What you should do within a month
Even if you’ve had to implement austerity measures across your company, try to stay proactive—especially during the first weeks following a crisis.
Remember that many a successful business was built during a recession or sprang to life with little in the way of financial resources and borrowing options.
Think back to when your business or sales career was new. What steps did you take to explore new markets and sales opportunities when funds were limited and the way forward wasn’t clear?
During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen examples of business innovation that included:
- Sit-down restaurants switching to partially prepared meals that people could cook at home
- Social video platforms offering online educational programs to out-of-school students
- Personal trainers taking their lessons online at a reduced rate, or for free
Perhaps your organization or sales department already has an established growth plan in place. If so, use that as a starting point to brainstorm with your team and find some creative ways to move forward.
Optimize your sales processes to make them leaner
Now’s the time to focus on getting rid of any excess weight in your sales process. In a healthy economy, you should be spending a good 50% of your time on revenue-generating activities to stimulate growth.
When you’re managing sales recovery, however, you and your team will have to work a little harder in the short term to optimize workloads and make them leaner.
Start by doing away with irrelevant or unfocused sales meetings. Then, to save time and really crank up your team’s productivity:
- Use automation to manage sales calls, streamline emails and minimize repeatable administrative tasks
- Restructure your tactics for tracking, reporting and forecasting with data so you can scale back up as quickly as possible
- Use tools to automate your lead generation and better qualify the prospects who are likely to convert, so that you can focus on them
Your CRM software should be able to help you find where there’s a need for you to adapt, or slack you can take up.
Continue monitoring your company’s health
With your CRM dashboard set up to monitor your company’s health, here are some of the key performance indicators and data trends you should be tracking.
- Financial ratios: Use ratios that measure solvency, cash flow, debt load and inventory turnover to monitor your bottom-line profit margin
- Direct spending trends: Monitor trends to see where you may be able to spread out monthly payments to make them more manageable
- Indirect overhead costs: Watch your costs to preserve your cash flow as much as possible
- Customer KPIs: Monitor indicators like customer base size, customer retention rate, number of repeat customers and average revenue per customer to see how your sales are progressing
When revenues rise, performance indicators will help you identify which sales efforts or areas were responsible so your team can refocus their work.
Monitoring changes in your target demographic as the crisis progresses, and keeping an eye on competitors and your industry as a whole, will also help you make smarter sales and financial decisions.
Ask your customers what they really want or need
It’s more important than ever to listen to your customers during a financial crisis. Not only will asking them what they want and need help you rebalance your sales offering, but it’s also the perfect fuel for launching new products and services.
Acting on customer feedback improves the buying experience (something that’s especially important during hard times) and can improve retention rates, which may help you prop up your profits.
Remind salespeople that being a good listener will help them maintain or re-establish client trust and confidence. Just make sure you’re using CRM software that lets you collect and analyze customer data so your sales team can turn it into action.
Nail your WFH policy
While all this is going on, you’ll need to hammer out a WFH policy that describes when employees need to make themselves available, the communication channels they’re expected to use (email, video chats and conferencing, messaging apps, etc.) and the deliverables they’re responsible for.
If you have salespeople who need face-to-face interaction during a health risk crisis (outside salespeople, especially) you may have to stay flexible and get creative. Consider having reps exchange in-person customer visits for communication options like:
- Chatting over instant messaging platforms (Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)
- Video calling over visual platforms (FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts)
- Using presentation software like LinkedIn SlideShare
Retrain employees who are now in less essential roles to help where there is more demand from customers (during a health crisis, outside salespeople could move inside, for example).
In addition to making practical arrangements, you’ll also need to address concerns like staff morale, mental health and employee leave.
Fear can cause strong emotions. And depending on the crisis playing out, your staff may have been affected by bankruptcy, bereavement or both.
If your business has an emergency fund, use it to ease employee stress by:
- Funding company get-togethers
- Supporting paid time off
- Covering counseling costs
If you don’t, you can still support your team by:
- Setting up remote, company-wide reminder notifications to breathe, stretch or meditate while working from home
- Taking the time to check in regularly by phone or video chat
- Finding and sharing self-care resources and mental health contact information
At some point, you may find the better part of your team is off at the same time due to sick, vacation or stress leave.
To help prevent a mass absence, let your employees adjust their own work hours. To fill unavoidable gaps, meanwhile, consider taking advantage of freelancers, contractors and other temporary workers who are already set up to work remotely.