It’s normal to deal with slow periods in the world of sales.
We all have difficult seasons, driven by changes in trends, new demands, or external factors that we can’t control.
However, when both sellers and customers hit rough times, the problems we face can be a lot greater and more complicated to deal with. When these situations happen, businesses need to figure out how they can survive.
It’s a lot for any company to take. So, what exactly do you do?
Is it time to enter panic stations and go back to the drawing board? Search for ways to re-establish your company? Or do you just need to make a few fundamental changes to the way that you operate?
In this blog post, we'll discuss how to help your sales team weather periods of uncertainty.
How to Lead Sales Teams Through Uncertainty
Here are the steps to follow when working to sell through uncertainty.
1. Know your current situation.
First things first, where does your business stand?
You can use a tool like this network test to find out what kind of bandwidth you’re working with. You’re going to need plenty of connectivity to deal with customers in this increasingly digital age.
If you’re worried about taking calls remotely, you can have your team members forward their work lines to their mobile devices or use an online call software to manage sales calls remotely.
You should also make sure that you have a way to access crucial lead information from anywhere. Using tools such as your CRM can help your team understand and maintain your bottom line from anywhere. Having an automated and well-oiled system in place for nurturing your leads once you capture them ensures that your team can continue to remain lucrative and productive wherever they are.
Your sales team can continue to capture opportunities from anywhere.
2. Support and empower your team.
Speaking of your team, they’re still your most crucial assets in the current landscape.
First, it’s important to ensure that your employees have the tools they need to be successful even if they are working remotely, or in a new environment where they don’t have their team members and typical resources nearby.
There are plenty of tools out there that make running a more remote and dispersed team simple today. For instance, Asana is excellent for task management, Slack helps teams maintain synchronous communications, and Zoom is an accessible video conferencing option.
If necessary, make sure that your employees have the right training to tap into the tools they need to use each day. For example, if you decide to implement a tool such as Microsoft Teams you would want to provide training to show your team how to use it before deploying.
Looking after your teams in times of crisis doesn’t just mean giving them the right tools to stay connected, it also means providing much-needed support. Founder and CEO of JBarrows Sales Training John Barrows says that slowing down is useful during times of uncertainty, "stop the generic cadences and go deep on personalization and empathy."
Here are some ways you can provide extra support to your sales team when they need it most:
Look for learning opportunities. Our employees can still learn and grow in times of crisis. Live online events and webinars are a great way to teach them new sales skills.
Encourage self-care. Make sure your employees follow a healthy schedule, with plenty of breaks, and a set finishing time each day. Helping your sales reps manage feelings of burnout is incredibly important during times of uncertainty.
Make yourself available when possible. Team leaders should be able to offer assistance in the form of advice and guidance for their teams. This can entail scheduling additional one-on-one meetings to check in, or holding "office hours” each week where team members can come ask questions and receive support.
3. Search for new opportunities.
Once your team is protected and well-supported it’s time to look for new opportunities.
Business as usual isn’t always an option. However, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When business norms change, it can be a good time to find a new way to accomplish your goals.
You can try targeting new customers you've never considered before. Or you could start offering new versions of your products.
As Alice Heiman of Alice Heiman, LLC notes:
"Out of chaos can come innovation. Leaders can become better leaders; workers can become better at their jobs. Together we can innovate better ways to do things and stop the syndrome of ‘This is the way we've always done it.’ It's a good time to take a fresh approach."
If you’re seeking new sales opportunities and process updates, think about the following:
Address your current targeting efforts and offers. Who should you be trying to reach now? Can you still send products overseas, or do you need to focus on a smaller, local environment? If sales drop for an extended period, could you provide offers to capture more long-term leads?
Focus on brand affinity. Your customers may also be stressed and overwhelmed. It’s important to let them know you care about them through your direct correspondence and your company’s messaging at large. Connect with your marketing team to ensure your messaging is consistent and empathetic across the board.
Set expectations and keep communicating. Whether you are navigating product shortages, supply chain issues, shipping delays, or other obstacles, clear and consistent communication is key. It’s crucial to keep landing pages, sites, and campaign messages up to date with information for your customers. Make sure that they know exactly what you can accomplish for them and when.
4. Embrace digital as much as possible.
One of the most essential things B2B businesses can do during times of uncertainty is invest in new content. Look at your environment and ask yourself how many marketing and promotional efforts you had that were designed around live and in-person meetings. Can you transform events into webinars, and create presentations online for your customers?
Do you need to keep visiting your clients in person to discuss use cases for your products, or can you present opportunities through a video presentation instead?
Here are some tactics to try:
Use podcasts, videos, and long-form articles. Keep people informed using as much engaging content as possible. If you can’t show your thought leadership through events, why not do it by publishing your own audio, written content, and videos instead?
Create new learning opportunities. 74% of podcast listeners say they listen to podcasts to learn, while 73% of B2B marketers believe that webinars are the best way to generate qualified leads. Bridge the gap between traditional sales channels and where your consumers are currently getting their information to create new ways to connect with your audience.
Take your sales processes online. Everything from connecting with your customer from the first time to nurturing a lead can be done online. You can implement tools such as video conferencing, automated sales software, and email campaigns to update your sales strategy.
According to Brynne Tillman of Social Sales Link, using LinkedIn to connect with stakeholders and video conferencing software to hold conversations is more valuable today than ever.
Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools notes that email has become increasingly essential with so many buyers and sellers having the option to work from home.
Savvy sales leaders are constantly looking for ways to make the most out of their digital tools.
When unexpected events occur, it can feel as though you’re playing defense, constantly putting out fires to keep business afloat. During those times, seek to understand how your products and services can be adjusted to meet consumer needs now and in the future.
Being proactive is the most important thing that any sales or business leader can do to come out stronger than ever.