Sales managers normally face a trifecta of shifting demands from buyers, their direct reports and their organization. The uncertainty of a crisis only heightens the challenge of balancing these demands. During this crisis, sales managers play an even more critical role than usual in your organization’s strategy: because they typically oversee 8 to 10 sellers, sales managers exert tremendous influence over whether your organization’s approach to the crisis succeeds or fails.
The COVID-19 pandemic gives sales managers the perfect opportunity to work toward transforming into more capable leaders. Here are six steps that managers can take now, in the short-term, that will make an impact on their organization’s recovery and long-term results.
1. Shift From a Sales Manager’s Mindset to Sales Leader’s Mindset
The minutiae of sales management—forecasts, deal terms and budgets—may threaten to consume your working hours, but it’s important to think about your sellers’ needs as well. To encourage and motivate sellers, sales managers must exhibit key leadership traits, including these:
- Calm: Despite any chaos in your sales funnel, project a calm demeanor. Remain level-headed and give sellers specific, productive directions.
- Confidence: Convey your belief in your organization’s approach; your sellers will feed off your confidence.
- Courage: Avoid analysis paralysis; take proactive, data-driven actions.
- Empathy: Let your team know you care by asking how they’re doing; your conversations cannot focus solely on business during this stressful time.
- Resilience: Model for your sellers how to bounce back from adversity.
2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Internal and external communications are critical, even during social distancing. Internally, interact frequently and personally with your sales team: use your webcam for team meetings and celebrate every success. Externally, model outreach for your sellers, showing them how to communicate your messaging with empathy, yet precision, and how to deliver meaningful value.
3. Scrub Your CRM Data
Sales managers need accurate data so they can help sellers make the best decisions about the right approach to sales and advise sales leaders and sales operations about the potential need for quota relief, compensation plan redesign and restructuring. Ask your sellers to review the data they’ve entered in the CRM to ensure its accuracy: make sure they’ve entered all contacts, reconsidered the next steps for their accounts, recalculated their opportunity scores and updated their sales objectives. Validate this information with individual funnel reviews.
4. Focus on Quality
In the last two years, sales organizations have used demand to grow their sales forces and their revenue. This approach was unsustainable even before COVID-19, but now it’s impossible to maintain. Coach your sellers on how to improve the quality of their interactions and strengthen their relationships with buyers. Look for ways to go the extra mile for customers; relationships built now will last longer and be more profound than those cultivated in a boom.
5. Make It Easy for Sellers to Be Productive
Tell sellers exactly what they should do: make your recommended approach specific and actionable. Share more detail than usual as you direct them where to focus, whether it’s on opportunities at the beginning, middle or end of your sales funnel and what strategies they should use.
6. Address Nagging Issues
Recovery is inevitable, though our timeline is uncertain. While it’s imperative that organizations take steps to address the crisis, they must also consider how they’ll respond when the market and opportunities rebound, or they risk a second wave of damage. To prepare now for the future, ask yourself questions such as these:
- How formal is your sales process? Now is a good time to review opportunities to refine and strengthen your approach, whether it’s for opportunity planning, forecasting or another critical process.
- How sound is your content strategy? Review your thought leadership and consider whether you have the right engine to fuel perspective-based selling now and in the long term. Draft a value messaging framework and build processes that you can use in the future to create better external content.
- How will you turn the good habits that you’re forming now, when you may have more time to focus on self-development, into part of your long-term approach as a sales manager? All of the strategies that you employ to keep your team engaged in this crisis, including regular check-ins, skill development, modeling and funnel reviews, will also play a role in creating sustainable success for your team after the pandemic passes.
Making a Sales Manager’s Job Easier in This Crisis—and in the Future
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything feels hard, including what’s commonly called “the hardest job in sales”: sales management. But following the steps outlined here and in more detail in our white paper, The Hardest Job in Sales Just Got Harder: Sales Management Strategies in Crisis can make it easier for sales managers to cope—and even thrive.
For more help in managing the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, visit our site on Coronavirus Challenges.