As outlined in our previous blog post, from Chaos to Opportunity, the global pandemic has added chaos to your selling motion, and Sales Organizations have no choice but to react in the short-term while proactively positioning for the long term.
The first step in that forward progress, and the one that is being implemented by most Sales Organizations, is to stabilize what you have.
As a Sales Leader, you have recognized that this is not simply a matter of equipping your sales force with the tools to work remotely and asking them to protect their base, continue to close business, and fill pipeline. Perhaps in the old world a directive like “make more calls” translated easily to the sales team. However, in this environment sales teams are struggling to find the right selling motion. They are seeking guidance and searching for best practices on what is working and what is not.
And while some sales teams have found their new sales rhythm, others are still feeling their way through trial and error. Here are some things (of course not a complete list) that your teams can do to help stabilize today’s selling motion before considering longer-term strategies.
Review their territory with a new lens
Good reps operate as if they are running their own business. They have a territory, a pipeline to fill and manage, and clear revenue objectives. And right now, all sales reps should be reevaluating “their business”. One way to do this is to simply have them “zoom-out” and take a holistic view of an assigned territory. While it should be a regular best practice, it is typically not.
And a key filter to use is an industry level view. Hospitality? Retail? Aviation? If a rep has a patch that includes accounts in these industries, they need to take a long hard look at how they are prioritizing opportunities. For example, that great opportunity that was ready to close at a big retail account is not as real today, because they just filed for bankruptcy. Likewise, past dormant accounts who lacked a compelling event to purchase in the past may now have one depending on what you are selling.
The goal is to reprioritize the opportunities by industry – that is today’s reality. Then determine which opportunities to nurture, defer, or develop and grow.
Take time to research
Sales teams have more time on their hands. Sure, they are now juggling “work from home” with “family at home”. However, the time that is normally used for commuting or driving to customer locations provides a great opportunity to focus on research. Research should be part of their daily cadence. For example, an hour each morning. Research enables teams to hone their list of accounts to target and allows them to build conversation frameworks that are relevant to what is on the mind of the customer – today.
For high velocity Inside Sales teams who are tracked on daily activity and do not have as much time, simply research to gain an understanding of the immediate challenges at the industry level because of the pandemic. Focus on the top five industries in the territory. Then, craft a message or entry conversation based on that research to make it relevant. Shape it once, and you can use this new knowledge to drive conversations across other accounts in the same industry.
For Enterprise or Outside Sales Reps, the research should be more extensive. It is not just a matter of knowing your account base. A lot of reps know plenty about their accounts. The research is also about their industry, as well as understanding their competitors, and their customers. This is important as right now customers are not looking to receive calls from salespeople, they want calls from consultants. And the goal of this research is to help you do just that – provide new insights and perspective to help them with today’s issues.
Reshape their conversations
Remember that your prospects and customers are also trying to stabilize their businesses. There are immediate challenges that all customers are facing, and it is interesting to see how companies are adapting their message, and ultimately their sales conversations.
Some companies have taken the approach of creating “relevant” messages by putting what seems to be a “pandemic wrapper” around their traditional messaging. A little bit of empathy at the beginning, ending with “we are there for you.” Yet the middle of their message is the status quo; the same everyday message. In other words, it’s a band-aid message.
For example, if your conversation starts with acknowledging the tough times that we are all living in, and the immediate struggles that businesses are encountering, then continue with your standard sales message on how you can reduce their TCO over 3 years or deliver a break-even ROI of 18 months, you missed the mark. Most companies right now are looking six months out, not three years out.
And, good reps are reshaping their conversation and not just putting a wrapper around existing messages. They are taking time to structure their conversations and create messages that resonate and are relevant. What customers want to hear about right now are solutions that can help them do more with less resources, will save them money, and are simple to implement. Those are the messages that are resonating right now.
Keeping your Sales team motivated and productive
Good leaders know how to keep teams motivated under normal circumstances; today’s environment makes it much more challenging. With global shutdowns causing limited to no in-person social interactions, new ways of working, not to mention the family dynamic, even the best of salespeople are struggling to stay motivated. And while you may hear that your team is experiencing “Zoom fatigue”, a regular cadence of meetings with your sales teams is critical. Not to inspect, and not to “train” in the formal sense, but to share best practices among peers. Share successes. Share failures. Share tactics and techniques that are working as well as ones that are not. While they already know they are not in this alone, the best practice sharing sessions will be embraced if it’s truly peer to peer sharing (and not a talk-at session) as together they identify some sales approaches that are working today.
Finally, it is great to have a happy and motivated sales team, but let’s face it, they need to also make forward progress for the business. The thinking that “activity equals productivity” of course is not the answer. That said if teams take some time to review their territory, do some new research, and work to craft new messages, this targeted activity will help to drive productivity by keeping teams focused and motivated. These simple approaches will help you to stabilize the selling motion, allowing you to focus on adapting for the future, which will be covered in our next blog.