“Reimagine your workplace. How many people can continue to work from home and the business still works?”
Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor
In today’s business environment, when we say "it’s the new normal" what we are really saying is that COVID-19 forced the adoption of certain behaviors–behaviors which are now accepted as a “normal” part of operations. Consumer confidence is rapidly declining and has fallen twelve points since February. This decline has made its way to enterprise purchasing as well.
Even though sales teams have identified needs, found budgets, and firm project ROIs established, enterprise customers are stalling their purchase decisions to wait out the crisis. Unfortunately, sales professionals don’t have the luxury of pushing out their quotas. The teams that are winning in the COVID-19 era are those who are spending this uncertain time to build skills that will pull them through the challenges and help them thrive in the new era of sales post coronavirus.
While some companies are facing headwinds, others are experiencing tailwinds. An example; one of our portfolio companies was acquired for $1.2B few weeks ago and another just hired 150 new lead generation reps. Other companies are faced with layoffs and missed forecasts by up to 30% in some cases. Whether companies are facing tail winds or headwinds, both are able to find success by adapting to a few new environmental changes.
When you look at the shortlist of accommodations that sales have been forced to adopt, the following make the list in most organizations:
- 100% online meetings instead of face-to-face
- Remote working or work from home (WFH)
- Communication and transparency
Shift to Online Meetings
With the pandemic coinciding with the economic downturn, the sales environment has shifted with it. More than ever, sales has to execute flawlessly on proven sales motions and protocols. A general slowdown in sales means every customer interaction call, meeting needs to be conducted efficiently and effectively.
For years, the holy grail of sales has been getting a face-to-face (F2F) meeting with customers. Every sales leader knows that F2F meetings progress and deal faster than any other activity. In the wake of the stay-at-home orders and social distance mandates, the next best thing is conducting an online meeting. Because customer meetings have slowed, leaders need to emphasize the importance of making every meeting count. Here are 6 things to focus on when conducting optimized online meetings:
- Test your tech
- Request video
- Make an agenda
- Moderate your meeting
- Engage ALL participants
- Meeting follow-ups and assignments
Remote working or working from home (WFH) was another item that was forced on organizations. We are well into week 7 of forced shut ins and what we are seeing is that two types of remote workers. One group is efficient and doing well and the other group is struggling to maintain productivity and can’t wait to get back to regular office life.
The group that struggles typically have two things in common. 1. They have never done it before. 2. They have small children or their homes aren’t optimal for WFH.
The group that reports productivity increases site several factors. One survey found that the gains were up to 37% and cited intermittent interruptions, office drama, and ability to focus for longer periods of time as some of the reasons. For those companies that can pull off remote work situations, the benefits include lower real estate costs and productivity increases.
The companies that have figured out how to WFH the right way are creative in their approaches. Some examples are:
- Have employees send photos of the WFH set ups
- Provide office space for employees that have small children and environments that aren’t conducive to work
- Have Happy Hours where employees call into a video conference and socialize virtually
- Daily video check-ins are normal
Communication and transparency (both internal and external) have increased; this is a good thing for sales. Organizations are making changes daily if not more frequently. With so much change and reaction times getting shorter, management teams face the risk of failing to implement any of the required changes properly. In order to minimize the risk of failing, teams need to simplify and focus on executing a few things well. Here are a few recommendations to facilitate the necessary increase in quality and quantity of communication.
- Frequency of meetings increased (from weekly to daily)
- Daily deal reviews (individual)
- Daily team activity reviews
- Sales metrics sent out to the organization via email
In these uncertain times, sales teams can operate efficiently if they focus on the activities that will help them not only survive during the pandemic but thrive. The recovery process can and should start now. Teams that pivot in order to improve the way they manage their online meetings, WFH environments, and communication will find that this flexible approach to selling will bode well for the “new normal” sales world post COVID-19.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts.
Justin Edwards is Vice President of the Sales Practice at Mercato Partners, which is a Growth Stage Investor based out of Salt Lake City, UT. Justin has 20+ years in Sales and Operations working for some of the worlds most optimized sales environments. His passion is scaling operations, identifying inefficient processes, and designing highly optimized startup & growth stage companies.
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