The Coronavirus crisis has affected organisations of every stripe in every industry and country. And these effects, both direct and knock-on, will probably reverberate through companies and industries for the foreseeable future. Therefore, today’s leaders and managers are wondering if their organisations will ever be able to recover from the financial and social repercussions of this pandemic.
Sales leaders in particular are wondering what the current crisis means for the future of selling. How can they stay in the game when the game itself is changing on them? What do they need to do to adapt to the crisis and still come out, if not strong, then at least better prepared?
All is not lost. Here are 4 strategies that sales organisations can adopt in order to cope, to stay safe and be more productive.
- Move your focus from your worries to the buyer’s
The current crisis has changed consumers’ mindsets, beliefs and behaviours. A lot of these changes have to do with their changed circumstances (work from home, social distancing, etc) but many also have to do with the uncertainty generated by the pandemic (“will I lose my job?”).
Sellers that acknowledge these uncertainties and show a willingness to adapt their behaviours to mitigate these challenges on behalf of their customers are more likely to survive, and even thrive. A good example of such adaptive behaviour would be a brick-and-mortar grocery store that starts a free home delivery service. Another example: a gym that stays in touch with its customers and reminds them to exercise regularly in order to maintain their general health and well-being.
Companies that value their customers and are unafraid to explicitly acknowledge this will be better prepared for future challenges that this crisis may bring.
- Adapt to new technological realities
Social distancing and national lockdowns are forcing many people to work remotely – even salespeople who typically work in the field. The good news is that technology is available that makes it possible for people to continue to meet their professional obligations, and remain productive and effective. The trick of course, is for the right people to use the right tool for the right purpose. A good example of this is virtual meeting software like Zoom.
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To keep going in the midst of the crisis, it’s essential to adapt to these tools as quickly as possible. In the case of sales professionals, digital connections work especially well with repeat customers and well-informed buyers who are also digital natives.
- Keep an eye on the future
The current economic freeze is serious but the situation will eventually improve. The crisis is forcing organisations to realise that the traditional way of doing things no longer work. This means that they now need to find ways to boost the use of digital self-service and inside sales channels. They also need to refocus their field sales efforts on key customer accounts and sales activities, say by hiring more Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to encourage customer loyalty and retention. And if worst comes to worst, they are slowly acknowledging that they may have to downsize in order to keep their business viable in future.
The point is, hoping that things will get back to normal and therefore playing a wait-and-watch game is a short-sighted strategy at best and a dangerous mistake at worst. The crisis will get better but your company may not be able to – unless you make plans and take necessary actions today.
- Become more digitally savvy
Today’s customers are more digitally aware and the crisis has just made this a more ‘visible’ reality for sales organisations. As digital usage increases and becomes more viral, salespeople and sales organisations need to climb up the digital learning curve fast, or risk fading into oblivion. They need to match their sales efforts with the way their customers want to buy. They also need to use more digital tools and analytics in order to provide ongoing value to customers.
Internal digital awareness is also crucial. Organisations must leverage technology to make sales recruiting and training more effective and efficient. Sales managers must also be more comfortable coaching and managing remotely. Only when companies develop a digitally savvier sales culture can they expect to be well-positioned to drive future success even in the midst of a crisis.
The Coronavirus pandemic is like a bad dream that shows no signs of fading. However, sales organisations that figure out how to deal with this crisis in productive ways will be able to eventually look back and say, “It was a tough time but we survived.”
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Lion Amir Virani