How to Manage a Sales Organization During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Coronavirus Manage Sales Organization

The COVID-19 healthcare crisis is reshaping the world. Businesses are moving online and teams are working from home.

When managing a remote team, you must communicate transparently and effectively. Managers need to present clearly defined guidelines to avoid any miscommunication, misunderstandings and missteps.  

At the same time, ensure that your team is safe and supported throughout this transition. Identify their needs, send them helpful tips and information and check in on them often. 

Supportive leadership will set a positive tone and reassure your team and your customers that you are proactively handling this crisis.

Sales managers must reevaluate their goals and introduce new tools and techniques into the workflow. 

In this article, we’re going to give you actionable tips on how to efficiently manage your sales business and your reps from afar. 

What’s in this article:

How to set up tools to monitor your company health

Sales businesses are responsible for managing multiple customer relationships in various stages of the pipeline.

A CRM helps to simplify and streamline this process in an office but becomes critical in a remote work environment. CRMs allow you to digitally monitor your company's health and improve business relationships from home.  

Most importantly, a CRM provides transparency by allowing every single team member access to each other’s pipelines. 

For example, you may have a sales rep that gets sick or is finding it difficult to boost productivity from home during this crisis. If that’s the case, another rep may need to hop in and take over some of their communications in their absence. 

A CRM allows for a seamless transition, as all of the absent rep’s leads, customers, opportunities, deals and communications are stored in a centralized system. 

The CRM dashboard will be ground zero during this crisis. You can track team-wide statistics, deal flows, hot leads, forecasts and much more. Now more than ever, you need to focus your efforts on immediate needs, and a CRM solution simplifies that endeavor.

How to find the best value from your existing tools

Look into your wheelhouse to discern what existing tools will be most useful in this climate.

For example, a top priority right now might be identifying your most affected customers to see how you can help. What tools can you optimize or demonstrate that will provide the most value? 

Perhaps your company sells email marketing software. If so, your customers may need advice on how to automate their email communications to streamline their own COVID-19 business updates. Or, they may be attempting to transition their retail business online and need help setting up an eCommerce integration. 

Identify these opportunities, create content that provides practical advice and set up outreach campaigns to deliver it to them. For instance, you could create updated demos on how to use your software with relatable messaging about COVID-19. Additionally, you could advise your reps to prepare for a surge of virtual demonstrations to assist customers with setting up eCommerce integrations on their sites. 

At Pipedrive, we’ve been seeing a spike in requests for demos. Therefore, we’ve shifted our priorities to allocate more resources to help our customers get the most out of our existing tools. 

Whatever your method, focus your attention on your customer’s needs and optimize your tools to provide high-value.

How to prevent your deal flow from being too affected

Some customers will be more negatively affected than others by this crisis. Whether it be a diminished budget or decreased bandwidth, their situation means they will need to cancel their subscription or stop buying your products.

You should expect this and react with understanding. Now is not the time to pressure a customer into staying when it’s not in their best interest.

However, you do still need to sell and keep your business afloat. The best way to prevent your deal flow from crashing is to identify your most affected customers and leads first. Reach out to them to acknowledge their difficulties and ask them if and how you can help.

Perhaps you have a tool, feature or product that you weren’t actively promoting that can provide value in this new reality. Explain how this tool can help and offer a free demonstration. If they still aren’t able to move forward, respect this decision and note to follow up when a sense of normalcy returns. 

Your reps should also be looking to qualify new leads that perhaps weren’t a good fit in the past. Continuing with the email marketing example from above, a small retail company with a low budget may not have been ready to purchase your software before this crisis. 

However, as many more businesses are now moving online—and retail companies are looking to eCommerce and doing more deliveries—perhaps now more than ever they could benefit from email automation. They need to boost their own outreach to target their audience and promote their products. Thus, they’re ready to invest in your service earlier than expected.

By identifying new prospects and revisiting cold leads, you can balance out the canceled memberships and lost deals.

How to react to a drop in sales and changing consumer behavior

Everybody is under a lot of pressure right now. People are losing their jobs, adjusting to new realities and, above all, focusing on staying healthy and safe.

This tension will most likely have a negative effect on your sales metrics and your customer’s behaviors. The best thing that you can do for your team is to teach them to handle this pushback with integrity.

First and foremost, you must show your team respect. Do not expect them to perform at their best right now. Relax your expectations and goals to give them space to adjust. By doing this, you are leading by example and your team will follow suit.

Your reps must treat each other and their customers with respect, too. Nobody should feel pressured to outperform anybody else right now. This is not a race to the top and it is not a competition for who can close the most deals from home.

Place generosity and teamwork above all. Expect a drop in sales. Do everything that you can to optimize your tools to support your team, but prepare for a downward shift. 

Reassure your team that you care about their mental and physical health above all and that you expect their best effort and nothing more.

How you can optimize sales processes to become leaner

Improving sales efficiency is always a top priority for reps. In this climate, there’s little time to waste. People need help now and they may rely on your business to succeed.

Automation tools can be incorporated into many of your team’s sales funnel stages. By reducing manual administrative tasks, you can shave hours off of sales activity and free up valuable time.

What can you do to help your reps identify leads in this climate who could benefit from your product or service? What guidance can you give them to help sell your tools from this new angle?

If you rely on outbound sales processes to build relationships and close deals, how can you make a seamless transition to inside sales

Know your sales stages and redefine your metrics. Take into account all of the factors that will be affected by this crisis and create clear, updated guidelines. Do what you can to help your reps expedite the customer’s journey and move them through the funnel quickly. 

Right now, there is little time to waste. Businesses need your help and your reps need to identify and sell to them quickly.

How to react if your business is actually benefiting from the COVID-19 crisis

Some businesses will benefit from this crisis. Online streaming services, video conferencing services and eCommerce brands are among this group.

If you fall into this category, you are among the lucky. But, as with all of your outreach during this crisis, you must be humble about your success and avoid boasting about any sales spikes.

Tread carefully with your outreach. Explain that you are here for your customers and outline exactly what you are doing to help.

For example, Internet and phone companies are overwhelmed with customer service needs right now. In response, many have created COVID-19 content hubs to help answer FAQs and are optimizing systems to ensure they don’t crash. 

If you are in a similar situation, try creating content full of actionable advice. Equip your reps with updated resources that they can share with customers and leads to streamline communications.

Communicate with transparency and respect, create valuable and helpful resources and carry on.

Wrapping up

Sales teams must be especially careful about how they come across in the current climate. Nobody wants to be perceived as attempting to profit from this crisis, but you still need to sell and prevent your deal flow from falling apart.

You can navigate these rough waters by putting your team’s health and safety first and your business second. Optimize your existing tools and processes to streamline your inside sales effort and support your team as they adjust to working remotely.

By doing this, you are setting your team up for success. In turn, they will feel less pressure and be more willing and able to achieve productivity from home.

Set up your CRM, evaluate existing tools and identify customers and prospects in need. From there, focus on helping rather than selling and the close will come organically.

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