How to Sell During COVID-19

Without a doubt, the pandemic has changed multiple facets of our professional lives. We’re working from different locations, collaborating online, and upholding high levels of productivity. 

One area of the business that has had to pivot more than what’s listed above is the sales organization. Prior to the pandemic, leading a conversation with space reservation was rare. Now it is one of the most requested features businesses are seeking a solution for. In the last year, our team has had to shift its focus to help meet the needs of our customers.

We wanted to get some direct insight from our team on what’s changed in the last year. We had two of our salespeople answer a quick Q&A to get some insight on what’s going on in the market. 

Can you share your name, title, market, and your Appspace history and pre-Appspace industry-related experience?

James Leyland, Regional Sales Director (Account Executive) UK. I’ve been at Appspace for about six months. Before then, I worked in the flexible real estate market and for a leading resource booking software firm. 

Tom Pennella, Director of Sales, Americas. I joined Appspace in October of 2017 to oversee sales in the northeastern US. Prior to joining the Appspace team, I spent seven years in the financial services industry at Bloomberg LP.

Before the pandemic, how did you present the space reservation tool (or similar tool) to prospects or current client expansions?

JL: Before COVID, clients were typically focused on increasing their real estate utilization and occupancy, with meeting rooms at the center. Clients often mentioned having underutilized space in their offices like meeting rooms and huddle spaces. Their employees were unable to book appropriate rooms, and the front-of-the-house staff didn’t have the proper tools to streamline their jobs or successfully accomplish or track space management functions. The marketplace was aware of agile or hybrid work and the benefits of transitioning to a desk booking environment, but organizations were often not ready to take the risk and re-invent their working practices at scale. There were, of course, exceptions to this, the UK legal sector being a notable one that already had adopted remote work tools. Hybrid work was starting to become more commonplace, but COVID really sped up the timeline for businesses to adopt it.

TP: Appspace entered the space reservation market a few years ago with our room booking card and support for room scheduling templates. This allowed us to present Appspace as a true platform that could provide more value than many of the point products that could only offer signage or room booking but not both.

Before the pandemic, how did customers view space reservation tools? A must-have, nice to have, or not necessary tool?

JL: It really depended on the firm. For those with front-of-house functions, space reservation tools were a must-have. For many, it was a nice to have should budgets allow.

TP: Customers viewed space reservation solutions as a niche technology for organizations with very open seating concepts and loose work-from-home policies. Most organizations really didn’t need to go any further than a few strategically placed scheduling tablets and perhaps an Outlook plug-in.

Once the pandemic began, how did you shift your sales pitch?

JL: Essentially, the conversation changed in two main areas. First, companies no longer wanted to talk about meeting rooms since no meetings were occurring. The conversation changed again once teams realized they could be returning to the office in a COVID-19 safe manner. The question then was, how can I manage people access at scale? Businesses relied on facilities team members to let people in the office and keep track of how many people were present. With more people returning to the office, they needed tools to help. The second area was looking at existing tools geared for agile work and how they could help maintain social distancing and other health requirements per the local government. 

TP: The pandemic has completely changed priorities for our enterprise customers. Everyone is struggling to understand how to shift to a hybrid workplace, and they understand technology is the only way to help make that extraordinary change in a short time frame. We now find ourselves talking to customers almost as a consultant, and we can help them visualize exactly how they can implement that shift. It’s much less a features-and-functions demonstration, and more of a conversation backed up by relevant experience and meaningful collateral for them to share internally.

Did you have more customers/prospects reaching out inquiring specifically about space reservation tools?

JL: Yes, 12 hour days, seven demos a day were not uncommon. I also found conversation went international more as companies looked for global solutions. 

TP: Absolutely. The driving force behind our conversations today is around implementing a hybrid workplace through our space reservation features. But interestingly, the conversation changes when we showcase our corporate communication features that sit side-by-side with the space reservation tools they need. Then the conversation turns from booking desks to a far more holistic employee experience. 

What were some of the biggest challenges voiced by the consumers when looking for a space reservation tool?

JL: Initially, it was around the contract length as surely the pandemic would go away in the next six months. That soon changed as firms realized that hybrid working could be a solution that would save them millions in real estate costs long after things return to normal. The requirements moved firmly to post-COVID-19 effectiveness and safety, data gathering to understand the impact of hybrid working, potential pressure points, and integrations with existing platforms and technologies.

TP: No one has done this before. Think of buying a house – if you haven’t done it, you can ask someone who has. You can go online and research the process. You can watch countless clips on YouTube or download Zillow. This situation is similar for enterprises when they look to implement well-known technology. With space reservation, the market is largely new and, everyone is in the same boat. That’s a challenge for our customers, but it’s also fun for us to help them understand that it’s absolutely attainable and not that hard to do!

What is your favorite feature of Appspace’s space reservation tool?

JL: Without a doubt, it’s that it’s not just a space booking solution, but also enables effective communication from the firm to the employee at home.

TP: I like “Find a Colleague.” It’s a great example of our speed and innovation. We heard from many customers that they would love to see where their teammates are sitting when they go to book a desk for the day, so we added it to the tool in a matter of weeks. And it’s fun to show to customers because, invariably, someone says, “Ok, good, I can avoid certain people.” Not all features get used the way we think they will.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about Appspace, please reach out to us here.

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