We are living through a period that most of us have never experienced before in our lifetime. Like an unstoppable wave, COVID-19 has surged around the globe creating unprecedented humanitarian and economic peril. In addition to the tragic taking of human life, every business large and small has been impacted in some way, with many struggling for long term survival.
Business leaders across every industry recognized that they must pivot (an extremely popular term these days) to survive. But what does that mean for a Sales Organization?
As a Sales Leader, chances are you have watched your Sales team fall into some confusion and disorder – also known as chaos! And while most Sales Leaders expect chaos now and then, anticipating and proactively planning to operate during a global pandemic was probably not on your radar.
It seems that the only response, in this case, was to react.
An unfamiliar dynamic
For some Sales Leaders that meant quickly arming and educating the sales force with the tools to engage remotely. The very short-term goal was to get them equipped working from home and keep them focused on their marching orders – to keep selling!
Organizations scrambled to piece together remote selling classes internally. They pointed their teams to the many, many blog sites providing their advice on how to sell remotely. Most, if not all, of those sites focused on the logistics of the call and not the context of the messages being delivered and the conversation itself.
However, most Sales Leaders quickly discovered that there was an entirely new dynamic that was reshaping the buy/sell process. It is not simply a matter of arming your sales teams to work from home. Your prospects and customers are also working from home. And they are dealing with the same challenges and family dynamics that everyone else is dealing with when working remotely. That has added an entirely new, and unfamiliar dynamic to the selling and buying process.
While Sales Leaders will not openly advertise this, many saw sales engagements stall out mid-stream, projects get put on hold indefinitely, and budgets get frozen. Sales teams continue to struggle with gaining access to the right audiences in this current situation of remote engagement. They are finding that their messages from two months ago are not resonating with their customers. For those Outside Reps who now seem to instantly be Inside Sales Reps, they are fishing for the right call cadence, the right audiences, and industries to target. Confusion and disorder.
The light at the end of the tunnel
But all is not lost. There are bright spots. While there are industries that seem to be sliding into an abyss, there are industries that are staying whole and thriving. And in both scenarios, they have projects that are top of mind. Customers are clamoring for insights on how to help their business given today’s situation. The key is to identify and quickly develop those “new” opportunities while nurturing the ones put on hold.
That of course is easier said than done. Sales organizations have no choice but to react in the short-term while proactively positioning for the long term. But how exactly do you do that?
The immediate activity of course is to stabilize what you have. While run rates will undoubtedly be impacted, some things could be done today to perhaps not stop that wave, but ride the wave as best as possible. This includes making sure teams are reevaluating territory plans, account plans, pipeline management, and their messages.
The world has changed going forward. The buyer/seller process will be reshaped as a result of this global experience, and your sales teams must prepare for that future. It’s not a matter of stabilizing today, then falling back into the status quo when this is over. You need to ensure that your teams adapt to the new normal, a normal that has yet to be determined.
As this wave recedes, your organization must remain motivated and ready to grow the business. Not move back into their steady-state. Not to simply go after those deals that were being nurtured, And, not sell with the same mindset. This will mean building the confidence, knowledge, process, and conversation skills to leapfrog your targeted run rate of three months ago.
In the next several blog posts, we will explore in more detail how you can stabilize in the present, adapt for the future, and grow the business.
Yes, we were all hit with an unforeseen wave of turmoil, literally every person and every business.
And for those Sales leaders who have at some point in their life read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, let us not forget:
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”