The influence of COVID-19 on the marketplace and our sales operations has completely changed the business landscape, and there may be no turning back.
While many things can impact a sales team, most of us have never encountered the kind of confusion created by the arrival of the pandemic.
More than ever, team leaders need to ask themselves how they can prepare for the future and use what they’ve learned during these last few months to excel in the days to come.
While there will be no one-size-fits-all sales approach to surviving this transition, there are a few distinct steps that all ventures need to consider to succeed in this new world.
Step 1: Stabilizing the Sales Strategy
As the crisis continues to unfold around the world, teams have gone into disaster mode, trying to find ways to stabilize their sales process and keep everything running smoothly.
The way you approach stabilization for your team will depend on a number of things. For instance, you might need to add extra people to your customer service team, so that you always have someone on-hand to answer questions your clients might have.
You may have started to train your teams to use video conferencing equipment to ensure you can continue to demo your services from a distance.
Right now, the key to success is finding ways to make your employees as productive and efficient as possible in an unpredictable environment. This will include accessing new technologies and tools that convert your offline salesforce into an online hub.
There are three major tools we should look at to help you do this.
CRO tools: CRO tools allow you to combine various components of your sales landscape into a single place. This ensures your team won’t need to jump between different tools to get a complete view of the situation with any client or project.
Inbox management tools: Sales teams need more than just a basic inbox to help them stay ahead of the curve in this complicated environment. You need tools like Outreach that connect your inbox with your CRM to give you lead information and other powerful communication features.
Having advanced communication tools for every medium you use is essential to staying connected with your customers and team. Don’t forget about other modes of communication your company may use, such as video conferencing and instant messaging.
The more you help your employees communicate, both internally and externally, the more they’ll accomplish.
Lead management tools: Business leaders need to provide their employees with a clear playbook, so they know how each step they need to take with a customer and how that benefits them directly. A clear sales pipeline is essential in this complicated time.
Lead management tools like Salesforce and Hubspot can help you do that.
A large part of stabilizing your sales approach in this environment is ensuring that you have an eco-system that allows for fast, informed decision making.
A technology stack that provides easy access to critical information, while simultaneously gathering data for future opportunities is essential. All the while, you need to think about how your current processes can benefit your employees.
What tools do you have in place to continue executing successful sales plans? Is your current CRO setup enough to rebuild productivity among distributed employees, while still giving them enough freedom to remain creative?
How will you empower your team members to deliver engaging, customized experiences for your target customers?
Step 2: Reopening the Workplace
Once you’ve stabilized your sales team and dealt with the immediate concerns of our new landscape, the next step is to think about reopening your business. And as the last couple of months have proven, you can’t afford to just sit back and wait for things to go back to normal.
If you want to come out of this challenging environment with more opportunities and a better reputation, you need to think carefully about how you’re going to deliver the most value to your current customer base and serve society as a whole as well.
For instance, when the current COVID-19 crisis hit, the Crosstown donut company in London didn’t just start delivering donuts to customers, it also started working with friends in their industry to deliver food packages to those in need.
To do something like this, the first skill you need to focus on is listening. Ask your team to pay attention to what’s going on in the environment. That means taking notes during one-on-one meetings with customers, collecting data with your CRM tools, and even conducting customer surveys.
The more insight you can get, the more you can transform that knowledge into valuable action.
Start with a holistic plan: Take it slow, and remember that the return to the workplace is going to be a slow one. Your aim shouldn’t be to get as many people back into the office as quickly as possible.
Work on a staged reopening strategy while you look for new and improved ways to serve your community.
Planning your reopening strategy with a holistic view means thinking about everything from the government guidelines you need to follow to the needs of your customers and your sales team.
Consider how many people you need to bring back into the office and whether you can maintain the same productivity levels by having people continue to work from home.
Could you better serve your clients by sticking to a digital strategy that focuses on virtual demonstrations and video conferencing? Would avoiding face-to-face interactions for a little longer make your clients feel safer?
Take it slow and focus on the health and happiness of your customers and employees.
Unify decision making and feedback: Now is the time to show your customers that you understand their needs. The choices you make for your sales team now need to be informed by what you’re hearing from your customers.
If you can get a feel for what your clients want, then you can rebuild trust through personalized experiences that will make a real impact on your community.
Demonstrate empathy: Empathy is going to be the defining trend of the COVID-19 return-to-work strategy for many companies. You need to think about the concerns your audience is facing during this time.
As the Founder of AA-ISP, Bob Perkins said,
“Although it’s important to achieve sales objectives, we also need to share ‘genuine empathy’ with our customers, and the community at large.”
Listen to your customers and develop a reopening plan that makes them feel safe and happy.
At this point, only 10% of executives say that they’ve done extensive planning for their return to work strategy. Failing to put the right steps in place for this process could seriously disrupt your enterprise and make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain crucial relationships with your customers.
Step 3: Cultivating Growth
Once your offices have reopened, and your operations have stabilized, it’s time to finally focus on achieving your goals and accessing new methods of growth. This is where you will begin to see the foundations of your new normal settle into place.
Hopefully, in the last few months, you’ve had first-hand insight into how transformative tools like CRO systems can be at enabling consistent learning and growth for your workforce. Cultivating growth will mean thinking carefully about which steps will help you maintain the most agility and flexibility to deal with future issues.
Continuing to use the productivity tools and additional training that got you through the crisis could be critical going forward.
The future is customer-centric: You’ll need to maintain your empathy and customer focus as you head into this new landscape. Make sure to empower your teams by giving them everything they need to know about your customers in a single space.
Innovate and remain agile: If the recent landscape has proven anything, it’s that businesses can no longer afford to be stuck in their ways. In the world of remote working, we’ve discovered that the old sales playbooks just don’t work anymore. We need something that’s more agile and flexible to cope with the ever-changing environment that we live in today.
Keep track of what’s going on in the world around you, and make sure that you’re able to adjust to any situation.
Connect with your community: Don’t let all the work you’ve done in your community up to now go to waste. Build a consistent roadmap that will allow you to keep delivering powerful support to the wider world around you.
Focus on becoming a platform for change in your industry, and prioritize the health and wellness of the people around you. This includes not just your customers, but also your employees and your network as well.
Embracing the New Normal
The old concept of normal disappeared when COVID-19 hit the world. We’ve been forced to rethink everything we thought we knew about selling and customer relationships.
Luckily, by staying customer-centric and embracing new strategies and digital transformation, companies around the world can set themselves up for future success. And thanks to advanced technology systems, CRO solutions, and measurement tools, you can track the strategies that work best for your sales teams and customers.
Facing a changing environment is a daunting experience for any sales team. However, that doesn’t have to spell disaster. Companies that take this disruption as an opportunity to grow and evolve will be the ones that excel in the years to come.
Are you ready for the sales world of tomorrow?