With June nearly over and the initial shock of the COVID-19 crisis behind us, sales management teams are focusing on building a plan to come out stronger on the other side. But in this environment, it can be difficult to act proactively. With states and cities reopening at different rates and cases rising in some parts of the country while falling in others, no one knows exactly how the economy will respond. However, one thing is certain: If sales leaders want a leg up on the competition, they need to invest in cost-effective initiatives before it’s completely clear that the crisis has passed.
Where Do You Start?
According to research conducted by LinkedIn, 55% of sales professionals now expect a decrease in quota attainment this year. With this in mind, inaction is simply not an option.
We recommend three main areas of focus for sales leaders:
- WHO they focus sales manager coaching effort against
- WHERE in the sales process they focus sales manager attention
- HOW sales managers coach new behaviors that improve customer receptivity
Who: New Hires and Middle Performers
Let’s face it: Sales coaching is a double-edged sword. According to research by Gartner, nothing beats a well-structured coaching program for driving sales productivity. At the same time, we know that coaching is not effective if it targets the wrong reps. Frontline managers who spend the majority of their time focused on low and high performers will make a marginal impact at best. To fully realize the power of a consistent coaching framework, sales managers must focus the majority of efforts on new hires and middle performers.
In fact, an analysis of our partnership with an industry-leading cybersecurity company found that managers who spent more than 25% of their time assessing new hires saw a 20% greater increase in performance compared to managers who spent less than 5% of their time with this critical group. In addition to stressing the importance of coaching new hires, sales leaders should establish specific guidelines for engaging middle performers. After all, even a modest improvement in coaching here can translate to a six to eight percent increase in performance across 50% of your sales force.
Remember: Sales coaching isn’t just about performance. Effective coaching programs come with a myriad of benefits — beyond increases in productivity, performance, and win rates, coaching helps companies to engage and retain top talent, and recoup investments involved in recruiting and hiring new salespeople.
Where: Focus on Early Stage Pipeline, Account Re-Qualification, and Territory Re-Classification
Nothing drains a sales team’s productivity like chasing unqualifed opportunities, and nothing destroys morale like continued missed forecasts. To start, ensure that sales teams are buttoned up on early stage qualification and solution alignment. The root cause of unqualified pipeline and missed forecasts happens at the top of the funnel and there’s greater risk in the current environment than before. This is where sales managers should dedicate more time.
Account Re-Qualification and Territory Re-Classification demand sales leader attention in the current environment. Managers are responsible for understanding with their teams the impact of the current crisis on key accounts and what strategies to employ as a result. Territory plans should also be readjusted to focus on where there’s greater receptivity…often referred to as category one or two businesses vs. category three.
How: Strategic Questioning and Elevating the Conversation
Since more than 70% of B2B buyers define their needs before communicating with sellers, reps must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the customers’ industry and business issues related to COVID-19. Here, research comes first. But as every business’s relationship to the crisis is unique, managers should also coach reps on strategic questioning techniques. Asking the right questions allows sellers to confirm your solution’s relevance to the timely issues being faced by the potential buyer.
Ultimately, nothing is as important as ensuring sellers are able to demonstrate empathy and elevate the conversation above the transactional. Just because an immediate sale is out of the question doesn’t mean that sellers are wasting their time. If done properly, these conversations should give reps an understanding of how to provide value to the buyer when the storm has passed. These behaviors may at best a slight variation for some reps and at worst completely new. Either way, managers play a critical role in observing and coaching to what good looks like.
How We Can Help
The last time we faced such a dire situation was the 2008 financial crisis, which did more to separate the strong A players from the weaker B and C ones than anything we’d ever seen. This current crisis will likely play out the same way, which is why identifying and supporting your reps must be a part of your plan to successfully traverse this new environment: The right kind of support — for the right salesperson, at the right time — is the name of the game.
CT Connect ensures you’ll come out of the other side of this crisis stronger by strategically directing who sales managers focus efforts on, where they spend time in the funnel, and how they identify and improve the selling behaviors that matter most.
By providing your frontline sales managers with a consistent framework, you’ll maximize their effectiveness by:
- Outlining coaching plans that budget time with reps who are at greater risk in the current environment
- Introduce selling behaviors that are critical for empathizing with prospects and elevating the conversation
- Improve closing ratios while reducing the risk of needing to downsize in the coming months
The world has changed. Make the shift to ensure you have a leg up on the competition when the skies clear.
Download our free template to build a Remote Manager Playbook that will provide your managers a roadmap for success in the current environment.