In normal times, sales managers carry the heavy weight of many responsibilities, including coaching their sales team, ensuring a positive customer experience and improving financial results. To achieve these goals, they must overcome a series of hurdles—including limited resources, a lack of support and conflicting priorities. But now, they face one more hurdle: the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. If before we thought that sales managers were running on sand rather than on pavement, they’re now treading quicksand.
But this crisis will pass. And though the impact of the coronavirus will be long-lasting, sales organizations can take steps now to prepare themselves for the inevitable rebound. Sales managers should be at the forefront of this movement, because they have an extensive reach: with an average span of control of between eight and 10 sellers, they’ll have a tremendous impact on how well businesses recover from the setbacks of the pandemic.
Now is the perfect time to address the nagging issues that may be hindering your success—even in the best market. Here are three steps that sales managers can take now to accelerate their organization’s recovery.
1. Assess Your Sales Process
Take a step back and review your sales process, from start to finish. Here are some things to consider.
- Maximize your use of technology to prioritize your prospects. Your CRM may offer insights into customer intent, along with real-time win-loss data, that will inform your investment of above-the-funnel activities.
- Build a scorecard for opportunity planning. Few organizations use formal opportunity planning consistently, but it is a key step to getting new business in the door. Consider using a scorecard that evaluates what we call the “Big Six” qualifying criteria to prioritize your prospective deals.
- Create a process for lead management. Make sure your sales and marketing teams agree on how to define a lead and work together to align your process for lead nurturing.
- Formalize your account planning strategy. If you want to build long-term customer relationships, you can’t stop selling when you close the deal. Figure out how to continue adding value and exceeding your customers’ expectations long after you’ve collected the signatures.
- Check the alignment between your sales process and your buyer’s journey. We’ve found that the highest-performing sales organizations have tightly aligned their selling activities—including prospecting, outreach, opportunity management and account management—to their customer’s path.
2. Build a Formal Content Strategy
A sales content strategy does a number of things: it defines the purpose of your content, sets forth the goals that content should help sellers achieve and explains how content should be designed, created and managed to support sales strategies. A little less than a third (31.8%) of respondents reported having a formal content strategy in our Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study. But those with a formal content strategy experienced 27.1% higher win rates and 18.1% higher quota attainment than those without a formal strategy.
To build a content strategy, take these steps:
- Determine who creates your sellers’ content. It may come from various functions or departments; be thorough in your search.
- Define and assess your content. To gain clarity, define the various content types and formats that you have. Then map the content to your buyer’s path to ensure there’s a good fit. Identify redundancies, content that needs adjustment and gaps to fill.
- Develop your strategy. Identify your target audiences, purposes for different situations along the buying journey and the content creation process. Define how each content type will help you achieve your goals.
- Implement content lifecycle management. Create a schedule for reviewing all content assets to determine when they need to be updated or retired.
3. Continue Good Coaching Habits
In our 2020 Trends in Sales Management report, we found that sales managers spend twice as much time on administration and forecasting—34.1—as they do on coaching their teams. And many businesses still define sales coaching narrowly as a funnel review or a discussion of opportunities. These organizations are missing opportunities to follow a formal or dynamic sales coaching process and improve their sellers’ win rates by double digits.
During the pandemic, with social distancing and remote selling, sales managers have ramped up their visibility to their sales teams. They’ve started using regular check-ins and greater engagement strategies to continue developing their teams. They’ve modeled appropriate behaviors for their sellers, and they’ve conducted more rigorous funnel reviews. All of these practices should continue after the risks posed by the coronavirus subside.
Lay the Foundation Now for a Stronger Sales Strategy
Now is the time to future-proof your organization for not just the next phase in our recovery from COVID-19 but also for future crises. In such times, having a formal approach to the overall sales process, and especially opportunity qualification, content strategy and coaching, can make a lasting, positive impact.
For more suggestions on ways that sales managers and leaders can prepare their organizations to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and achieve their sales goals, check out our whitepaper, “The Hardest Job in Sales Just Got Harder.”