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    10 critical best practices for your sales force in this crisis

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    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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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?

    The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. Coaching

    Forget 50% of your time coaching! It needs to be 75% of your time. You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts. Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

    • Coach them up
    • Coach them through opportunities
    • Debrief completed calls
    • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

    6. KPI's

    It's time to rethink your KPI's:

    • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's! Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled.
    • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid. Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

    7. Targeting - It's more important than ever!

    You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties).

    • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
    • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
    • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer. Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
    • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople. They can reach them virtually!

    8. Critical Skills

    I can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business. Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength:

    • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
    • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins. If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail. This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
    • Thorough qualifying. You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
    • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

    9. Right-Sizing

    I'm sorry but you can't put this off. There is no way around this. You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding! You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

    Consider factors other than revenue and performance

    • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
    • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
    • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
    • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now)
    • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
    • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

    10. Hire Salespeople

    If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now. This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home. Just make sure:

    • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
    • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
    • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times. You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

    Get Help! Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

    Dave Kurlan
    Published May 17, 2020
    By Dave Kurlan

    Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, best selling author, successful entrepreneur and sales development industry pioneer. The founder and CEO of the Objective Management Group, Inc., the leading developer of sales assessment tools, headquartered in Westboro, Massachusetts. He is also the CEO of Kurlan & Associates, Inc., a leading sales force development firm. He has 3 decades of experience in all facets of sales development, including consulting, training, coaching, selection, strategy, systems, processes, and metrics.

    Find out more about Dave Kurlan on Twitter or LinkedIn

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