We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue. At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working. For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business. Forget uncertainty! Where we are right now is downright scary. But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it’s that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive. For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.
Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team – It’s not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it’s everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:
- Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments. You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
- Not everyone is well-suited for working from home. I’m not talking about the ability to focus without distraction. I’m talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time. Working from home is not temporary. This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants. Also consider that some salespeople aren’t able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
- Daily Huddles – Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn’t happen. It just wasn’t convenient – for the leaders! And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles. The resistance and compromises must end. You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
- Coverage – salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
- Cost – Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.
Motivation – Your salespeople are scared. They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope. They are afraid:
- Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
- Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
- Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
- Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
- Will they be able to keep their jobs?
Call Reports – I can’t think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople’s time by having them complete call reports. Consider:
- They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application. Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM. No more excuse making.
- They must update CRM in real time, as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.
- You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment. In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
- It’s like spaghetti sauce – it’s in there. Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application. Ditch the call reports.
Pipeline – The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline. My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems: Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:
- Go on offense! Every salesperson – even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now. If they won’t do it you don’t need them! 25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople. Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver’s seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
- Phones – They’re being used as talking devices again! We haven’t witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems. Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
- Viability – You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win. Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.
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