Focus your sales team on building the pipeline, not the immediate sale | One of the biggest challenges now is fear among the sales organization about the uncertainty of the environment. This is a time to build the pipeline, and not push the sale. Be thoughtful about what your customers need. As one of the top NCAA basketball coaches puts it, “Don’t focus on the score. Focus on playing the game.”
Play beyond the curve | Your customers see beyond this crisis and have a business of their own to grow as well. On our SalesGlobe COVID-19 Rapid Response Roundtable this morning, two corporate leaders of global companies reported that their Hong Kong and Shanghai offices are now getting back to work. As the COVID-19 curve passes through, we believe that business will kick back in and everyone will get back to work with a vengeance. If customers can’t buy or do the work now, book deals for a timeframe that’s beyond the curve, get a commitment for that point, extend payment terms, and then stay close to work toward that with them.
Stop focusing on selling and start focusing on helping | Customers are often dealing with the same things you are. They still need revenue and results. They need to figure out how to manage this crisis. How can your sales organization help with that? Shifting your team’s focus away from transactional short-term gain and working with customers on their longer-term business strategy goes a long way toward building that trusted advisor status. It changes the conversation; now your customer can see you as an expert and someone who is committed and connected to their long-term growth.
Modify your offers or partner with other organizations | Think about how your products or services can better align with current customer needs. It may not be the best time to sell the same portfolio. As you’re looking for opportunity, consider modifying your offers or products to better fit evolving customer needs. Refer back to “focusing on helping customers rather than selling”. If customers aren’t buying your products, what can you offer that will help them? Also, consider partnering with other companies in your industry or outside of your industry to create new offers. This may be a time to look at unlikely partners that you wouldn’t have thought of before, such as companies with complementary products or even competitors who are open to cooperation. This is a great time to step back and think strategically about your business and what partnering can offer you.
Create short-term bonuses for attaining key milestones | The first reaction of most companies is to take action on compensation. However, before reacting, we need to put this in the context of our overall plan. That likely includes our customer communications, internal communications and sales support, and our methods for helping customers. Referring back to our strategy of playing beyond the curve, we need to work with customers to look beyond this crisis and how they can grow their businesses. If customers can’t make buying decisions now, what will keep their business moving ahead? There are likely milestones that indicate progress toward the sale such as proposals, customer prototypes tests, key virtual meetings, or pipeline development. Look at the milestones (which, preferably are customer-acknowledged to minimize rep inflation) and link them to progressive bonuses. From a mechanics perspective, you may create a system that assigns a point value to each type of milestone as a portion of an overall milestone points goal for each seller. Milestone bonuses may replace the current sales compensation plan for the next quarter or may supplement the plan.
Mine your territories | This is a long-practiced technique that can be applied to the new world. Most sales territories are not covered efficiently and are abundant with opportunity reps don’t get to. Optimizing territories is one of the most effective methods for increasing sales performance and it’s certainly a great option now. Focusing reps on a smaller set of more lucrative accounts and shift under-covered accounts to reps that have sales capacity, you can improve the overall productivity of each rep and the organization. Find the hot spots for opportunity and cold spots for coverage and make targeted account assignment shifts. You may find that your new alignments work better for the future as well.
Create relevant value propositions about how your organization can help customers- and follow through | Your value proposition describes what your company can do for your customer’s company at an organizational level. An impactful value proposition also communicates what your sales team can do for your specific buyers. These customer-level messages need to align with the company value proposition and shouldn’t be organically developed by each salesperson. That could lead to reactive and inconsistent messaging. So, get your sales leadership team together and sharpen your on-the-street messaging and determine how your team can fulfill on its promise.
Lower your compensation performance thresholds | Many sales compensation plans have performance thresholds that define a minimum performance level a rep has to reach before earning incentive compensation. For example, the plan may begin to pay at 50% of quota attainment. Look at lowering or removing that threshold point to open up cashflow earlier. If much of your sales team perform at or around quota, by lowering thresholds, you are giving a pay advance for compensation you anticipate they will ultimately earn. However, account for the current reality that the team may not reach normal quota attainment levels creating an incremental expense for the organization.
