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Ask Your COVID-19 Sales Questions - Author Panel

On May 19th, several Sales professionals are coming to answer your questions about how COVID-19 is affecting sales. From hiring to script changes, quotas and lead times, this panel is ready to share their answers.

Remember, you can see the impact on Sales Professionals in this post (from our recent COVID survey).

Panelists are listed below... but you can start asking questions now!

Catarina Hoch – Global Marketing Manager – Operatix: Catarina has a diverse and international background in Sales and Marketing, having worked within the media market and advertising agencies over the last 15 years. Armed with a bachelor's degree in PR and a master's in Business Administration, Catarina joined Operatix in 2016 and is the fulcrum of the marketing strategy and operation at Operatix. She drives awareness around the brand, supports the sales team in reaching their overall revenue growth targets, as well as heads marketing and retention programs with Operatix' existing clients.

Mary Grothe – CEO/Founder Sales – BQ®
Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B SaaS Sales Rep who after selling millions in revenue and breaking multiple records, formed Sales BQ®, an outsourced RevOps firm of fractional VPs of Sales, Sales Ops, and CMO's who serve companies across the nation by profitably rebuilding their sales & marketing departments and growing their revenue by focusing on BQ, the behavioral quotient, and proven inbound + outbound strategies.

Neil Ringers - EVP of Sales - Revenue Grid
Neil Ringers is EVP of Sales at revenuegrid.com, the only Customer Engagement platform that equips revenue-generating teams with everything they need in one place. Covering the full sales cycle from getting the first touch to closing and upselling, Revenue Grid allows you to analyze, execute, and lead your growth strategy. Prior to joining Revenue Grid, Neil provided the Account sales leadership for Key Accounts at Salesforce, was a VP of Sales at TOA, Oracle, and Cloud Sherpas, a leader in cloud advisory and technology services acquired by Accenture.

Tom Williams - Co-founder - DealPoint
Tom Williams is the co-founder of DealPoint, the first platform to automate the sales process with help from your customers. DealPoint ensures reps and their prospects are perfectly aligned for more wins, less slippage, and super-accurate forecasts. A Brit based in Portland, Tom plays squash, parents his two boys, and talks about sales process at parties. Well, he used to before the lockdown. But we'll be back at it before you know it.

Chris Donato - CEO - ESELLAS
Chris Donato has 20+ years of sales leadership experience at Accenture, Hewlett Packard, EDS, and Axiom.  Over his career, Chris has structured several billion-dollar, market-making deals that have shaped industries.  Currently, he is the founder and CEO of ESELLAS, an enterprise sales-as-a-service company as well as an active advisor and angel investor.

Jake Dunlap - Founder/CEO - Skaled Consulting
Jake Dunlap is a recognized Sales Leader and B2B Sales and Marketing Thought Leader. Jake and the Skaled Team help executives around the world accelerate and scale business growth with data-backed sales solutions and a sustainable customer framework. Jake previously held the roles of VP of Sales at Nowait (acquired by Yelp), Head of Sales + Customer Success at Chartbeat, and VP of Sales at Glassdoor (acquired by Recruit Holdings for $1.2 billion dollars in 2018).

Nico Prins - Founder - Launch Space
Nico is a SaaS Consultant and the founder of Launch Space. He helps companies implement digital lead generation strategies. He’s worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 companies through to rapidly growing startups. Follow him on Twitter @nhdprins.

Aurelien Mottier - CEO/Co-founder - Operatix
Aurelien is Co-Founder and CEO at Operatix, a sales acceleration company that supports B2B Technology vendors to increase pipeline generation within strategic accounts. Aurelien manages the company strategy and direction, as well as takes responsibility for the growth of Operatix across North America and Europe.

Ganesh Tayi - CEO - Never Lose The Deal
Ganesh Tayi helps fast growing companies to achieve revenue goals by building high performing sales teams & streamlining processes. Ganesh takes a scientific approach that leverages critical people data to design, hire and inspire high performing sales teams. In his 20+ years in the technology industry he’s helped close deals worth over $12 billion. Ganesh is an author of the book, “Never Lose the Deal” and currently serves as CEO of Never Lose the Deal. Previously was VP & General Manager at Motorola.

Barb Giamanco - CEO - Social Centered Selling
Committed to excellence in selling, Barb has been recognized as a Top 50 2019 Keynote Speaker and Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencer by Top Sales World, a Top B2B Sales Influencer by LinkedIn and a Top 25 Sales Leader on Twitter.

