How has COVID-19 impacted virtual selling practices? Korn Ferry surveyed sales organizations around the world to find out, uncovering how companies are working to achieve stability in the midst of ongoing crisis.

Organizations seem to have the same idea: focus and execute on what you can control as the surest path to success. They’ll need to consider a range of strategies and tactics to succeed.

Prioritize existing accounts over chasing new logos.

Sales organizations—including World-Class organizations—overwhelmingly continue to prioritize “protecting their core” customer base (60% of respondents) ahead of focusing on cross-sell/up-sell opportunities (21%) or pursuing new accounts (19%).  Interestingly, this has strengthened over the past 3-4 months during COVID. This focus makes sense given the current environment and the increased time and effort it takes to pursue and close deals with new accounts.

Scrutinize pipeline and forecasting.

During COVID, there has been a 21% drop in the number of deals closing as originally forecast. COVID has posed numerous challenges to producing accurate forecasts—it’s harder to anticipate which customers will buy, as everyone’s budget has gotten tighter. Further complicating matters, even deals that are won are closing with different products or timelines than originally projected. More difficult economic times require additional scrutiny on pipeline accuracy, pushing sellers to be more diligent about what, how, and to whom they are selling.

Accurate forecasting is even more significant when each sale counts. Greater insight allows leaders and managers to ask detailed questions about existing accounts, sales performance, and account production.

Focus on impactful managerial engagement.

Working in a remote environment has changed sales manager engagement levels with sellers. Lower manager engagement adversely affects seller performance, but additional activity beyond pre-COVID levels does not in itself equate to improved seller performance. The right activity yields results.

For sales managers, uncertainty has led to increased complexity and increased levels of activity. 75% of managers and sales leaders report that managing sales teams has become more difficult or complex. Additionally, the remote selling environment has led to more oversight: 70% of organizations reported their managers are checking in with sellers more often, and 48% increased their rates of monitoring and measuring salespeople. The instinct to ‘do more’ in this way does not yield performance results.

Doing less is problematic, though: Organizations whose managers monitored less than pre-COVID showed a dramatic 31% drop in win rates over the past quarter. Sales leaders can improve performance in alternative ways. For example, managers who join calls more often—particularly during the qualification phase—may reap some benefit (17% higher quarterly win rates vs. those organizations not doing so).

Invest in existing talent.

According to our latest research, talent remains a top priority for organizations. COVID has vastly altered hiring plans; the data shows that most organizations (42%) plan on prioritizing training for existing salespeople over investing in tools (31%) or acquiring new talent (26%) as the primary way to meet their talent demands. Our data has consistently shown that developing existing salespeople is an excellent return on investment, even more so when the organizational focus is retaining/growing core existing accounts.

Find out how to set your organization on the path to recovery with our Accelerating Revenue Growth integrated solution, providing methodology and tools to define success and achieve it through assessment, coaching, training, and reinforcement. Learn more here.

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