Liz interviews MediaDev Country Manager for Italy, Lorenzo Poveromo, about whether or not B2B lead generation efforts and telemarketing could still work after the post-pandemic lockdown.

1. When the lockdown was announced in Italy, what was your immediate reaction? 

Good questions and thanks for asking. I don’t know if you remember, may be it was last week of January and you was In Manila, Right? … we was on Skype and then I asked you… how is the situation on far east…every day we’re hearing about this corona virus that came from China, and also the neighboring countries can get a risk. … never never never… I can suppose that few weeks later we was on lockdown here in ItalyLet me remind that Italy was the first occidental country that put on lockdown their citizens. It became trend topics #iorestoacasa (Istayathome) It was really a shock. I was not prepared. Nobody was prepared. When you read on web, when you see on tv a notice like that, for one second you said “it’s terrible” one second later you’re immersed on your job, on your task… so you don’t care about those news. When you read a news it’s one fact … but when you are the news … this is really another matter. Unbelievable.   

2. How did the lockdown change how people do business in Italy?   How did people adjust to working from home?  

Well you know…business is business and Italian people are very strong, we never give up and we’re very creative. If you think to Italy for sure you can image excellent food, beautiful landscape, our monuments … but Italy is more than pizza and mandolino, just to be iconic. For sure Italy was not ready to the switch from the night to day on smartworking… we must be honest. You know that we work close to such Microsoft’s partners (or if can’t mention Microsoft) to a primary IT company leader on solutions of collaboration and modern workplace…and one of “liet motif” of our campaign … switch on the modern workplace.   

I see that on this side (unfortunately to us) there is gap with the other EMEA region, may be also from a broadband point of view, … Italy has also a specific morphology of his territories that it’s not easy to join with high speed connection. if you have a terrible internet connection, obviously you won’t be able to enjoy a full HD stream on conference call for example.  

But on the other side let me said and this is that make me proud, later one or max 2 weeks… Italy was “ON”. All categories that can switch on smart working do that. Of course if you’re cashier on a supermarket… there is not smartworking that can help you… but if you’re an employee that works on purchase office of the same supermarket… she was/is on remote on a shortest period 

One more example. Students from 6 years old was on line and they still are on line with their teachers. Let me said that over a very high percentage of “white collars” on private and also public sectors was “ON”. We must be honest… it’s not the same missing the collaboration, missing you know the atmospehere to be in office, missing the pleasure to get a coffee with your colleague, also the conflicts and/or the pressure when you’re on the same meeting on a round table… but this covid was a symmetric world wide shock, and the other countries like you on France, or USA  for example have had a big advantageous on this lock down: they have seen Italy plans and than followed our same initiatives like close the school, lockdown, put a lot of public money on the economic etc. 

3. Were there any advantages that you saw from this new way of working? 

I see a lot of advantages if you’re a worker that can work on remote. I think that in the 1st part of this pandemic … there was nothing smart. May be it was “teleworking” but not smart working. We was on our home desk 10 also 12 Hour per day in front of your pc connected on teams, skype, zoom, webex, mobile etc. Now that people are more confident to be smart can get the really benefit of this approach. This is the real challenge for the business. Let me to one example. When you have some problems with your pc… you need to restart it. So I see this covid not like the end of the world, I don’t want to see it into this catastrophic point of views, but I see it like a reset. Later a reset device works better. I want to see this positive side…we’ve have know the smartworking on an emergency situation… and this is sad of course. On the other side let me said don’t waste this opportunity… get the better on each situation.   Now also my mum that is 84 years old is capable to understand and pronounce the terms “smart working” according her fabulous and strong accent of south woman 😊  

4. Are people in Italy worried about the lockdown being lifted, or are they happy to return to a semi-normal lifestyle? 

I don’t kwow if you heard about Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO, he said that their employees can rest at home for their entire life if they want so. On the other side Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft said the a perpetual smart working can be negative for the people and the business of companies. To be honest my position is more close to this point of view. On this period where Covid is still “on air” and we can work on safety at home … with our management we get this decision: we’ll stay at home on safe. The problem is not to stay in office close to your colleague. You can work on safe, staying at one meter distance, or using the surgical mask … but in order to joint the office you get a train or a bus for example, and this less unsafe for example. So I think that people that can work at home until August will rest at home working on remote. Once again… who can. If you work on logistic and you need to drive a car to deliver goods…cannot stay at home. This is another matter.  

