How to Help Your Salespeople Thrive During an Economic Disruption

By Harry Datwani, Principle and US Sales Transformation Practice Leader, Deloitte Digital

Companies across industries have taken quick action to make challenging decisions as they weather the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact. With all the turmoil, many sales leaders are experiencing disrupted revenues, workforce displacements, and fundamental changes to the very way work is done.

To better navigate this swiftly evolving crisis, sales leaders can organize their actions around these three key phases: Respond, Recover, and Thrive.

Respond to the Crisis
Sales professionals may be fearful for their financial well-being as deals potentially fall through and markets continue to react with volatility to the economy. It is critical that the full sales team feels support for their emotional and mental needs, just as they would cater to the human consequences and emotions of their customers.

Many companies have already started the process of response by implementing support programs for their teams and assessing the impact of the crisis on their business. From there, sales leaders can identify actionable steps to support high performers, recalibrate sales incentives, and effectively communicate the path forward to the entire organization.

It’s important that sales leaders understand specific business vulnerabilities and remodel quotas with more realistic scenarios. This will help calculate projected impacts to revenue and comp and empower better grasps on areas that are particularly vulnerable to the downturn, including contracts with small businesses, retailers, and other businesses whose workforces are directly impacted by shelter-in-place orders. Then, develop a clear set of priorities so sellers can be as productive as possible, building a corresponding plan to understand and address buying process disruptions.

During planning, leaders should work closely with finance, engineering, and other teams to chart the new landscape, reassess revenue opportunities, reevaluate the service catalogue, and create proactive plays. Finally, communicate the approach to the wider organization – stating the investments in the sales function with specifics.

Recover and Recalibrate
Crises can also create opportunities to recalibrate relationships with customers and partners and identify new market opportunities for your offerings. A heightened focus on cash may make both groups amenable to more streamlined service models, while proactive, cost-effective offers may help leading firms take market share. Now is the time to reconfigure quickly to consider serving new industries or segments, adjusting pricing, finding places where your offering may be better suited, or offering financing where others cannot. By identifying strong market moves, you can uncover new ways to serve industries or customers where your company hasn’t historically played.

Use data to understand changes to customer buying patterns to help identify where business focus needs to fundamentally shift. From there, re-examine what business operations and services are most costly, and be prepared to adjust them as needed if price concessions are required. This information will arm you with insights to identify potential substitutions sellers can proactively bring to customers – helping to improve retention while demonstrating differentiated value.

Thrive in the Next Normal
This crisis is changing every day and predicted business impacts are evolving along with it. Once immediate response plans are in place, sales leaders can then begin to re-imagine their sales organizations to evolve with the new normal. Long-held assumptions and norms will be challenged by widespread disruption, and it’s crucial to take an honest and introspective examination of how the business was managed, and how sales organizations should adapt future approaches to prospect engagement, customer buying processes, sales team collaboration, and much more.

A few questions to consider could include the following:

  • Which buyers will drive demand for our products in future years?
  • What will buyers value, and what must teams do differently to engage them?
  • Who will be my top performers?
  • How will new trends like digital coverage, tighter integration, and new ways of selling affect team operations?

Remember to achieve business stability through a multifaceted strategic process that addresses a team’s immediate needs while staying focused on success once the crisis has subsided. Organizations that can quickly deploy this approach, continue delivering exceptional experiences through their sales teams, and bolster and support their sellers can be well positioned for success during recovery and beyond.

Harry Datwani is a principal and US sales transformation practice leader of Deloitte Digital, which focuses on re-imagining sales and sales operations to drive profitable growth.