Coronavirus: How to Manage a Sales Team through a Health Crisis

Manage sales business COVID-19

No matter the size of your organization, it’s likely you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s forced many of us to change the way we work and adapt to a sudden shift in consumer behavior.

We’ve put together this series on managing your sales team during a crisis, with advice and strategies to help you navigate uncertain times. You’ll find out:

  1. What to do when a health crisis changes the way we work
  2. How to keep your sales team safe, optimistic and productive
  3. How to reassure customers and adjust your sales messaging
  4. How to adjust and manage your sales organization

What to do when a health crisis changes the way we work

The COVID-19 outbreak showed us just how quickly life can change. One of the biggest impacts was made on the way we work, as well as the level and type of support our employees, customers and peers need from us.

Entire organizations have adopted remote working infrastructure at a rapid pace, ensuring those that have the ability to work from home can do so. Many were successful, while others are still overcoming teething pains.

So, what’s the best response to a crisis like this? How do we shift our behavior and routines with minimal disruption?

In general, it’s great to have the tools and flexibility for remote working set up in your organization, regardless of whether or not you will use them in your day-to-day. Having these infrastructures, technologies and processes in place is vital, especially when a major life event or public crisis keeps you or your team away from the office.

For example, sales teams must implement a stack that allows for both internal communication and reliable video calls with prospects.

Processes also need reviewing. What policies will you put in place to allow people to do their best work? For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many schools have been shut down. This means parents must strike a balance between work and looking after their children.

To respond to this, many organizations have adopted flexible working hours. As long as team members are available for two to three hours a day for communication, it doesn’t matter when they get their work done.

Audit the activities you conduct on a daily basis and see how you can optimize them for optimal remote working efficiency. Ask your team for their perspective, and allow them to contribute.

After all, these changes affect everyone in different ways. Take a dynamic approach and empower your team to perform to the best of their abilities. 

Keeping your sales team safe, optimistic and productive

For salespeople used to the hustle and bustle of a lively office, the sudden change to remote working can be challenging. Not only do they need to find a new routine, but get a handle on new technologies for communication and collaboration.

This new, enforced way of working applies to sales managers, too. Your processes and training workflows must adapt; keeping salespeople motivated and engaged requires a different approach.

Making these changes doesn’t have to be daunting. As a sales leader, you have a responsibility to keep your team safe, create effective remote working policies and communicate them clearly. 

Advise your team to follow their government’s guidelines and to do their best to stay out of harm’s way. You can help by ensuring they never need to break a recommended safety policy for work. This means implementing a 100% work from home policy, with guidance on how to maximize productivity.

Luckily, getting your remote environment up and running is fast and simple.

Most importantly, expect pipeline volume to be volatile. Let your team know that this is ok, and that you have a plan to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.

Reassuring customers and adjusting your sales messaging

Your customers will also feel the pain during times of crisis. Their priorities will shift, often overnight, as they face new and unexpected challenges.

As you help your team adjust to a new reality, no matter how temporary it may be, you must also do the same for your customers. The best philosophy to adopt? Serve first, then sell.

Yes, it’s important to continue closing deals. But there should also be a focus on helping customers and prospects that are facing new uncertainties in their lives.

For example, it’s wise to pause your cold email initiatives as a crisis breaks out. Standard messaging may seem tactless during this crisis. Instead, take this time to rework and re-frame your messaging to align with your customer’s most urgent needs.  

But don’t leave them “on pause” forever. As people adjust, use that time to craft more value-driven and empathetic messaging. Once the workforce is more acclimated to this new reality, continue cold outreach initiatives with helpful content that customers and prospects can immediately benefit from.

It’s critical you communicate your company directives to your team. Make them aware that a new direction is necessary and outline a policy on what they should and shouldn’t be including in their messaging. Get them involved in the process so they not only have a sense of ownership, but also a duty to serve prospects.

Learn more about how to reassure customers and adjust your sales messaging in our guide here.

Managing your sales organization during a health crisis

While cutting costs seems inevitable, it’s important that you continue executing revenue-generating activity.

We’ve identified three critical business-driven priorities for sales teams during this crisis:   

  1. Generate and communicate empathetic messaging to employees and your audience
  2. Prevent pipeline decay
  3. Identify new business opportunities

Depending on your industry, sales may drop. Adapting to sudden and temporary changes in consumer behavior is an effective way to combat this. In the B2B world, your buyers will shift priorities to adapt and you must do the same.

Listen to and serve your existing prospects. How are they being affected by this health crisis and how can you help them beyond your sales processes? For example, if you usually share content with prospects, start collating timely information that impacts their industry and roles as it’s published from third party sources, and see if you can create or adapt your own.

New opportunities will also emerge. How can your product or solution serve your customers during this time? What features could be used to tackle these new challenges?

Capitalizing on these opportunities requires a great deal of care and it can be tempting to jump toward discounting in order to tackle these issues. Resist this temptation and focus on how to best serve your customers instead.

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