Challenges And Answers For Sales Organizations In COVID 19
Shailesh Saksena is a veteran technology industry professional with over 23 years of Enterprise business leadership, customer relationship and large account management experience.
What are the challenges sales organizations are facing in times of Covid?
The world is still busy wrapping its head around the intensity of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.
Much like the roles of any department of a company, the roles of the sales department have been changed too, in some cases, forever.
Challenges for the world
- Business slowdown due to limited market opportunities.
- Decreased face time with prospects in the customer space which is an integral part of B2B deals.
To quantify the reactions of customers and sellers, McKinsey surveyed B2B companies across eleven countries in seven sectors. The survey reveals three emergent themes:
- Spend: Although companies have been predictably reducing spend, there are a considerable amount of companies that are increasing or maintaining it. The rates of increase depend upon company size, sector, and most of all location in the world.
- Digital: The use of digital interaction for sales interaction over traditional sales interactions has tripled during the pandemic.
- Remote Environment: The popularity of videoconferencing (VC)/phone/web sales models as a sales model has drastically increased during the pandemic. About 90% of the sales are said to have moved to these remote environments as sales mediums. Most sales professionals believe that these models are either equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19.
What are the potential opportunities for companies?
Although recessions are always considered nightmares, there seems to be a silver lining after all. Companies in every industry have a chance to come out of the crisis as winners presented to them on a silver platter by every recession. According to a recent BCG study, 14% of the companies were able to increase profitability during the past four recessions apart from accelerating growth. This BCG report also mentioned four steps that are crucial to take in order to lead sales and the companies out of this crisis:
- Respond by engaging immediately with, and stabilizing sales
- Reflect on the fluid situation
- Reimagine sales to regain momentum
- Rebound by pivoting sales so that their teams can win when the crisis ends
- Adapt with Agile Selling: Agile selling is a sales concept wherein the salesperson’s approach to the customer revolves around their needs. Those needs can be defined in numerous ways but the centric of the sales agility remains the same i.e. to adapt the sales process to each buying process. With the crisis going on, sales agility has a lot more relevance now. Now more than ever, customers are going to be glued to delivery and finance terms apart from the products for their orders to be aligned with their changing needs to a greater extent. The sales managers, who used to give greater attention to quota acquisition in the short term rather than knowing their sales team’s approaches with the clients to ease up the buying process and shortening the sales cycles, should now impart agility to their selling process.
- Focusing On Less Impacted Industries And Reimagining The More Impacted Ones: So in this tense time, the need of the hour is to align the sales efforts to gather a myopic response from the less impacted industries while supporting the tumbled industries in their efforts to rise in the long term.
When it comes to the customers, one product or solution will not be suiting them all. Although this fact has been here for a long time, the disparity between customer needs is on a new level right now. So, the sales professionals need to analyze the challenges different types of customers or industries are facing and find their target solutions accordingly.
- Being Candid About The Customer Service Levels: The customer, above all, likes to be informed. During the crisis, when the disruption can happen at any level due to the affected supply chains across the world, it becomes more important than usual to keep the customer informed at all times about the product or service delivery levels and the expected risks, which can help the customer plan out the cases of risks too. This transparency will set the receival expectations as they should be and save the customer the frustration of late delivery.
- Customer Retention Prior To Customer Acquisition: In normal times, customer acquisition should be prior but when the times of crisis come the primary objective should be to retain as many customers as you can. This is because of the fact that economic meltdowns are really favorable to expand a company’s market share for companies who are willing to act on it. This means that your competitors might not race you to close the same prospects up, but they sure are going to try to poach your customers by baiting them with short term discounts, better payment terms, and improved service levels. This makes it imperative to give greater attention to customer retention than you are giving to customer acquisition. Customer loyalty in these times can be boosted by offering flexibility, relaxed commercial terms, and innovative solutions.
- Adding More Value To Your Sales Professionals: Your sales professionals are the biggest factor in the equation of who will flourish and who will wither in the market. At this point, when your competitors are more than keen to poach your customers by baiting them with short term discounts, better payment terms, and improved service levels, one of your biggest rescuers can be an army of highly-skilled sales professionals. Apart from the sales skills, the upskilling must include a comprehensive knowledge about the products or services they are selling along with the nature of the customers and the markets. The companies should sponsor different online programs and courses by MOOCs that they deem suitable for their sales teams and make it mandatory to attend those.
- Redefined Customer Engagement: Many instances of companies, regardless of their sizes, offering their resources and expertise to find solutions that can aid their customers have been seen. Apart from this, as the interface modes of sales meetings change to a remote environment it is going to be harder for the sales professionals to personalize the pitches. Hence, to compensate, the presentation themes should be very focused and relevant to the client. The solutions that they offer to the clients need to revolve around the customer’s needs more than ever. For the solution to be favored it must:
- Cater to immediate concerns around the client’s product, pricing, distribution, resuming business operations
- Helping them consider the medium-term scenarios over the next year
- Re-define the foundation of the client business around customers, emerging trends, and newer market opportunities.
- Rise in the new normal by leveraging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital marketing, eCommerce sales, etc.