Sales teams are being tasked with navigating and selling in an uncertain business environment. As the global economy regains its footing after the fallout from COVID-19, business leaders are focused on finding a new way to protect the bottom line and their communities at the same time.

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Many organizations are already taking steps to build a roadmap that will guide their teams and their customers through to the marketplace of tomorrow. Let’s discuss how we adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.

According to McKinsey, marketing and sales leaders need to operate across a range of different environments. Today’s team leaders need to:

  • Navigate the current environment and figure out how to continue operating. This includes adopting practices such as sustainable remote work strategies for the health and safety of your employees.
  • Plan for recovery and figure out how you’re going to move forward. For sales teams, this can include embracing virtual experiences with clients and customers.
  • Lead the way to a new landscape by visualizing a better feature. Going forward, entrepreneurs and team leaders will be the ones responsible for inspiring their teams and shaping the workforce to come. It’s crucial to ensure that the right guidelines are in place to ensure safety and empathy in the months ahead.

Companies are beginning to discover that there’s more to staying afloat than watching the bottom line and dealing with challenges as and when they arise. Business leaders need to move from a reactive mindset to a growth mindset – one that allows them to embrace the realities of the current world and evolve.

Setting the Stage for the Future of Sales

As McKinsey notes in its roadmap for post-COVID-19 growth, leaders in the current landscape need a plan for how they’re going to move ahead in the months to come and suggests the SHAPE model, which builds around a startup mindset for agility. This strategy includes:

  • Start-up thinking: Prioritizing action and learning over research and analysis. Companies need to be quick to embrace new ideas and ready to take risks in this new disruptive landscape.
  • Humanity at the core: Perhaps the most important thing that businesses have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, is how important it is to keep the needs of their people at the heart of their decision making. To drive constant action, companies need to build their operating model around the needs of both their employees and their customers. Empathy and understanding are critical.
  • Acceleration: As we learn, we need to document our lessons and gather as much information as possible. Accessing digital tools that track and highlight the different points of the sales journey will be crucial to planning future playbooks. Additionally, analyzing the responses and sentiment of employees and customers will assist with future decision-making.
  • Purpose: While putting the customer at the heart of the business is not a new concept, now is time to double-down on a customer first approach. As we move forward, companies will need to look more carefully at how people make decisions based on purpose and their connection with the world.
  • Ecosystems for adaptability: Finally, your company will need to build in such a way that it can continue to pivot and adapt whenever new trends and demands emerge. Essentially, businesses will need to embrace the concepts of flexibility and agility.

Achieving Revenue Recovery

Recovering revenue rapidly and shaping your sales team for the new business environment requires leaders to take a series of important actions. While no two plans for the future will be completely the same, there are some suggestions businesses should take into account when preparing for the future.

1. Invest in digital experiences.

Companies around the world are making a rapid shift to the digital environment. In-person events became online webinars, and live demonstrations are now video conferencing sessions. The global customer sentiment survey also found that consumers are turning to online content in record numbers.

Businesses are operating more consistently within the online world, using live chat and conferencing to connect with sales prospects. While it can be a shift for those used to relying on in-person events and experiences, we have more opportunities than ever to connect with customers in creative ways. Going forward, it’s unlikely that the demand for digital will disappear once office doors re-open.

The B2B decision-maker pulse survey found that digitally-enabled sales interactions are currently twice as important as traditional sales conversations. Since we don’t know what the transition back into the workplace will look like, it’s important that companies don’t give up on their digital strategies suddenly. Experts believe that virtual selling may be here to stay when the pandemic begins to fade away.

Even when your customers feel completely safe interacting with you in a face-to-face landscape, virtual selling will still offer a more convenient and cost-efficient way to communicate without travel. Digital interactions reduce the hassle of traveling to different locations with demonstrations. Going forward, businesses can benefit from continuing to build their digital presence.

This includes not just offering digital interactions, but building a presence online where customers can find all the information that they need about a brand, as well as:

  • Accurate pricing information that’s easy to find.
  • 24/7 access to team members or live chat available to answer questions.
  • Learning environments to improve customer success.

2. Understand your customers.

The path to reliable revenue begins with utterly understanding your customers.However, for today’s sales teams, the consumer base is more complicated than ever.

The things that you once thought you knew about your clients and prospects may have been warped by this environment. You might even discover that new products in your portfolio are gaining more attention in the digital world, driven by new needs and expectations.

As economic productions continue to be uncertain, businesses are under more pressure to find out what their customers want. Businesses may see customers cut back as much as 50% on their purchases, which translates to a massive reduction in GDP.

Now is the time to find new sales opportunities and maintain your existing relationships as much as possible. Start with the customers you already have. Your customer relationship management (CRM) tool will give you valuable insight into your consumer base.

At the same time, open your mind to the possibility of new sales opportunities and go-to-market tracks that might not have been possible in the past. Delivering webinars and digital consultations could be an excellent way to expand your value to new customers in the years to come. Providing a wider range of packages to choose from could mean that you continue to appeal to customers with different budgets in a time of economic uncertainty.

3. Accelerate your digital transformation.

For the past decade, companies from all industries were already making their way into a state of digital transformation. We knew that things like cloud technology and artificial intelligence could help us to better understand customers and connect with prospects on a deeper level.

In 2020 we are seeing a demand for faster digital transformation. Many companies were forced to adopt digital selling strategies and remote working tools almost overnight — the landscape changed at record pace and the demand for digital transformation isn’t going to slow down.

According to Forrester, sales representatives using virtual selling technology are spending up to 28% less time on data entry into CRM tools, and 23% less time on repetitive tasks.

Sales strategies involve connecting with customers over many touch points. When everything is virtual, it’s much easier to keep those connections moving smoothly, without the need for travel and complexity. This means that closing deals is a much faster process.

To further cement this demand for digital sales strategies LinkedIn reported an increase in the number of people researching sales topics for LinkedIn learning between February and March and March and April. Additionally, social selling and Sales Navigator technology has earned a significant amount of extra attention in the last few months.

If you already started looking into revenue optimization tools, continue building on the results that you’ve found in this digital landscape. If you’ve still yet to discover the benefits of digital transformation yourself, now is the time to begin.

4. Take risks and try a new approach.

The face of sales is changing, and it’s a world apart from what it was only a few months ago today.

With so much uncertainty, it can be tempting to take an overly cautious approach when crafting your sales strategy. Many business leaders concerned about the future feel like the best thing they can do is stay still and wait to figure out what customers and buyers want. However, this line of thinking won’t set the stage for revenue recovery when new opportunities emerge.

According to research conducted by McKinsey, resilient companies increased their selling and administrative spending by around 1.5% during downturns, while others remained flat. In these environments, successful companies also prioritized investing resources in worthwhile opportunities, even when operating lean.

Now, more than ever, we’re in the perfect environment to commit to some experimentation. Refreshing your sales enablement systems and referring back to your sales strategy could help you to determine a high-value course of action for the years to come.

It’s also important to ensure that you’re making decisions based on the right information. Your sales tools and digital investments are there to give you insights into your marketplace and the needs of your customers. Dive deeper into your analytical technology to ensure that you’re spending wisely in the areas that are most likely to deliver results for your team.

In the months to come, we will begin to move closer and closer to the beginning of a new recovery period. The companies that can evolve to suit the demands of this changing marketplace are more likely to see success in the future.

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Originally published Jun 23, 2020 8:30:00 AM, updated June 23 2020