The New Pandemic in Sales

By July 14, 2020 No Comments
call reluctance

The COVID-19 crisis may be slowly abating, economies are beginning to open, and companies are getting back to business, but there is a new pandemic Sales Leaders must be prepared to deal with – Call Reluctance.

Over the past few weeks, I have had a significant number of strategic salespeople express concern about feeling unprepared to shift their approach to selling in the new environment.

A 25-year strategic sales veteran of a global IT services company said it best:

“I’m scared. I’ve done exactly what we’ve been taught to do. I have a desk in my client’s offices and all of my business has come from walking the halls. I don’t know how to sell anymore.”

Besides the shift to virtual, which absolutely does NOT mean turning your strategic salespeople into telemarketers, despite what many “training” organizations would have you believe, there are other shifts that will have to be made as well.

Upwards of 50% of the deals in the pipeline pre-pandemic have been abandoned, and many of the rest will have to be reshaped because they no longer align with your clients’ priorities. Budgets are being frozen or disappearing altogether, which means new investment decisions will have to be sold at higher levels in your client accounts.

Then there is the overall economy. Depending upon what you are selling and who you are selling it to, demand may be significantly down. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, airlines, hotels, movie theaters, live sports, cruises, shipping, and oil production are just some of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic.

Others may follow as time goes on. Which means if you were dependent on those industries for your revenue, you may have to shift from a sales approach based on capturing existing demand to one where you are creating new demand… or find other industries to sell to.

Finally, there are the overall activity levels, where many sales organizations have slowed, or even come to a standstill with the pandemic. Like a locomotive, it will take time and energy to get it back up to full speed, and adjustments will be required.

For every sales organization it will be different, but “okay it’s over, get back to work and make some sales” is absolutely the wrong message to send.
There are three critical things every Sales Leader should be doing now to deal with the Call Reluctance some of your salespeople may be experiencing and get your teams back up to full productivity.

1) You need to examine every aspect of your Go-to-Market Strategy and sales process to ensure it will support successful revenue growth today. Do you need to change who you are targeting and how? Does your demand creation approach still work in today’s virtual world? Are there different value propositions and solutions you should be leveraging for your new and existing clients? And, have the decision-makers and decision criteria changed, causing you to alter your approach to capturing sales?

2) Once you have identified your new approach, break it down into discrete activities and establish activity targets for the sales team. Focus on the top of the funnel – the key activities that will help you create demand and rebuild the sales pipeline. That might include one new vice president and one meeting per week using a 7-Slide™ Deck. It might be two new “qualified” opportunities per month that meet your “Is it Right?” funnel definition.

Focusing on the activities that drive the results versus just the results themselves will help your team get their heads back in the game and the organization to regain momentum. Make it fun by running a contest – maybe a gift card for the first group of people that achieve the activity targets. It does not have to be expensive and will help reignite the competitive energy and intensity of the sales team.

3) Regular one-on-one meetings with your team are more critical than ever in maintaining the morale and motivation. There are only three questions you should ask in these sessions: 1) How are you doing? 2) Are there any issues I should be aware of? 3) What can I help you with? People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care!

Help them get past the Call Reluctance mindset.

As we get back to work post-pandemic, Sales Leadership’s focus on these three key areas in guiding and supporting your teams will help accelerate the time it takes to get back to full productivity. Let’s drive results in the second half of the year and into 2021!

Personal Challenge:
Meet with each of your sales team members in a one-on-one and ask them the three key questions in the article. Besides demonstrating your support and enabling you to “take everyone’s temperature,” it should help you understand what changes you need to focus on to regain sales momentum.

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