Todd Caponi - Author - The Transparency Sale
Todd Caponi is the author of the award-winning book, The Transparency Sale (Best “Sales & Marketing” Book of 2020 | Independent Press Awards), Managing Director of Chicago’s VentureSCALE, and a speaker & workshop leader as Principal of Sales Melon LLC. Todd is also a multi-time C-Level sales leader, a behavioral science nerd, and has guided two companies to successful exits.

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    • Profile picture of Judy Lujan
      @judy-lujan
      ( 1k POINT )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Wanted to ask if this topic although true of course, should be brought up specifically in a prospecting call or simply ask how are things going for them? I have seen a difference from commenting on that 2 months ago to now.

      Thanks in advance,
      Judy

    • Profile picture of Sarah Drake
      @sarah
      ( 740 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Prospects in negatively affected industries are most likely not looking to buy right now but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a relationship with them. What are some tips to staying top of mind during this Pandemic so when they are ready to buy you can be the one that they call?

      • Profile picture of Nico Prins
        @nico_prins
        ( 230 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        I’d suggest focusing heavily on soft sales and relationship building. Any activity that generates awareness around your services is going to benefit you when we get out of the recession. Webinars, for example, are something that I’m focusing heavily on at the moment. After all, many people who like to work are stuck at home with little to do. Netflix only takes you so far.

      • Profile picture of Mary Grothe
        @marygrothe
        ( 220 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        To me, the easiest way is to simply ask them. Each prospect will have their own agenda, their own needs, their own criteria, their own urgency. One of the most enduring ways to build a relationship is to ask how the prospect wants the relationship to be. If you’re genuinely curious about how the pandemic has affected them, create a series of questions that will uncover what their scenario means to your sales cycle. You can build a relationship by being serious about solving their problems (with your product and service) in the manner that best works for them. Now, don’t succumb to a pushed-out timeline, of “try me in a few months”. Use great questions to understand the business impact and be a conversationalist and consultant, working together to create a clear path towards an outcome. Then stay in touch on your agreed-upon terms. If it’s a mid-market or enterprise sale with multiple influencers and members on the decision team, speak to multiple people to gain perspective.

    • Profile picture of Macky Bradley
      @mackybradley
      ( 5k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Hi @marygreencny

      One of my questions that is weighing on my mind since before this Corona Lockdown is the majority of the workforce

      moving to work from home?

      Salesforce.com and Twitter both announced this week that I believe they are moving their teams to permanent work from home.

      What does the future of sales look like in this environment?

      Thanks Mary!

      Macky

      • Profile picture of Todd Caponi
        @toddcaponi
        ( 310 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        From a behavioral science perspective…
        …The good news: If we look at what annoys the brain, those things are all prevalent in an office: Sounds that cannot be tuned out, potentially relevant conversation, only hearing one side of a conversation (i.e., on a phone), judgement anxiety by subconsciously thinking someone is listening / judging you while on the phone. Remote sales actually raises your IQ during those calls.
        …The bad news: Engagement goes down when we’re not with others – it kicks in a survival mechanism when we’re alone, not relating, connecting, part of a pack. There are things that can be done to partially get us there, but it could drive up turnover when job creation kicks back up.

        In other words, I don’t think “permanent work from home” is going to be true, but when we get back, I would encourage companies to bring back higher cube walls or more booths to balance both.

        • Profile picture of Macky Bradley
          @mackybradley
          ( 5k POINTS )
          2 months, 3 weeks ago

          Thank you @toddcaponi for the very thoughtful and detailed response. I can see your concerns about engagement maybe being a problem.
          Great response,
          Thank you!
          Macky

      • Profile picture of Tom Williams
        @tom
        ( 540 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        I talked to a bunch of sellers about this and how to help people buying from home. Sales Hacker published it a couple weeks ago. Some actionable advice here. I think my fave was from Jeanette Renshaw realizing that after your demo, buyers don’t get to confer because they were all on your zoom. So make sure you give them tools to reach consensus

        BFH: How WFH Sellers Can Help Prospects BUY From Home (5 Tips)

      • Profile picture of Neil Ringers
        @nringers
        ( 340 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        I would be beefing up my connections on LinkedIn. Pre-Covid, we could go the extra mile and meet face to face, break bread over dinner and separate ourselves from the field through great relationships. Now it’s about your network and connecting personal and professional dots. You can be even more productive at home because there are no distractions assuming your kids are not running around your house or apartment. Make sure your team has comparative tools of your competition. Don’t be out armed and know what your team is doing according to your KPI’s. How many meetings, emails etc. those metrics are not the be all end all, but salespeople need to know that they are being measured. It’s a competitive sport.

