Let’s face it: The effect of COVID-19 is top-of-mind for many sales leaders. The pandemic has changed the way many of us interact with our teams, as workplaces around the world have gone remote. It’s affected sales cycles for better and for worse. And it’s left organizations in every industry scrambling to figure out what’s next.

But amidst all of that, it falls on our sales teams to keep revenue coming in, even during the most difficult days. Otherwise, our businesses would fail. It’s a big responsibility to shoulder, and a lot of pressure falls onto sales leaders to make it happen. So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, we get it.

We’d like to lighten that load a bit. That’s why we’ve put together a list of five priorities you can focus on today to keep your team on track – and set them up for success – as stress levels continue to rise and fatigue starts to set in.

1. Put your team first

Your people are just that. People. They have worries, fears, and struggles. And their personal lives may be in as much upheaval as their work lives are. We talk a lot about empathizing with prospects and customers – now’s the time to start empathizing with ourselves for the sake of our teams’ health and wellbeing.

If you can:

  • Offer flexibility. Some of your reps may have family members who need attention throughout the day. That might mean allowing breaks for them to handle personal matters or making sure they’re able to join a team meeting even if they’re not at their computer. 
  • Get social (from a distance). Things can get lonely without them those little moments of socialization throughout the day. Make time for non-work-related camaraderie, whether it’s sharing a virtual team lunch or hosting an end-of-week video “happy hour.”
  • Check-in during 1:1s. This is your reps’ opportunity to open up about how they’re feeling, both professionally and personally. Ask them how they’re adjusting to the changes and whether there’s anything you can do to help. It’s a tough balance between people vs performance, and one affects the other. Emphasizing your people is the best thing you can do to help the performance of many reps during this period. 

Crunchbase puts its best: “We celebrate the top performers and quickly determine what we can do to help the lower performers. Not every miss is due to a lack of work ethic. Some people are out helping family or friends, and we need to take that into account.”

2. Communication is key

We know communication (or lack thereof) can make or break a remote sales team. That goes double when there’s so much new information flowing in – and old information flowing out. Open, honest and regular touchpoints have never been more important.

To make it work, you should have at least these in place:

  • A team chat app that everyone on your team can access. In addition to your regular channels, consider setting aside a channel for COVID-19-related questions.
  • Regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings and team meetings, over video chat if possible. You may find reps will want to connect more frequently when they’re working at a distance.
  • Daily stand-up meetings at the start of each day to go over team tasks, priorities and deadlines, and an end-of-day recap to review what got done.
  • An updated playbook that contains all the information reps need to work through the sales process and stay up to date with changes as they happen. Many of our customers are creating work-from-home playbooks to help their teams through this time. 

3. Listen to your customers’ concerns

Your customers are people, too, and just like your team, they’re adjusting to a lot of changes at once. Here’s the good news: your reps are still engaging with customers and prospects daily, and are in the perfect position to collect feedback on the situation. Not only is that information you can use to plan the right approach during a difficult time, but it also helps you gauge the impact COVID-19 is having on your business. Plus, it sends a message to your prospects and clients: you care.

Monitoring social media for your prospective targets can also give you an idea of where a company and industry are at right now and the kinds of struggles they’re dealing with, so encourage reps to do a little reconnaissance.

That said, be understanding if you aren’t a priority right now. After all, many decision-makers are busy making decisions for their teams. Give them time and space if they need it – and take the approach that you want to help them with their problems, rather than sell to them. 

4. Reposition your value

Now that you know what’s on your customers’ minds, it’s time to think about whether you need to double down on your value proposition, pivot it to meet shifting demands or retarget your efforts in different market segments to keep the pipeline flowing. 

What struggles are you uniquely positioned to help with right now? How can you help customers empower their teams or keep essential services running? After all, if they’re going to purchase when money’s tight, you have to prove you’re worth it.

Consider:

  • Reinforcing value with current customers. Get in touch with your existing accounts to check in and let them know how you’ll continue to support them. Ask them how they are using your product or service during this time to understand if your value is changing depending on the time.
  • Taking a look at your personas. Are there any old ones that don’t apply right now, or new ones you should add? If your organization uses a freemium model, try prospecting into individual contributors if your solution can benefit them to help with their pains before trying to contact a decision-maker to make a sale.
  • Updating your templates and messaging. Dig into the language you’re using and bring it up to speed with the current situation. It’ll help reps stay up-to-date, too. Messaging that lacks the context of the times we are in is a great way to have your message get ignored.

5. Make good use of downtime

Let’s not sugar-coat it: on average, sales are down. In a mid-March survey from Brooks Group, three-quarters of sales teams reported that lead flow had taken a substantial hit – and about the same amount said they were behind on their sales numbers as a result of COVID-19. So your team may find itself with a little more time on their hands.

Don’t let that time go to waste. Now’s a perfect time to:

  • Update parts of the sales process that need attention
  • Bring your customer records up to date
  • Focus on rep skill development. It’s never a bad time for training so focus on how you can come out of this stronger as a team. 

COVID-19 is hard. But doesn’t mean reps should give up on trying to sell or feel discouraged when they don’t make their numbers. We just need to think differently about how they sell, why they sell and who they sell to – and above all else, be human. Because if we’re going to get through this, it’s going to be together – and that is true for individual contributors and sales leaders alike. 

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