Let me said as students are happy that on September they can came back at school unbelievable …. Students that are praying to came back school, employees will be happy to came back on their desk on office.  Probably the company can/will guaranteed more safe work place to employees, and with a correct mix approach let me do an example according a turn over people can work 3 day on remote and 2 days on site, and the personal productivity will be improved. There are such evidence that companies before Covid that switched on a smartoworking approach has increased they productivity. Companies to be ready on the new business evolutions, are making different investments, and those companies will get those advantage on the market race. So who rest on the rived side waiting that the storm pass over has no chance to be part of the game… when the going gets tough, the tough get going Probably the office as we had in mind in the past will not be always the same in the next future, may be that we’ll have more coworking area 24/7 access etc. – but people missing office… and when I said office I mean all the collegue, the boss, the reception the coffee guy etc.  

5. Do you think that telemarketing outreach will be possible again in Italy?   

I think that tlmk, our dear tlmk, was, is and will rest one of the main pillar of our services in Italy. Of course you cannot image tlmk as cold call… like let me said did you remember the movie with Di Caprio “Wolf of Wall street”. It doesn’t work. But if you’re capable to find the right mix between offline and on line strategies it will work for sure.  I was 17 years old in MediaDev Italy and considering also our level of seniority of Italian teams, tlmk outreach will worked once again. 

6. How has your interaction with prospects changed because of the pandemic? 

I wasn’t a fan of face to face meeting… like the only way to do business. I’ve built the business relationship with my clients and the trusted relationship cannot be put on hold on covid. To be connected with specific need of your clients is the key. Built your network of relationship and spend time to be closer to them. Making sure that your existing customers are happy is fundamental for any business, but now more than ever, it is crucial. Losing customers in a time of economic uncertainty is the worst thing that can happen to your business since it is much harder to acquire net new clients than it is to keep the ones that are already working with you. So I’m closer than the past to my client and always ready to understand their needs. A request of payment to 60 days instead than 30 days as usal… cannot be never an obstacle insurmountable. Get the phone and ask directly to your CFO… than came back to the clients and said yes … pay me on 61 days 😊. This is the key 

7. What advice would you give to clients who are looking for marketing outreach tips in Italy post COVID-19? 

Many businesses weren’t ready for such a radical shift and some have had to slow down or stop operations all together because of it. Fear over what’s to come post-pandemic has economists speculating about end of the world scenarios — almost like we are preparing for the zombie apocalypse. While the future is uncertain, what is sure is that there will be life post-coronavirus and we can’t forget that what we do now will impact how things play out later.  

in order to maintain business operations, it’s important not to freeze marketing budgets. Marketing budgets are often the first budgets to get cut when the crisis alarm sounds; however, doing so will only decrease your sales pipelineand hurt your chances to bounce back once the pandemic is over.  

Most field marketers and sales reps are not used to staying inside. Now that all physical events have been cancelledeverywhere, millions of dollars’ worth of marketing budget needs to be redirected elsewhere. 

Webinar is good and valid alternative. With my clients with few calls we switched physically events on webinar events…. And it works. Very positive feedback 

Social selling it works too… and let me said that in this period it’s the most performant approach. cause decision-makers are all working from home, it is impossible to call them in the office. Using LinkedIn and implementing a social selling strategy is a good way to continue to engage and dialogue with your buyer personas currently… also when life goes “back to normal” LinkedIn will still be a good tool to use to generate leads. Social selling is the best way to find relevant contacts, create visibility for your brand and educate prospects 

From my point of view let me said Be Ready … it’s not the end of world, it’s a RESET. Now let’s Rock n Roll.