Don’t squander it by talking about things people don’t care about. Don’t talk about your company, your products, or services. Accept that most people don’t care about you now. Survival—for themselves, their family, and their company—is foremost on their minds.
  • Talk instead about the peer insights you’ve gathered and how you can share them.
  • Idea: One subscriber to Driven is organizing small videoconferences that put their customers in direct contact with each other. You could do something similar for prospects.

6. Adjust your sales and marketing messaging

  • Focus on your prospects, what they want or need, the challenges they’re facing now.
  • Adjust your messaging to fit with their changed circumstances and highest priorities.
  • Keep your language simple. Stay with words they would use, not marketing jargon.
  • Make your messaging specific to their industry and even to their account. Take pains to personalize it.

7. Refine your outreach messages

  • Train your sales development reps (SDRs) and prospecting team to deliver your new messages. How they say it is as important as what they say.
  • You must show empathy for the people you approach. But it mustn’t be generic, formulaic empathy, like “I hope you and your family are well.” Use the specific, detailed insights your research teaches you about what they’re probably going through.
  • Don’t act as if nothing has changed. Assume that almost everything in their world has changed.
  • Develop and rehearse your own lines that go something like this: “In talking to our customers and other companies similar to yours, here’s what we’re seeing. I wonder if you’d like to talk about this. I can share my own insights in any format you’d prefer. And I can also bring subject-matter experts into the conversation if you like.”

8. Put your sales templates and sales cadences on pause

  • Stop using your old messaging templates and cadences. They’re probably inappropriate now.
  • Don’t worry about scalability and efficiency of your outbound calling.
  • Go for quality of interaction over a high number of touches per day.

9. Stop pitching. Don’t try to persuade. Offer help instead.

  • Don’t worry about scheduling demos and meetings.
  • Focus instead on engaging, the hardest part of any sales cycle. Especially now.
  • Try to establish your company as a trusted advisor with the companies you’ve targeted.

10. Provide direction and resources for outbound prospecting

  • Put new and better tools in the hands of people who do outbound prospecting.
  • Offer them industry-specific conversation guides, based on what you’ve learned in your research.

11. Reorganize your company to allocate talent where your revenue teams need it

  • To provide extreme value to prospects, draw from expertise anywhere in your company. Forget about organizational boundaries.
  • Draft members of your executive team to speak with prospects who are at their own level.
  • Shift the focus of your sales SDRs from qualifying inbound leads to generating leads through outbound outreach.
  • Get more of your salespeople prospecting.


“Coronavirus: Immediate Recommendations for Pipeline Generation.” Chris Moody. TOPO blog. Undated. Viewed March 27, 2020.

“Relevant Messaging in the COVID-19 Era.” Dan Gottlieb. Craig Rosenberg. TOPO webinar. March 26, 2020. [Note: TOPO hasn’t posted a recording of the webinar, possibly because the audio was faulty. But you can download its 34 slides here at no charge.]


2 cool ways to improve the quality of videoconferences

You’re on a videoconference with a prospect. She seems to be engaged, but she’s distracted.

“Why do you have that tacky picture hanging on the wall of your dining room?” she’s thinking.

And “Why can’t you keep your dog from barking every few minutes? Once is OK, but this is out of hand.”

If you’ve been looking for ways to make your videoconference more effective and less distracting, these 2 ideas are for you.

One cuts background noise you generate at your end of the call. The other other replaces distractions in the background behind your image on their screen.

Why it matters now

With everyone working from home now, many of us are willing to accept a lower standard of videoconference decorum.

Most of us have become more forgiving about children crying and dogs barking in the background. We accept improvised workspaces because we’re all in the same boat, forced to work from home on short notice.

But still, you may prefer not to show your personal living space to your colleagues or clients.

It’s also better to avoid showing distractions in the background behind you.

And it’s always important for your counterparts to be able to hear your voice clearly.

Cancel background noise

Have you tried noise-canceling earbuds or headphones? They’re remarkable.

What if you could get something like a noise-cancelling microphone for your smartphone?

I just learned about such a technology, called KRISP.

The company says their technology is effective in suppressing background noises such as dogs barking, doorbells ringing, and kids crying or yelling.

I admit I haven’t used it yet, but I suggest you take a look.

Start with the trial or freemium plan

KRISP offers a no-risk free trial and a freemium plan. They also have paid plans for individuals, teams, and companies.

Prices are reasonable. An individual plan costs $3 a month if you pay annually, $5 if you pay monthly.

I get no fees or rewards if you choose to use the service.

It works with many common technologies

The KRISP website says the technology works with iPhones, even when you hold them away from your mouth. I take that to mean it also works with your iPhone in speaker mode.

They say it also works with popular videoconference technologies, including Zoom, Webex, Meet, MS Teams, Skype for Business, and more.

Which operating systems? Mac, Windows, Chrome, and iOS.

KRISP also offers a product that reduces echoes in conference rooms.

Now you can forget about the background noise when you dial in from an airport. (Do you remember travel?)

Add a virtual background to your Zoom screen

Am I the last person to know that you can easily add a customized virtual background behind your image in Zoom?

I discovered the capability this week and spent a few minutes researching how to do it.

Now I can appear to be standing in front of the the planet Earth from outer space (Figure 3) instead of the distracting bookshelf behind my computer (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Without virtual background:

Me in front of a busy background on Zoom.

Figure 3. With virtual background:

Me standing in outer space for no apparent reason

All you need is a background photo you can add to your Zoom settings. You can find thousands of photo choices online through stock photography services. Many sources are free.

Zoom’s technology figures out which part of the image is me and which is the background. Then it does a kind of fake chromakey effect in real time. It keeps me and replaces my background, even as I move.

The result is a little ragged, not up to studio production standards. It can be distracting if you move much.

The virtual background looks better if you use an actual green screen behind you. And that’s easy.

You can get a good one from Amazon for about $20 to $100. They offer more than a dozen choices with reviews from many users.

If you’re going to hold video sales calls from home, a collapsible green screen is an investment to consider. Maybe you can expense it.

Here are a few more equipment upgrades consider: Get a good microphone and a good webcam.

Would you like to learn more about how to up your videoconference game? Tell me.. I’ll provide details next week.


That’s it for March and Q1.

Let’s all hope for a much better April and Q2.

At least tax returns won’t be due next month

See you in April!

Have a great week,

Dave Vranicar

Please share

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Driven is a free weekly email for time-strapped revenue leaders in business-to-business SaaS companies.

Its goal is to keep you informed about a broad range of topics related to revenue growth.

We scan the horizon for insights and ideas from sources you may otherwise miss.

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