As stay home orders were instituted across the country businesses were forced to rapidly adapt to changing market conditions. Employees began working remotely and sales functions went virtual to meet business and consumer audiences where they were.
While some industries surged with revenue growth overnight, other industries abruptly saw these business operation changes create barriers to meeting revenue projections. Businesses that previously relied on face-to-face and in-person interactions to sell were left scratching their heads as they tried to figure out how they could leverage their strengths to conduct sales in a new way.
Conventional wisdom advises that a “wait and see” strategy is a safe way to mitigate risk during a period of dramatic change. But salespeople are not the wait and see type, and they rarely play it safe! In sales, there is a constant drive to outpace everyone to get ahead of competitors and lead the market. For salespeople swift action is always the most popular game plan.
With social and professional gatherings canceled and social distancing requirements in place, your sales methodology needs to change in response. Outside sales teams that were used to going out and getting sales now need to transition to an inside sales-style approach. Processes, procedures, and policies must be reformulated to ensure that your business will come out of the other side of this recession financially healthy and poised to sustain sales regardless of what additional business disruptions may follow.
For most, restarting the stalled growth engine will become an imperative—but those who wait until all lockdowns are lifted and a recovery takes hold may find they had waited too long… That means you need to plan ahead for the next stage of this crisis and for the post-pandemic era even as you navigate the current economic shocks.
During times of dramatic change, well-timed change management is of paramount importance. Change management is not something that leadership should do after the dust has settled – it is the sum total of all the additional work put in to keep your organization on track (or get it back on track) while the storm is still raging. Managing change needs to happen immediately when the organization encounters a disruption. Your sales capabilities should be prioritized as a key component of change management to maintain the organization’s long-term growth strategy.
Developing a Through-Cycle Mindset
A successful change management strategy will always include a through-cycle mindset to keep the organization focused on the broader picture. Utilizing a through-cycle approach enables you to divert resources for your recovery earlier, instead of waiting until the storm has passed to invest in the future. Data from previous economic recessions indicates that,
“Through-cycle outperformers secured cash ahead of the crisis: compared to other companies, they had 20 percent more excess cash on hand. And while they temporarily slowed their expenditures on operations, R&D, and other areas, they diverged from their peers by quickly ramping up spending during the recovery period. These outperformers increased their absolute capital expenditures by 90 percent during the recovery period, compared with an average increase of 25 percent.”
The key takeaway is that you must take decisive steps to weather a recession or crisis. Recovery demands a through-cycle mindset across your organization to create a clear vision and strategy for achieving growth.
Sales mechanisms and connection opportunities are different these days than they were at the beginning of 2020, but the opportunity to make a meaningful connection is still there.
High quality web content may bring in form submission leads from the website, but individual attention will still drive sales. The activities used in the past still work, but the mechanisms have changed. Collaborate with your existing networks to find new contacts, recommendations, and referrals through:
- Active community participation
- Virtual networking
- Proactively reaching out
- Video chatting
Use software that equips sales reps to track interactions with leads, remember their preferences, and offer valuable content to support every stage of their buying journey.
When your business changes to adapt, your talent needs change and adapt too. Some of your best performers may continue to lead the way, while others may fall behind. The unfortunate reality during times of significant change is that a new sales strategy may not be attainable with your existing staff even if they were the best at what they did before.
Proactively interview and hire team members to drive your new organization. Stay ahead of where the business is going by getting experienced personnel into key roles ahead of strategic shifts. Do not wait until you’re desperate to hire additional employees.
Shifting Your Sales Strategy
With fewer leads in the pipeline and longer purchase cycles, sales teams will need to change their strategy to expand their target audience or broaden their offerings.
Utilizing a through-cycle approach, your organization should shift sales to more recession-proof areas. Focusing on categories that are not as prone to volatility helps attain sustainable revenue during and even after a recession. Strategic planning may pivot in a way that also allows your sales team to:
- Develop digital offerings
- Find high-growth customer segments
- Seek out bigger deals to achieve sales efficiencies
- Pursue new fast-growing markets
- Expand to adjacent industries that address the newly emerging needs of your existing customers
Strategic sales shifts can position your business for both short-term and long-term success, but they require detailed data to execute correctly. Rely on data intelligence to shape decision-making and sell more effectively. Lean on analytics to inform decision-making while charting a new organizational vision and responding to the results from previous changes.
Salespeople need to know their ideal customer profiles to execute new sales strategies. Download a worksheet to identify your best clients and learn how you can increase sales and profitability by encouraging repeat purchases and attracting more of these lucrative deals.