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Maximising Sales in a Post-Covid World

by Ingrid Maynard

Image 2021 06 22 T04 11 05

Pressure to Perform

Sales leaders are under pressure like never before.

Many organisations have high expectations of their sales teams in a post COVID environment. This is evidenced through stretch targets, the need to re-establish market share and revenue and find ways to sell to ways that are relevant to the new operating environment.The rules have changed but the sales and performance pressure hasn’t.

There is no precedent for how to navigate the pathway forward.Success lies in developing the mindset, strategies and tools that are fit for purpose and designed for accelerated impact.

How well will your sales leaders fare?

Research from McKinsey in October 2020 shows that B2B customers in the US have changed the way they want to engage with sales people.While this is Australia, the trend holds.There are more ways now to connect with, meet with, progress opportunity with and present solutions with customers now than ever before.

What’s changed?

1. Customer Meeting Protocols

The rules of in-person meetings with B2B sales people have changed.

Some organisations are banning “outsiders”, like salespeople, from entering their offices, regardless of social distancing regulations and quotas.

And then when you do meet there’s the awkwardness of quickly working out whether it’s a hug, a handshake (after sanitising) or an elbow tap to begin connecting?

Many meetings now take place in cafes close by to people’s home offices.What’s best practice for those? They’re certainly less formal and blur the lines between business and personal, so how does a sales person navigate effectively and still have an outcome driven meeting?

Then there are the customers who have become so habituated and comfortable with online meetings that this is their new preference. It’s not so tricky when there is a pre-established relationship but how can sales people build authentic levels of connection and trust when they’ve never met someone in person? Is it even possible?And what about prospecting?

Add to this, our customers’ customers have changed too; they’re facing the same challenges we are.How are they navigating that space and what can we do to help them be more effective when we’re in the middle of figuring it out ourselves?

Source: McKinsey – October 2020

2. Disruption creates a climate of uncertainty

When business plans are forced to changed at a moment’s notice because of lockdowns, when states open and shut borders on less than a handful of Covid cases it’s easy to see why.A long term plan in the current market is 3 months.Beyond that, it’s a wish.That doesn’t mean organisations aren’t planning, it’s just that they’re reviewing those plans at ever frequent intervals and adjusting accordingly.Making decisions about suppliers gets delayed accordingly.It’s a case of adjustment overwhelm.

Combine uncertain, disrupted markets with more meetings taking place online and it’s not difficult to see how sales people might struggle to have incidental, relationship building, meandering conversations that are necessary for bigger picture strategic conversations (ie. What does the next 5 years look like?) Because online meetings tend to be shorter, more to the point and better for getting things done.Finish this one, getting ready for the next.6-8 meetings a day is still a regular occurrence for many.

3. Sales Leaders are recruiting, on boarding and leading teams they may not have met in person

With the proliferation of working from home/anywhere, sales leaders can now be based anywhere and know that they have the opportunity to work with their teams more online than in person.Lockdown drove more of us out to more scenic tree and sea-change locations meaning we and our teams are even less likely to physically come together on a regular basis.Doing this well requires many of the skills our teams need to connect and build trust online.It’s different.

But how can culture be built when the team is rarely in the same physical location?

Output over Optics is the key.Pre 2020 people could appear to work hard by coming in early, eating lunch at their desks, staying a bit later at the end of their days and being vocal in the right way at team meetings.They could “work it”.

Not anymore.

Increasingly, we’re evaluating our teams by the quality and output they deliver.The work itself is more visible because they’re not.And it’s the same for us delivering value to our organisations, teams and stakeholders.

So if the work isn’t being done, the results won’t be there either.

Quantity is driving quality (through iteration, and the principle of we become good at whatever we practice).

“The difference between success and failure is the level of internal resourcefulness your sales leaders have. Your internal condition and the way you lead and drive performance is key to collective success. This has never been more important than RIGHT NOW!” Ingrid Maynard

What’s the solution?

Put simply, what worked pre 2020 isn’t enough now.These are the qualities sales leaders need if they’re going to lead your organisation’s recovery:

1. Navigate and lead teams through volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

There is no roadmap for this, but using David Rock’s SCARF model can help to show the direction to lead team members away from behaviours that aren’t effective and toward those that are by:

Facilitating status by building confidence and recognising output and results

Establish certainty by being consistent in approach, direction, and fostering an environment of trust

Fostering autonomy by supporting team members to work independently and interdependently with systems that are easy to use, foster collaboration and enable remote working

Build relatedness by utilising a variety of tech and in-person platforms to connect and communicate with teams formally and socially with varying frequencies.

Reinforce fairness by ensuring equal access to information, communication, accountability and encouraging all to take ownership over their actions and outcomes.

2. Having ingenuity to help their teams find new solutions to the perpetual sales challenges of filling the sales funnel with new prospecting techniques, new ways to connect and build trust across multiple formats, ensure the product/offer and the client engagement approaches are relevant, aligned and valuable to their customers now.

3. Grit, tenacity and resilience with a deeper internal level of resourcefulness to draw from.

Understanding it’s no longer about skill alone: it’s about mindset, practices, mental and emotional well-being, physical health, performance hacks and strong interpersonal skills.

4. Drive a commercial approach to client engagement by educating teams to understand the levers they can work with to drive better top line performance, improve margins, reduce cost to serve and improve efficiencies. Recovery isn’t just about more sales: it’s about better bottom lines.

So you can see there is much work to do.Executives must develop their sales leaders because this is the pivot point that will provide the best return on investment.

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Ingrid Maynard is the Director of The Sales Doctor, focused on sales improvement programs that build internal sales and service capacity and create lasting results for corporations, large and mid-sized enterprises. Every program is bespoke, to create purpose built systems, tools, templates and workshops and coaching programs to measure the shift in behaviour and outcomes

Find out more about The Sales Doctor at www.thesalesdr.com.au or call Ingrid on 0409 204 732.