    • Profile picture of Macky Bradley
      @mackybradley
      ( 5k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Hi @marygreencny

      I have another question if you don’t mind.

      If you are managing employees remotely, and the order is given to return to the office, what do you think that process will look like? What if you have employees that are not comfortable returning to the office? What do you do then?

      Thanks!

      Macky

    • Profile picture of Bibek Bhandary
      @bibek
      ( 1.2k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      With change in Consumer behavior and buying patterns evident How should a company which does not have the necessary pivot options available continue. (Eg an on call utility service (Handyman sort of).
      How should these companies approach clients, take order (People may not want any outsider to visit) at this point.

    • Profile picture of AJ Alonzo
      @ajalonzo
      ( 2.2k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      I have a few questions!

      1 – When it comes to measuring the impact of your SDRs, have you changed any of the KPIs you regularly measure them on? For example, focusing less on meetings booked and more on pipeline developed? Has that changed comp structures? If so, how long do you plan on having them in place? It’s hard to tell when this will be “over” as the situation is so fluid.

      2 – As we approach this “new normal,” how do you see the conference and events landscape shifting? Will we be shy to have large in-person events for years to come, or will things revert back to “normal” in short order? And following up on that, how does this impact the digital events space? Are they just as effective at generating leads? Can you charge the same amount? Are they a suitable replacement for the “live thing?”

      Thanks! Looking forward to the discussion 😁

      • Profile picture of jamiegiblett
        @jamiegiblett
        ( 1k POINT )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Great questions – these are of particular interest to me as well.

      • Profile picture of Nico Prins
        @nico_prins
        ( 230 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Nice questions. I’ll focus on your second point.

        I don’t think there will be a long term shift in the offline events space. I’m an optimist. I think things will turn back to normal. You have to look at the past to see how quickly societies adapt to a disaster and revert to the status quo ante.

        Are they just as effective at generating leads? Can you charge the same amount? Are they a suitable replacement for the “live thing?”

        I don’t think you’ll see many digital events charge the same amount as a live event. Digital events are certainly just as effective at generating leads. I’d argue that they are probably more effective because you only turn up to a digital event for the information promised. As an attendee, you can’t network.

        That second point leads to price. Digital events don’t offer the attendee as much perceived value. You’ll struggle to charge a high ticket price for the event until you can improve the perception of value to the attendee.

      • Profile picture of Jake Dunlap
        @jakedunlap
        ( 610 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        @ajalonzo a big push we have is to move people off activity KPIs for SDRs. Move to first outcome – # of meaningful conversations. Agreed to a meeting, getting you to the right person, or in process of setting a meeting

    • Profile picture of Macky Bradley
      @mackybradley
      ( 5k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      I have a question:
      How will the landscape of the business world change? For instance, will we ever go back to the office life? I know lots of companies pay substantial amounts of money for leases and buildings. To me, I would eliminate that payment immediately. I guess my main question would be do you believe the business world will return to normal office type situations, OR is the new working from home going to be the norm.

      Thanks!

      Macky

    • Profile picture of Ryan Staley
      @ryanstaley
      ( 920 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Wow, great panel! What is the biggest change Sales Professionals (Leaders and reps) need to make over the next 12 months to become a top performer in this new normal?

      • Profile picture of Todd Caponi
        @toddcaponi
        ( 310 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Hey Ryan! So many companies have made shifts already – in their messaging, in their approach to driving remote performance. The big one remaining is in removing friction from the buying journey.

        Consensus selling was always hard. But today, consensus buying is harder. Buyers are remote, too, and can’t just informally gather consensus.

        Couple that with the fact that we, as humans, have a subconscious bias towards projects that have the EASIEST path to the best reward. If we’re making engagement, evaluation, decision making, negotiation and implementation hard, we’re getting moved to the bottom regardless of the potential outcome. So, with that, the top priority is to evaluate the steps of the journey you take buyers on: Is it easy to engage with you? Is it easy to get at the information a buyer would need to make a confident, predictable decision (I.e., embrace transparency!)? Is understanding the level of investment required easy? Is the contract easy (I.e., limit 1-way terms like auto-price increases and auto-renewals)? Is implementation going to be relatively risk free & easy?

