Here are 5 Simple and Effective Initiatives for B2B Sales Leaders During the Pandemic:
- Implement CRM Usage and Adoption
- Identify and Target The Best Growth Opportunities
- Prioritize Virtual Selling
- Rethink Your Market Coverage
- Weed-Out Salespeople that Aren’t a Fit
B2B Sales Leader Guide for the Pandemic
Your customers are in a growth or trouble mode as a direct impact of the pandemic
Your company might be one, the other, or a mix. Regardless, your sales leaders face an extreme bias on short-term results. Like most cyclical events, the pandemic will pass, and you’ll want the sales organization in a position to achieve more than their fair share of market and customer spend.
The dilemma sales leaders face is to drive maximum sales results now or invest in the future. Most sales leaders want to do both, but the pressure for short-term results typically consumes most of the time and resources.
McKinsey published research in 2019 that indicated firms that invested in the long-term during the 2008 financial crisis, “earnings rose 10 percent, while industry peers had lost nearly 15 percent by the time the downturn reached its trough in 2009.” So it pays to invest in the future during a downturn.
B2B Sales Leader Guide for the Pandemic
To prepare a sales organization to compete in the pandemic recovery, we suggest that the leadership team consider these initiatives:
1. CRM Usage and Adoption
If your CRM deployment, use, or adoption is lacking, now is the time to address it. The shift to virtual selling and the increased importance of digital marketing requires a robust CRM that the sales organization from the top down uses to guide activity and performance. Please start with the data model then focus on ensuring that sales leaders have the reports, dashboards, and insight they need to drive sales performance. Salesperson training won’t make a difference until sales leaders are enabled to manage from the CRM.
2. Identify and Target The Best Growth Opportunities
Identifying and prioritizing existing customers that present the best growth opportunities is essential to deploy limited sales resources optimally. Embedding an Account Planning tool and process is the fastest way to structure, standardize, and grow existing accounts. Without account planning, existing customer growth is sub-optimized as sales support resources end up allocated toward near term opportunity decisions instead of building value propositions for strategic account growth.
3. Virtual Selling is the Only Thing
Virtual selling used to be a “thing,” but now it’s the only thing. Most B2B salespeople struggle with virtual selling at least partially because they haven’t yet figured out that the sales process for virtual selling is the same as in-person selling. Mastery (which is more than use) of collaboration tools such as Zoom and Teams is missing, impacting the sales and support teams’ ability to replicate interactions that effectively advance the sales process. Virtual team selling requires more planning and rehearsal than in-person selling and requires skill development, training, and coaching for teams to succeed.
4. Rethink Your Market Coverage
You no longer need a salesperson living in the geography where prospects or customers reside. That fact is shaking up the sales leader’s thinking of coverage models similar to the rethink that employees no longer need to work from the office. Rethinking your market coverage model can accelerate growth and, in some cases, reduce cost.
The benefits of rethinking how you cover your market are significant and include:
- Relocation budgets can shift to higher sales priorities.
- The number and quality of candidates that you recruit may double or more.
- Under-served market segments can be served with increased investment in inside sales.
- You may no longer need to hold on to salespersons who are the only ones in a specific sales territory.
5. Weed-out salespeople that aren’t a fit
Sales leaders should now participate in more virtual “ride-a-longs” with salespeople, particularly new hires. A sales leader would allocate a day, two or more for prospect and customer visits with her salespeople in the past. Most of the time was in the car or office, with a minor portion in in-person prospect meetings. Now she can participate in more sales calls in a week that she might have done in a month in the past. Sales leaders must allocate time for this critical activity. During boom times it can be difficult to weed out poor performers. Times of crisis, for better or worse, do provide justification for right-sizing the organization. It’s one of the most impactful initiatives that can position your organization for long-term growth. Don’t forget compassion during the process.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging sales leaders to balance both short-term results and investments for long-term performance. For most leaders, the short-term is the priority.
If you believe that “this too shall pass,” then sales leadership must look beyond the current crisis, and short-term results focus, and instead invest in initiatives to accelerate growth in the recovery.
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