When our business revenue falls short of what it needs to be, it is not only the sales team careers at risk – all jobs are under the spotlight.
Which means in this era of uncertainty, with lockdowns and fears of pandemic outbreaks, from the CEO down – we should all be concerned about what the future holds.
Which is why every senior manager within your organisation must know the answer to one simple question.
‘Do my sales people have the right skills to succeed in the COVID economy?’
If you are not sure, or it is still a work in progress, then you need to get moving to discover the answer and below are 5 tips to help you along.
- Prospecting in a disrupted market
Remember the ‘good old days’ when we could drop in cold to a business, say a kind word to the receptionist, maybe bring in muffins and some coffee to begin building a new business relationship.
Well, if those days were dying anyway, COVID has killed them off completely, with receptions closed and receptionists replaced by a temperature and QR code monitor.
Even if you miraculously stumbled across an open reception, well good luck given your intended contact is most likely now working from home.
If your sales team intend to survive in this new market, they are going to have to find a new way of connecting with a prospect.
Many will turn to Linkedin, and I am sure as a likely fellow LinkedIn user, you are hoping that their approach is a little more skilled than the clumsy.
“Thanks for connecting, let me tell you all about why you should buy our services/product.”
I am sure, like me you hit that disconnect button very swiftly!
This does not mean that LinkedIn is not a powerful platform to leverage prospecting, the key is that your sales team members need to build credibility first with articles, posts and intelligent commentary.
To be where your customers and prospects are on LinkedIn forums, groups and following thought leaders. If your team are not skilled on how to utilise this important platform, well now is the time to invest in them to ensure they are.
- Connection and trust building
For those who are making the market today work for them, the one lesson they have taken from 2020 through into 2021 is that B2B customers have changed forever. As McKinsey found most B2B customers now prefer online and remote forms of connection and interaction. They expect it.
So how well does your sales team use this medium for prospect and customer meetings?
Are they skilled enough to be able to connect quickly, build trust and credibility with a stranger?
How are their online presentation skills to multiple stakeholders?
How well can they ‘read the room’ and ensure participation from the squares on the screen?
This is the brave new world for your sales people, an approach from LinkedIn, maybe followed by an online chat with a prospect, then a full presentation, all without ever meeting face to face. That is challenging and if you are not sure whether your team has the skills to cover this off, well you better get sure, very swiftly!
- Re-train and re-deploy
As lockdowns continue to disrupt where people work and how they engage, some organisations are beginning to rationalise their field sales teams.
Not only does it make better commercial sense to have less people driving around (and therefore less associated costs like petrol, the car itself, tolls, parking and servicing) it also makes sense to reach people at the point that nearly everyone is reachable – which is through their mobile phone.
Phone prospecting and account management teams are taking on some of the heavy lifting when it comes to B2B selling in the COVID economy, with these teams proving to be as effective as face-to-face contact, whilst providing greater levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
With software enabling leaders to hear calls in real time and monitor activity, this also makes managing phone-based sales people an easier proposition.
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Whilst it may seem like a solution to redeploy the mid-tier sales “plodders” into your phone teams as it is a similar skill – well think again as the answer to that is ‘no it is not.’
Phone selling requires a complete new set of skills in order to utilise the phone well, as whilst we may know how to “talk” on the phone, using it as a sales tool requires technique, so if you are re-deploying – remember that re-training is essential!
Do not waste this on your top-quality field sales people, they belong at the top end of the customer and prospect mountain, with their skills needed to sell commercially in the current environment.
Theirs needs to be a continuous approach to market of innovation coupled with the ability to convert that innovation into opportunity.
- Where do you think you are going?
In this new market your sales people will need to utilise the right levers to maximise return on capital. They must understand that their organisations are measuring ROC as part of their overall analysis of sales team effectiveness.
This means effectively answering questions such as whether it makes commercial sense to meet in person, or is a Teams or Zoom meeting just as effective?
If they choose the road, are they using this time effectively to stay connected, progress opportunity or build insight with prospects and customers?
For your team, they need to be more than solid time managers. They need to understand the value they deliver back to their organisation, to their teams and to their customers. Ensuring each interaction is generating a return.
Hitting the road for a customer meet because they enjoy meeting people, rather than using more time effective online methods, is something all line managers need to keep an eye on – with someone also keeping an eye on them. The one advantage of the COVID economy is efficiency, make sure your team is making the most of it.
- Output over optics is the new measure
COVID has changed everything. Suddenly it was okay for children to wander across in the middle of a Zoom meet, for makeup free faces to turn up to internal meetings and for casual attire to be the new business attire.
Being seen as a high performing sales person is now less about having a sharp suit and haircut, telling great jokes and water cooler conversations on how outstanding they are at what they do.
As good as they used to look, today it is all about the outcomes that they are producing and how effectively they implement an approach that delights customers and converts prospects.
With substance over style the new rule, many of these ‘chair warmers’ are leaving, either voluntarily because they see the writing on the wall, or being pushed, the not-so-great news is that there is a lot of them because anyone can sell in strong economic times.
Disruption from a competitor or a virus favours those with rigour, discipline and the ability to innovate effectively.
Today in sales we are facing a skills shortage which means you need to invest in your people, re-deploy where you need and help your high performers get to that next level.
Sales is one area where a return on investment is entirely measurable and as a leader in your business, you better get investing as without revenue in the door, everyone loses.
Written by Ingrid Maynard.
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