Conduct rapid strategic account planning | I already hear you grumbling about this one. Strategic account planning is an annual ritual for a lot of companies that get minimal value from it. This is the perfect time to put aside the formal academic account plans and start with a clean online whiteboard with your team. Add a couple of twists to make your planning more impactful. First, understand your customer’s story in terms of how they got where they are, what they need now, and ultimately how to make them successful. Second, knowing this, think aspirationally about what your organization could do way beyond the curve, set an audacious goal, and work back from it to near-term actions that you can hold yourself and the team to.
Leverage virtual & develop your capabilities | Now that we’re all in the mode of working virtually, this is a great time to explore and understand how to use remote presence to improve your efficiency. Post-crisis you could actually increase your team’s productivity and results by focusing travel on impactful face-to-face meetings and redefining how to increase the value of customer interaction. The same remote approach can give you increased flexibility for account coverage. As you’re looking at territories and aligning the right salespeople to the right opportunities and optimizing territories, break down the geographic barriers. Think bigger and differently. You no longer have to be limited by drive time and geographic density which opens up new sales coverage and market penetration opportunities. This crisis allows you to test some new virtual coverage approaches that you can continue post-crisis to the benefit of you and your customers.
Adjust sales quota timing | We are not recommending that you reduce quotas yet, but rather shift their seasonality. COVID-19 has created a new season that we have to adjust for. So, you may consider weighting quotas toward the back-end of the year to allow reps time to catch up once we pass the COVID-19 curve. By doing this you are also in-effect adjusting earlier-in-the-year quotas and making them more achievable now.
Hold a virtual round table | It’s been several weeks now since we’ve all been working remotely across the globe. Now more than ever you want to to connect with your team in a new way. A cross-functional virtual round table is a way of bringing people together to think of new ways to connect with your customers, build pipeline, and prepare for your recovery. A round table allows you to leverage the mindshare of others in order to help generate new ideas that can reset and motivate your team. You will be surprised how it will build bridges and collaboration across your company in a new way that transcends the current crisis. Need some help? Contact us for some ideas or to help guide your process. It’s our way of giving back to sales, the backbone of our global economy.
Take another look at your product offerings | As your customer’s needs may change, so may the demand for your current products and services. Do you have products and services your team may not have been selling in the past that now could be a good option? Is there something that you do very well as a company that your customers may need or want at this time? As we have been hosting our weekly round tables great ideas have come to light. One company discovered it was extremely adept at setting people up to work securely at home and has offered it as a service. Another has taken one of its B2B security products that has been repurposed to provide laptop security without the need for VPN. And then another has found that one of their lower priced products that the sales team did not prioritize is now something that customers really want! Take a look at your inventory of products, services and capabilities that can be offered to your customers. You may be surprised at what you will find.
Conduct business intelligence | As a salesperson, you are generally too busy to stop and really understand what’s going on with your prospects and customers. Now is a great time to conduct forensics on your high potential and best customers to understand their story. Have they been through any significant changes that you may not be aware of? This can include anything from growth into new markets, new product and service offerings, or changes in leadership and strategy. This gives you a new point of view when talking to your customers and can help generate new ideas for how you can help.
Hold a customer ideation session | Do you have some customers that are just not doing much business right now? Sometimes the best ideas and creativity can come from outside of your company because a fresh set of ideas brings what we call “the outsider’s opinion.” An outsider doesn’t know how things are “supposed to work” and can help push the boundaries of thinking to solve problems. Consider a cross-functional ideation team from your company that can be put together to offer ideation sessions for your customers. Ask your customer to lay out the current state, and your team can deliver real value to solve your customers’ problems. Haven’t done this before? Give it a dry run internally. You may be surprised by what you find!