Since WHO (The World Health Organizations) declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, the world as we know it has experienced a drastic change.
For weeks now, the business community has been ramping up efforts to help contain the virus. Large corporations like Airbnb, Google, and Twitter all asked their teams to work from home to reduce the spread. Annual events have been canceled, business strategies have shifted, and companies everywhere have been forced to rethink the way they approach their sales activity.
As travel restrictions, hiring freezes, and evolutions in market demand all create new challenges for brands, one thing hasn’t changed: Our need to access regular sales.
The question is, how do you guide a sales team towards measurable results in a sales environment unlike anything we’ve ever seen before? We’re going to guide you through how to approach team management during a crisis so you can keep your company growing and your team positive and productive.
It All Starts with a Plan: Strategic Selling in a Crisis
All successful sales strategies start with proper planning.
Now that the world as we know it is evolving at an incredible pace, business leaders need to think carefully about the kind of challenges they’re going to face. For instance, will a remote sales team be harder to manage than in-office employees?
If so, then you need a campaign in place that allows you to keep your team members motivated and productive during this crisis. Accessing new tools for workforce optimization, time tracking, and team management is crucial to keeping everyone on the same page.
According to Richard Harris, the Founder of Harris Consulting Group, early adopters will thrive by researching new opportunities and looking for new ways to keep teams motivated through training.
To figure out how you’re going to progress through the crisis, think about:
- How big your sales team needs to be to continue delivering the same quality of service to clients. As tempting as it may be to reduce your personnel during this difficult time, a reduction in team members could threaten your reputation.
- What kind of communication strategies you’ll be using. Face-to-face conversations might be out, but you can keep team members engaged and informed through video conferencing and real-time chat instead.
- What resources do you need to deliver to your sales teams? Beyond CRM systems for customer management, what other tools are necessary? Do you need a way for your clients to track their individual performance for gamification purposes? Would a service that helps your clients track sales sequences online keep them on the ball?
- How will you support your teams? Offering the right training and technology is a good start. However, you also need to provide support in the form of reassurance and regular updates, so your people feel educated and informed.
As more companies ask their employees to work from home, it’s important to remember that there’s more to building a digital sales team than giving them a laptop and sending them on their way. You need a clear picture of how work can be done in their new environment to ensure your team members have the right technology and support to thrive.
Changing Your Team Management Strategies to Suit the Situation
The management strategies that you’ve used to guide teams in the past might not be as effective in a remote working environment. There’s a good chance that your team members will lose some of their direction and motivation in this new landscape.
Your first thought might be that you need to start micromanaging your employees. However, going too far with your management technique will suffocate the creativity and innovation of your team members.
It’s likely that in a new working environment, you will need to give your employees clearer guidance and direction, but you still need to give them the freedom to make decisions on their own.
For instance, provide guidelines on how many new leads your employees should be collecting every day. Make sure that your employees also have access to the tools and training they need to achieve their goals.
However, at the same time, it’s important to allow your employees to:
- Explore different strategies
- Adjust their working hours according to their needs
- Switch from sales mode to “assistance” mode, to help nurture existing clients
Additionally, make sure you have a system in place that allows you to gather information from your sales team. During this challenging time, it’s more important than ever to use your agents as the front line for your company, collecting information from them on what customers need, which kind of sales strategies work best, and more
Use social listening to monitor customer discussions, and adjust your sales strategy accordingly. Ask account management and sales teams what responses they’re getting from the front lines. Monitor phone calls, emails, and service chats for changes in sentiment and customer concern. Direction is necessary for your team members, but your customers need you to be able to adjust and adapt.
Use Brand Awareness to Stockpile New Leads
Now that more customers are stuck at home, we’re likely to see more customers spending time online. Verizon has already reported a 20% increase in web traffic.
With this in mind, you should be focusing extra time and resources on prospecting and lead generation. Even if you’re still busy at the moment, or you’re not in an industry that’s been heavily impacted by COVID-19, now is the time to stockpile new leads.
One of the best ways to build brand awareness is to help your sales team focus on more frequent communications. Ramp up your cold calls and emails to customers and adjust your sales pitch to address the needs that your clients are facing. For instance, are your customers:
- Worrying about accessing your services in this new environment?
- Unsure about your ability to maintain your supply chain?
- Worried about the safety and origins of your products?
- Concerned that you may run out of stock?
Ask yourself what is likely to be upsetting or worrying your audience at this time and develop a brand message that’s all about putting those concerns to rest.
Don’t be afraid to explore new avenues of communication as well. Nancy Nardin, founder of Smart Selling Tools Inc. suggests that ensuring your employees have a way to reach more prospects with email is crucial in this time of crisis.
Additionally, Brynne Tilman notes that reaching prospects over the phone might not be as easy in the pandemic environment, and using LinkedIn and social media to find B2B stakeholders may be a lot simpler in this digital landscape.
Protect Your Customers and Your Sales Team
Aside from listening to your clients more and adapting your sales pitch to suit the crisis, you may need to think of other ways to protect your existing customers and sales team during this unusual situation.
For instance, as the world continues to go into lockdown, your clients are still going to need support. If the kind of support you generally offer is face-to-face, it’s time to think about ways that you can serve your clients in the digital landscape. For instance, B2B team bonding brand, “TeamBuilding,” started to develop new virtual, effective, team-building activities to help companies improve staff engagement without in-person training.
Looking at new ways to deliver services and support could be crucial both now and after COVID-19 issues begin to die down.
While you’re looking for ways to protect your customers, remember that your team members need help and support too. For instance, Alice Heiman recommends sharing strategies with your employees that will help them to maintain a positive mindset in times of crisis. Encouraging your employees to maintain an effective work-life balance and manage their emotions from home means that you’ll end up with happier, more productive, and more creative team members.
You and your team need to radiate a positive, can-do attitude in every sales strategy. The more you support your team, the more they’ll be able to adapt to suit the changing needs of your customers.
Prepare for a Resurgence After the Crisis
Finally, remember that this situation won’t last forever.
Right now, your focus might be on maintaining sales and protecting the bottom line. However, it’s also a good idea to think about how you can come out of this crisis in a better position than where you started.
In many industries, the COVID-19 crisis will force companies to reduce their costs, rethink the way they use their cash reserves, and more. Your customers are likely to have less money to spend for a while and different needs compared to what they needed just a few months ago.
Work with your remote team at this time to collect ideas on how you can thrive when the crisis is over. For instance:
- Could you continue to offer remote working opportunities to reduce your monthly expenditure? Remote workers require fewer overheads than office-based employees.
- Can you change your sales model? Maybe your clients can lease or rent software and equipment from you, rather than buying it outright?
- Could you work with banks and other financing options to provide your clients with different ways to pay for what they need?
When things die down, you might need to make extra time to revisit customers and address their needs again. As Lori Richardson, B2B Sales growth strategist for Score More Sales, suggests, the key challenge for companies right now is figuring out how to deliver real value for customers in the long-term.
Re-evaluating your sales pipeline, researching new client needs, and preparing for different kinds of business will be essential.
In times of crisis, sales leaders have an essential role to play in maintaining the continued growth of their companies. It’s time for leaders to be role models for their teams, energizing their employees to take more proactive care of existing customers and unlock new opportunities with different clients.
Just as these world-class revenue leaders put it, planning for a new sales strategy, taking care of your team, and preparing for life both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic will help your business to come out of this global crisis stronger and more creative than when you started.