        Look at every step and optimize it. It’s almost more important than the reward in today’s environment.

        • Profile picture of Ryan Staley
          @ryanstaley
          ( 920 POINTS )
          2 months, 3 weeks ago

          Todd, Great questions at the end of the thread. Easy, easy, easy for them. It is totally a frictionless buying experience that people are looking for now!!!

    • Profile picture of Paul
      @paulee814
      ( 570 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Hi @marygreencny

      2 questions:

      – Wondering what companies that are not recession-proof (their solution is not needed) now do to increase revenue?
      – What are some different strategies to approach prospects today, not old school smile and dial approach (do they even still work?)

      • Profile picture of Todd Caponi
        @toddcaponi
        ( 310 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Hi Paul –

        Back in 2008, my company’s solutions were deemed discretionary. We were selling solutions to optimize company’s training environments.
        Discretionary…or so we thought.

        We spent time thinking through the true impact of our solutions aligned around what buyers care about today – extending runway on the essentials, reducing costs and reducing risks.

        We tested new messaging that positioned our solution as getting more value out of every employee, so each employee could do more with more accuracy, which reduced product returns, got products to market faster and thus reduces costs while increasing revenue.

        That shift in mindset about what our solution does turned us into a 400% year-over-year grower during the great recession of 2007-2009.

        Take the time to make sure your solution really “is not needed” – and if you can tie it to runway extension, cost reduction and/or risk reduction in a meaningful way, it may spark some serious interest.

        • Profile picture of Tom Williams
          @tom
          ( 540 POINTS )
          2 months, 3 weeks ago

          If the budget owner deems your solution discretionary, you’re probably toast. But you flip the discussion when you talk about the safe path to their objective.

          Their objective is 100% required, in fact it’s all they’re thinking about. So show that you’re the safest, lowest risk path to that objective, and now you’re part of that discretionary motion. And it already has budget.

          I also like @todd-caponi‘s answer for when you can’t ID their priorities.

    • Profile picture of Aleksandra
      @aandree
      ( 1.1k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Now that many businesses are focusing on remote-work and budget management and seem like they’ve have hit a big pause, our calendars are mainly full of internal meetings and development workshops. I see an abundance of sales development webinars and very interesting content related to the current situation, being shared on various social media channels. So I’m curious to hear from other sales reps and sales managers:

      1. How much time do you think you/your sales team should be spending in internal development meetings and in researching new approaches of prospecting to adapt your sales strategy and messaging to the current situation?
      and
      2. How much time should be spent on prospecting and testing the new approaches, taking into consideration that the number of customers with buying intent is very low right now?

    • Profile picture of sander
      @sander
      ( 250 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      What phrase do you dislike the most, “during these uncertain times”, “new normal”, “I hope you’re staying safe and healthy”?

      • Profile picture of Todd Caponi
        @toddcaponi
        ( 310 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        “New normal” – There is no “new normal”. March was different than February. April was different than March. May is different still…and so will June. Complacency is a killer during times of uncertainty, so we can’t let anything be “normal” until it truly is.

      • Profile picture of Jake Dunlap
        @jakedunlap
        ( 610 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        @sander we are using “back to market”

    • Profile picture of Parv
      @parv
      ( 560 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      When are some triggers/criteria you suggest reps should look for when finding companies/accounts to target that aren’t impacted by covid-19?

      • Profile picture of Todd Caponi
        @toddcaponi
        ( 310 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Hi @parv: First, I’m not sure there are companies that aren’t impacted…so I’d suggest a different mindset. Look at your most successful customers today. Where have you best been able to impact cost reduction, risk reduction or extending runway on essentials? Is there anything in common about them? Then, prioritize your account list accordingly. For example, in one of my companies (and during the last downturn), we recognized that we had a ton of success driving time to market and cost reduction in aerospace, of all things. So we all prioritized aerospace – all became experts in it, which drove up credibility and drove up confidence (which is contagious). We ended up growing dramatically, then slowly expanding our firmographic focus (to defense companies, then heavy manufacturing, then oil & gas, then automotive). Don’t get hung up on only selling to companies who are still doing well. Instead, focus on the verticals where you have historically made the biggest impact on things that matter in today’s environment (cost, risk, runway – not necessarily revenue growth).

