It was the worst of times – and now sales professionals need to bounce back.
Recovering after a stall – or outright stop – in the sales cycle has never been easy. It might be especially hard after a pandemic and near shutdown of the world economy.
But it’s never impossible.
Consider now a restart for your business. A relaunch for your business plan. A re-branding for the sales professional you are.
“This is not a time for idle contemplation: It is rather a time for dynamic, proactive preparation and rejuvenation,” says Jonathan Farrington, CEO of Top Sales World and Editor of Top Sales Magazine. “Logic suggests that whatever got us where we are today will not be sufficient to keep us there in the future.”
Here are seven tactics and strategies to bounce back after a historic setback and rebuild business.
Sales professionals and entire organizations that come out on top after a crisis have five things in common, according to researchers at McKinsey They take SHAPE when bouncing back:
- Start-up mindset. Newly adopted or inherent, people with a start-up mindset choose action over analysis. They consider ideas, skip in-depth research and testing and launch new initiatives quickly. The key to making this aggressive approach work is a steady cadence of short reviews – daily team check-ins, weekly 30-minute and bi-weekly one-hour progress reviews and adjustments.
- Human at the core. Success depends more on progress and less on process, so operate based on how people work best. That might be more remote work or less qualifying. Or it might include a shift in working hours or resource allocation. Look for training gaps and collaboration opportunities that fit better in the future reality.
- Accelerated adaptation. Crises help organizations uncover vulnerabilities. In the pandemic, you probably saw a need to upgrade or shift digital and technical capabilities. Figure out where buyers need you and your tools most now – social media, chat, online, in person, etc., and move quickly to be there reliably and effectively.
- Purpose-driven playbook. Successful salespeople take fresh looks at their processes and principles so they can adapt to how customers operate post-crisis. Like you, some customers will make faster decisions. Many will decrease spending, lower quality expectations and/or change buying frequency. Adapt your playbook to meet the changes.
- Ecosystem adaptations. COVID-19 affected supply chains and demands drastically. But salespeople who met demand and kept supply chains filled bounced back for the short-term. For long-term success, you’ll want to create new partnerships and non-traditional collaborations to build business and stay ahead of other crises.
Light up your priorities
In a crisis, you might’ve faced a time of doing little or nothing. You weren’t allowed to work. You couldn’t work. Or there was no work.
When it’s time to get back to significant work, salespeople likely feel compelled to tackle it all – every project, lead and to-do list that was there before the crisis and every one that crept in during it.
Stop! Don’t go after everything like you did before. Instead, try the traffic light approach, suggested by author and speaker Simon Sinek, in a recent web conference.
Break the work down into three categories – red, yellow and green lights. Skip the reds – the things that cause you to stop to research, rethink, redo – for now (and you might eventually find they aren’t necessary). Put the yellows – the things that are pending or yielding to other necessities – on pause.
Move quickly and with purpose on the greens – anything that’s needs nothing more than action.
Don’t try to juggle any yellows or reds in with greens, and you’ll make progress that catapults you to success quickly, Sinek has found.
Shorten the sales cycle
If there’s one thing a global crisis like the coronavirus has taught nearly everyone, it’s that we can do more (or the same) with less. Same goes for the selling cycle.
“In surviving and recovering from a crisis, increasing close rates, the efficiency of a sales model and its segment focus are vital activities,” says Frank Cespedes, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Aligning Strategy and Sales.
- How much can you accelerate cash flow by shortening the selling cycle – and increasing time to cash – by a week, two weeks, three … ? Which is most optimal and realistic?
- Which prospects and customers would now benefit from a shortened sales cycle?
- Are there certain customer segments, territories or sizes that would have the greatest ability to purchase on a fast-tracked sales cycle?
Create (or scrub) your rebound data
Some data is more important when you need to bounce back. Ideally you kept tabs on these points before your crisis. But as you gear back up for an economic turnaround, scrubbing and sharing this information is more important than ever.
Four critical factors, according to Cespedes:
- profitability of each account and how it’s changed over its lifetime
- cost to serve one customer versus another customer
- buyers and influencers at each account who you must stay closely connected with, and
- the buyers’ and influencers’ speed and abilities to spend
“In many firms, that data is effectively the ‘property’ of the individual rep, not the company, making it difficult to set segment and customer priorities,” Cespedes says. “Get this data and establish a process for keeping that frontline information flowing and timely” through your rebound.
Be prepared for the thrivers and survivors
As salespeople reach out to loyal customers and new prospects, they’ll likely see a dividing line between the thrivers and survivors.
Some industries won’t be seriously impaired. Other industries will be immobilized by what’s happened.
The thrivers still need your help navigating the new norms. Sure, they may need products or services as usual. But salespeople can add more value – and business – by continually sharing insights on how the rest of the supply chain is affected and responding.
The survivors – customers and prospects just barely keeping their lips above the waterline – need a different perspective. They’re often best-served when you can review past orders and delivery schedules, use that to find ways to cut costs and help them weather the storm by lengthening the life of solutions they have. Their needs are urgent, and the salespeople who help now will be positioned to succeed in the long term.
Adjust your tools
Look closely at your sales stack to find what makes sense when everyone is trying to bounce back. Eliminate tools and content that don’t support the new sales cycle and buyers’ different needs.
Even better, look at the whole system for ways to make it easier for all salespeople to customize quickly for each account. They’ll need to tailor discovery questions, value propositions, presentations, and proposals more than ever, and quick adaptability is key.
Tailor to your accounts
The divide between thrivers and survivors aside, needs will vary from account to account. Salespeople don’t want to deliver the wrong message or solution at the wrong time during a economic rebound. Saying the doing the right thing in an emotionally charged time will have a positive effect on the salesperson-buyer relationship.
Tailor messages, solutions and approaches to each customer. Look at how the crisis affected them professionally and personally before you approach so you can come in with the right amount of empathy, practicality and eagerness.
Most importantly, align your strengths with their most demanding weaknesses. Help them recognize the biggest issue – the one that, when resolved, will clear up many others. Even if your solution doesn’t fix it, you will build credibility as a valuable partner going forward.