How Sales Leaders Are Prospecting in a COVID-19 World

COVID-19 has forced sales leaders to rethink how they interact with prospects and drive new opportunities to their business. Avoid following the status quo, make the necessary changes to standout during this unprecedented time.

Waking up today, there is a lot of uncertainty in your world as sales leaders. The way you are interacting with customers and even your own sales team has changed overnight. As my colleague points out in his recent post“…a new era of sales is upon us.” Face to face selling is over, and now it is all about how to arm your sales organization with the tools and training they need to thrive in the “new normal.”

During this uncertain time, two of the most essential things for sales leaders to manage are your sales team and your customers. Your sales team is looking for strong leadership and security in their role. Your customers are looking at you for answers, reliability, and support.

On top of maintaining your sales team and your current customers, you are also expected to grow your business by acquiring new prospects who are not exactly looking for a new solution at this point in time. Prospecting today is already hard enough with the challenges of technology and customers who are occupied with their own day-to-day work to listen to a pitch. With the addition of a global pandemic and a challenging economy, being able to fill your pipeline with leads goes from difficult to nearly impossible.

To successfully identify potential customers during COVID-19, it will require you to evolve as a sales leader in how you are managing your sales team and how you are approaching prospecting.

As a sales leader, how can you support your sales team with prospecting and growing the business?

Although your sales environment is crazy and unpredictable doesn’t mean you have to stop everything you are doing and pivot your strategy entirely. You need to continue to lead from the front with your sales team and make sure they are executing the same processes that are working today.

Continue to practice the following in your approach to prospecting:

  • Keep your sales team motivated: During an uncertain time, often, there is an increase in demand out of the same amount of resources as before. In order to continue to keep your sales team productive in filling the top of the funnel, continue to motivate them through active coaching and leadership to ensure there is guidance from the front during this difficult time. 

Considerations for employee engagement  

    • More frequent touchpoints with your sales team
    • SPIFFs and incentivized compensation to hit targets
    • Gamify your weekly goals and turn prospecting into a friendly competition 
  • Reach out to prospects as much if not more than before: It is difficult to reach prospects. According to TOPO, it takes 18 dials to connect with a single buyer, and less than 24% of sales emails are opened. This will only get more difficult during COVID-19. It is a numbers game, so an active effort will need to continue on the prospecting front. 

Considerations for engaging with prospects

    • Come prepared to the call with background on the industry and how they are affected by the current environment
    • Send your prospects content that is relevant to their industry, situation, etc. 

Have an agile approach to prospecting and be prepared to change the following:

“Adaptability is being able to adjust to any situation at any given time (John Wooden).” Like a great coach, a  great sales leader knows how to pivot when times get tough and can adjust their game plan to execute. During COVID-19, do not abandon what is working; adapt and update to align with your prospects.

  • How you are motivating and managing your sales team: This is a difficult time to be a seller, and the sales team needs to know that. During volatile market conditions, the sales team is looking for empathy as well as positive reinforcement. It is vital to celebrate the wins and band together during the losses, even in prospecting. Sometimes this function in sales gets overlooked, but it should be frequently promoted and rewarded through internal communication and even compensation if needed. 

Considerations for employee engagement

    • Weekly emails celebrating numbers being made, significant prospects brought in, and general sales activity by your team
    • All hands call with sales leadership focused on promotion progress and boosting morale
    • Be creative with your incentive compensation to make it fun and exciting for the sales team to get bought into 
  • Your outreach techniques: Right now, your customers are vulnerable, stressed, and probably the last thing on their minds is talking to a salesperson. Now is not the time to sell them something new, it is the time to listen. Before engaging with your prospect, understand what is going on in their industry or their area and provide empathy. During this time, quality is more important than quantity. Your customers are not looking for you to cold call them and pitch. They are looking for you to listen and provide value in some way. Play the long game, and look at how you can make meaningful interactions with each prospect. 

Considerations for outreach

    • Join communities focused on COVID-19 Strategy (Like the SBI Community Page) or engage with key topics relevant to your prospects
    • Follow-up with prospects with interesting content you think could help them in their day-to-day
    • Look for opportunities to give and listen instead of sell 
  • The Sales Enablement for your sales team: In order to change up your outreach and the approach your sales team takes for prospecting, you need to change the enablement that supports them. Your team is looking for tools that will help them enter a conversation with a prospective client during this difficult time. The more customized and prescriptive the content, the better chance your sales team will have at prospecting at full efficiency. 

Considerations for enablement material

    • New scripts and templates for your sales team when interacting with prospects during COVID-19
    • Updated plays to run and strategies for conversations 
  • Change your content strategy: Right now, your customers are not looking for the typical content you push out. They’re looking for answers and solutions to help get them through the uncertainty. Your content needs to be stimulating, customized, and informative to what they want to read. Content not only supports your sales team with something to talk about in a conversation, but it also helps to drive customers to your sales team by establishing your company as a thought leader and your product as a solution. 

Considerations to revamp your content strategy

    • Content which is relevant to prospects around COVID-19 which is either market research or how your solution can help them during the pandemic 

In Closing

This is a trying time for sales leaders everywhere. One thing we know for certain is that this will not last forever. Once all of this is over, we will need to bounce back and to push forward. Being able to prospect and fill your funnel now will only make this easier once we return to normalcy in our sales environment.



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