The COVID-19 crisis is making it difficult for companies to stay functional and cater to the revenue aspect. The distress turned even worse as the economy went into a tailspin, amplifying the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Sales leaders are hard-pressed to sustain the momentum despite the disruptions. Although crises are nothing new for organizations, a pandemic like COVID-19 was not only unforeseen, but that no one had been prepared for an eventuality of such global proportions.
Looking back, companies in every industry used crises as an opportunity to move forward. As a matter of fact, 14% of companies accelerated growth and profits during the past four recessions (BCG). However, prolonged factory and office shutdowns, like the one we are facing now is unfamiliar, and most likely to delay the global economic rebound. Though the current situation is bleak, a crisis always brings new opportunities for businesses. It’s just that businesses should work strategically to unearth the opportunities.
The article briefly discusses easy and practical steps that will help companies and sales leaders to identify opportunities amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
Hacks and ideas to lead sales tactically during the COVID-19 crisis
The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus has created rapid shifts in work environments. Companies were compelled to function remotely due to the lockdown protocols established to contain the spread of the contagion. As a result, B2B companies have begun to consider digital interactions as two to three times more important than traditional sales interactions. Nearly 90% of sales are done virtually through videoconferencing, phone, or web sales model due to the COVID-19 crisis. 65% of B2B buyers who work for enterprise companies stated that digital interactions are now more important than traditional sales interactions (Mckinsey).
Sales leaders, especially in B2B markets have been on the edge constantly, working on how to turn this crisis into an opportunity.
Following are a few hacks and ideas for Sales leaders to beat the blues and navigate through the crisis:
- Diversify your clientele. Sectors like Pharms, Telecom, Media & OTT markets have been witnessing a significant upsurge since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Focusing on the sectors that are experiencing a sharp rise in demands and catering to their urgent needs could be highly beneficial for companies during a crisis
- Cater to the health of the sales workforce. Connect with team members diligently and respond to their needs, beyond health and safety, promptly. Actions speak louder than words. In the case of sales, actions demonstrate commitment. Hence, identify ways to keep the team on track and focused on the job
- Reflect and then react. Think through the challenges before taking action. Keep a close watch on the signals stemming from various factors and identify best measures that will help gauge the company’s exposure on both demand and supply fronts
- Build an agile but phased approach. Customer behaviours have been highly volatile since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conduct virtual agile-action sprints that will help in building befitting sales strategies swiftly and tackling short-term gaps in sales processes. This approach can also help mitigate the impact of the crisis
How to pivot sales post COVID-19?
Although a drug to counter the Novel Coronavirus is not yet available, people have started accepting the new-normal across many countries. To pivot sales post COVID-19 as the dust settles down could be a fresh challenge altogether. A playbook should be defined to lead sales in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Following are a few tips that will help in describing the playbook for post COVID-19 sales:
- Build a digital marketing model. As traditional B2B marketing techniques like trade shows, events, and conferences will not be possible or preferable for as long as a cure is identified for the COVID-19 contagion, sales must collaborate and engage across digital channels largely to create powerful experiences. Hence leverage digital marketing for virtual community building
- Revise marketing budgets. Focus on online channels and deploy digital marketing techniques as most customers are working online currently. The unique capabilities of digital marketing are the need of the hour for sales teams to identify, nurture, and close leads amidst the COVID-19 crisis
- Work in transparency. It is imperative to breakdown the silos between marketing, sales, and service teams to eliminate boundaries and engage with customers effectively. Although frontier technologies like data analytics and customer analytics are helping in identifying key customers of a market, deploying digital channels and curating content helps in amplifying the efforts of the sales and service teams
- Develop conservative short-term forecasts for demand as well as supply fronts. As social isolation and lockdown protocols are most likely to exist for a protracted period, working with short-term forecasts can help organizations in avoiding worst-case scenarios and getting caught entirely off the guard
The COVID-19 pandemic has put companies and workforces under immense duress. However, there is always a silver lining – the advancement in technologies and digital transformation has come in handy for many companies during the crisis and has enabled them to operate virtually amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic. Hence, sales teams should focus on re-establishing the ground rules, particularly by harnessing digital technologies to spot and seize opportunities during the crisis.
Dr. Siddhartha Dutta