Selling in the time of Coronavirus sounds like a plagiarized book title. It’s also a real problem facing sales leaders. While many are used to managing remote teams, the problem is that lots of customers aren’t. They’ve moved into survival mode. Customers are considering how to protect their staff, and how to protect their business. Buying isn’t a priority.
The question of what sales leaders should do in this unprecedented situation is answered by an unlikely source. Counselling governments on how to respond to COVID-19, a World Health Organization spokesperson said last week, ‘Be fast, have no regrets…..if you need to be right before you move, you will never win…speed trumps perfection”
Sales Leaders take note. You know your market. You know your product. You know your customers. You have all the information at hand to formulate an approach that works best for your team, your customers and your business. Don’t wait. Act now and refine as the situation evolves. Here are some tips:
Prioritize your people. This situation will pass. How you treat your team now will determine how they and your customers view your business in the future. Consider the customer loyalty and employee advocacy companies like Lush have banked by committing to pay staff through this difficult business period. Now consider the damage done to staff moral and brand reputation of companies like Virgin Airlines who’ve asked staff to take eight-weeks unpaid leave. In an era where brand trust and integrity are fundamentally linked to financial success, doing the right thing now can literally pay dividends later.
Adapt your expectations. Adapt your sales process. Instead of focussing on targets that will almost certainly be missed, consider how you can make your sales people more productive during this enforced period of remote working.
Support Sales to Work Remotely Support sales to work remotely: There’s no shortage of LinkedIn posts telling you how to work from home! If it’s feasible for your sales team to work remotely, make sure they’re set up and supported to do just that. My advice is twofold: set clear expectations and build a culture of trust.
Set Clear ExpectationsSetting clear expectations on what outcomes you expect your remote working sales team to achieve will remove ambiguity, reduce stress and help manage their well-being in already difficult circumstances.
Build a Culture of Trust means trusting your team to be the professionals they are. Trust them to manage their time and to deliver the outcomes you’ve agreed. Note, this doesn’t mean leaving them to their own devices, remote working requires a support structure (usually focussed around managers) of regular check-in, coaching and feedback. It means teaching them how to manage their time, how to handle conflicting workloads and of course, providing managers the support they need to shift to a new model of working.
Reset and Come Out Stronger
Build a Practical Competency Model mapped to the operating goals for our new normal. Take time to consider the skills, knowledge and behaviors needed in each sales role to drive optimal sales performance. Then, use this framework to identify the skills gaps and shortages within your sales organization as they relate to those organizational objectives.
Online Competency Assessment tools like SKILLBuild, assess whether the right people are equipped to be effective in their new roles, which learning programs and skills developments would be most effective across your organization to plug knowledge and learning gaps, and where this learning should be applied.
Skills Development:Armed with this knowledge you can then offer learning and development around the sales skills essential to delivering a new operating model. Companies like Strategy to Revenue have a track record of delivering skills development programs to remote teams in multiple languages. Content is developed specifically for sales managers to educate and coach their own teams so that new learning and behaviors become embedded in the sales organization.
As your sales team switch to remote working, we want to do our part to help you and them stay safe, but stay on target. Our key online learning modules that support managing and operating in a remote sales team are available for free here.
Time Management is self-directed learning to help remote workers prioritize workloads and manage conflicting demands.
Managing A Remote and Virtual Team helps team leaders adopt the mindset needed for effective management in a remote working environment. Use of these learning tools is free and unlimited. with additional follow up modules also available on our website.
COVID-19 isolation will pass. The convenience and cost-savings tied to remote working are almost certainly here to stay. What will distinguish successful sales teams will be how sales leadership used this time of enforced isolation to prepare for future ways of working.
Stay safe. Stay productive.