(Part 4 of our COVID-19 Management series.)
By now, your sales teams have settled into life during these strange times — they have their work-from-home routine down, and you’ve adjusted your revenue expectations on the year to account for a new normal.
However, adjusting messaging and overall communications with prospects and customers during the pandemic was recently ranked as the #1 action taken by sales leaders.
To coach sellers effectively during the pandemic, managers must value empathy to understand the customers unique circumstances, raise their teams game to ask even more informed questions and pivot how sellers present the solution to demonstrate relevance now.
Ultimately, you, your company, and your teams should be on the same page in terms of what behaviors matter — otherwise, the reception to your behavior shifts will be minimal at best and the risk of misalignment on critical goals will be high. Ready to instill the behavioral changes that will help your teams connect, build pipeline and move sales to close?
Here are the three major principles for frontline managers to consider when coaching teams to navigate customer conversations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How well does the seller demonstrate empathy with the potential customer and the challenges they are navigating in the current COVID-19 environment?
Everyone is familiar with the age-old adage “know your customer” — but how well do your reps truly know your prospects and their current struggles? It’s time for reps to do their homework all over again. By starting a sales conversation that demonstrates your seller understands and cares about what is likely an even more challenging business environment for your customer, your seller creates a foundation for trust that may not win the deal immediately but will create the greatest likelihood of staying engaged to win in the future.
Empathy is a mindset that you can reinforce across the entire sales process. Reps may have a firm grasp on business priorities and personal motivations, but it’s not uncommon for them to underestimate that deals die in consensus-building – the average B2B sale takes 6+ people to say YES and only 1 person to say NO. Ultimately, now might not be the best time for what was once a hot lead to buy — but that doesn’t mean sellers aren’t forging valuable connections that will pay dividends once the crisis has passed.
Ask Informed Questions
How well does the seller ask questions that demonstrate an understanding of your customers’ industry and business conditions related to COVID-19?
In the recent LinkedIn State of Sales 2020 Report, buyers listed “active listening” as the number-one attribute they value in salespeople. High performers ask targeted questions that allow them to confirm their research, build their understanding of vital pain points, and uncover where their solutions can provide short- and long-term ROI.
Where should managers coach their team to start? We like the questions that Keith Richey proposed in a recent LinkedIn article about communicating with customers during the COVID-19 crisis:
- How are you and your business doing under the circumstances?
- What’s top-of-mind for you and your team right now?
- What problems or challenges have become critical for you to solve?
- Is your company altering its plans for the next quarter or year ahead?
First and foremost, reps must do their research to customize their questions appropriately. Just as empathy shows that a seller wants to know a potential customer, asking informed questions shows that they’re qualified to partner with them to solve pressing issues.
Demonstrate Solution Relevance
How well does the seller connect your product or service with the relevant and timely issues being faced by the prospect and their organization?
The problems that your customer had one year ago are likely not the same problems they have today. How do you best redirect your reps’ selling strategy to shift how they present a solution that is even more relevant than before? By recognizing your prospect’s immediate needs, you can coach your team to reposition your offering in a way that prospects view it solving what they are focused on now.
Overall, reps need to be prepared to make an argument on why their solution should be on the short list of investments an organization should consider right now.
How We Can Help
CT Connect is a customizable way to coach your sales reps with any changes in your selling behaviors.
- Build and execute coaching plans: Set a coaching cadence, monitor and adjust. Help managers see and make decisions on the trade-offs for where and with whom they spend coaching time.
- Get more out of every manager-to-seller interaction: From joint sales calls to deal reviews to QBRs, any time managers work with their sellers represents an opportunity to get better.
- Create a sales culture of continuous feedback and improvement: Move individual development profiles from a static, annual exercise to a living, breathing plan that can be actionable toward commercial success.
CT Connect builds trust among your team — combining this with the aforementioned three behaviors ensures that trust extends to your customers as well. Buyers rank trustworthiness highly as a trait they desire in salespeople, even ahead of responsiveness and topical expertise. Even if now is not the time in your customer’s sales journey, empathy, active listening, and trust will outlast the pandemic.