    • Profile picture of Nicole Sterkel
      @nicolesterkel
      ( 1k POINT )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Hi all! Thanks for taking the time to participate in this panel.

      COVID has obviously thrashed us all in one way or another, but it has also presented some unique opportunities. I’m curious – how are you innovating right now? How are you capitalizing on the opportunity to throw new things at the wall and see if they stick? What kinds of things are you throwing? What’s sticking?

      A lot of the conversation out in the world is understandably about the stress of it all, but how has the pandemic made you more dynamic?

    • Profile picture of Bijay Mathew
      @bijay
      ( 650 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      @jakedunlap I am hearing from sales reps and some sales leaders that many are preoccupied with the current challenges with WFH and some are taking their foot off the gas. What advice do you have for sales reps and leaders who need to differentiate themselves during this time?

      • Profile picture of Jake Dunlap
        @jakedunlap
        ( 610 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Go harder. Don’t be afraid to ask for business and see if people are ready to buy and back off. Plenty of conversations with leaders where they are doing fine…don’t overly assume that all are doing poorly

        • Profile picture of Tom Williams
          @tom
          ( 540 POINTS )
          2 months, 3 weeks ago

          I’ll second that. About 1/3 of the companies I’m talking to are overloaded with opps; so far I’m about right only 2/3 for guessing which companies are overloaded vs. crickets, only the one way to find out.

          I am hearing about a lot of tire kickers; so do be sure to check on budget and urgency early and be brave enough to DQ so you’re spending your time finding people with money, not entertaining people in “research mode”

          Finally, we reduced quotas here at DealPoint. I don’t want my stress to roll down to my team, where there’s a risk it might then slosh down even further on prospects and wreck our relationship.

    • Profile picture of Joe Latchaw
      @jlatchaw85
      ( 1.5k POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      For prospects who are crutching on “I can’t make that decision now”, should we take that at face value, empathize, and move the call out a few months or should we mention how continuing to delay, only causes them to lose ground to competitors? I see both sides but would love to hear how you’re handling this.

      I am in the SaaS industry if that helps.

      Thanks!
      Joe

      • Profile picture of Tom Williams
        @tom
        ( 540 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        I welcome that response. It gives my team the chance to practice their challenger skills to find that real pain or high priority.

        I think you have to be specific with what you’re solving for them, just “be better vs. competitors” isn’t going to cut it when their Vp of Finance is asked to approve your $$$$.

      • Profile picture of Jake Dunlap
        @jakedunlap
        ( 610 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        @jlatchaw85 test “tell me more” “you mentioned that xyz was a high priority so is that still the case” then you feel them out – if it’s a legit excuse…walk away

    • Profile picture of ctelles2
      @ctelles2
      ( 530 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      What a great panel! I wanted to know if there are any new skills sales professionals should be learning that will set them apart in the future? For example, the rise and popularity of AI, predictive analytics and machine learning.

      • Profile picture of Jake Dunlap
        @jakedunlap
        ( 610 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        @ctelles2 project management 💯 how to create a specific workflow, milestones, and manage multiple people in a process

    • Profile picture of John Moon
      @johnmoon
      ( 800 POINTS )
      2 months, 3 weeks ago

      What tech have you seen becoming suddenly very useful for remote teams, other than communications tools like Slack and Zoom?

      Assuming there’s no cure in the next year or two, but business resumes more or less, what do you think that’ll do to budgets and timing for buyers?

      • Profile picture of Nico Prins
        @nico_prins
        ( 230 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Hi John. The main change I’ve seen is a move to the kind of digital communications tools you mentioned. One of the companies I work with, which operates provides video communication services, saw a 300% increase in orders at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. This settled down after companies adjusted to working remotely.

        Concerning your second point, most sectors of the economy are heavily impacted by COVID-19. Companies are likely to make savings and delay big financial investments until they see the light at the end of the tunnel.

      • Profile picture of Ganesh Tayi
        @ganeshtayi
        ( 300 POINTS )
        2 months, 3 weeks ago

        Hi John, As prospects and decision makers work remotely, reaching out to their mobile numbers increases your chance of connecting and having a conversation(call or SMS). One of the tools I recommended to my clients and they found quite useful is a free chrome extension called RevDriver which provides mobile numbers. Check it out at SalesIntel.io and see if this helps in your situation.

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