Learning to adjust your sales leadership practices to fit these unusual times may not be an easy correction. You probably have been honing your system for years; pivoting to these extraordinary circumstances is hard for even the most limber. So my advice is to focus your attention on the definition of “Leader” as supporting your sales team, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.
To get you started, here are 7 things you can do to be an effective sales leader right now.
1. Concentrate on client retention
Client retention trumps new business acquisition. I wrote about this extensively last month and it’s worth emphasizing again: Dramatically increase client communications to strengthen your personal and professional relationships with them.
Additionally, ask clients what assistance they need from you or what introductions you can make to help them retain their business.
2. Take care of your commissioned sales representatives
Close dates have been pushed back, and some opportunities have been cancelled entirely. Salespeople working on commission are worried right now – it would be remarkable if you weren’t hearing this from your team. So, consider what you can do to offer them some relief:
- Consider reducing/suspending quotas for Q2 2020 and possibly Q3
- Consider a commission floor, if it makes sense for your business
- Reinforce their importance to your business, and give them the confidence that you’ll take care of them as best you can
Strengthening your sales team’s trust in your leadership and your company will pay dividends in the long run.
3. Focus on internal communications and team dynamics
Communications are now 100% virtual. So you need to shift to deliberately communicating with team members as a replacement for grabbing a few words in the office.
- Have a one-on-one with your direct reports every day or every other day.
- Hold an all-team meeting every week
- Get your CEO to give regular business updates, and make some of those “town hall” meetings where team members can ask questions
- Enable “skip level” meetings to increase company transparency
- Get these meetings on the calendar – on the same day each week, at the same time, with a set agenda and defined start/stop time
If this seems like a lot, it’s really not. Calculate all the time you used to spend commuting to work and external meetings, and consider this “found” time well spent.
4. Invest in collaborative tools
As a sales leader you’re encouraging your team to work together as well as with you. So invest in tools that make it easy for them. Slack and its competitors allow quick back-and-forth information exchange and easy real-time collaboration. Use video conferencing as well as the presentation tools in your Zoom, GoToMeeting, or other account – it’s important to see your people, and it’s scientifically proven that face-to-face communication is the most effective.
Take advantage of the extra time you now have to work on nagging process issues. Ask team members to help you identify cross-functional issues they’ve encountered – pre- and post-distancing – and involve them in identifying, discussing, and solving those issues.
5. Plan for coming out of this current crisis
This is the time to make your sales plans and set (realistic) goals for Q3, Q4, and 2021 – even though we don’t exactly know what the new normal will look like. The more you engage your team in planning for the future, the more invested in that future they’ll be.
6. Closely examine pipelines and sales opportunities
Sales pipelines and opportunities are not as robust as they were 3 months ago. If this crisis has taught us anything it’s this – while you can’t control the outcome you can absolutely control your mindset and your level of activity.
Dig into your sales pipeline. Pay extra attention to fully qualifying each deal. Are all the decision makers and influencers engaged? Have they bought into your value proposition? Is the economic ROI associated with investing in your solution crystal clear to them? Is the close date real? So control what you can: increase your calls and emails to current and prospective clients, and negotiate more proactively.
7. Find ways to have some fun together
This 7th thing to do to be an effective sales leader now might be a little out of your wheel house. But there’s a lot to be said for leadership by example! So lead the pack in having fun from home, and organize a weekly activity that fits your work culture. Examples of team activities are a virtual happy hour or karaoke night, trivia night, an online scavenger hunt, or other multi-player online game. My new favorite is Codewords, an online word-guessing game in the format of rival “spymaster” teams (similar to Codenames board game).
If event planning is really not your thing, then delegate different team members each week to choose the activity. But make sure you participate – sales teams that play together stay together!
Are you having difficulty breaking through to the next level in revenue growth? Could you use an experienced, outside perspective to diagnose your sales issues and build a plan to address them?
Sometimes, you need a guide to find the right path forward.
Sales Growth Advisors provides outsourced sales leadership services for small and mid-sized businesses – so your sales engine runs the way it is supposed to.