No one expected Coronavirus (Covid-19) to hit the world in 2020. It’s devastating, tragic for those affected, and we aren’t out of the other side yet. Economically, it’s a global disaster, pushing the world into a recession. Some regions and countries are going to be worse off than others.
We can expect the Eurozone and U.S. to enter recession, if they’re not in one already. Recovery will take time. Confidence needs to be rebuilt. Thousands, if not millions of businesses, are not coming back. People who’ve been employed for years if not decades may find themselves self-employed from now on. Governments are pouring trillions into economies, as are central banks to prop governments up. Money is being printed at a rate never seen before.
Covid-19 is reshaping the world, and the economy is being transformed as part of this painful and unexpected process.
What does this mean for sales?
Comparable to the recession that started with the global financial crisis of 2007-08, sales is getting more difficult. Temporarily, perhaps even for a year, we could find the economic climate is more challenging than the previous recession.
It’s likely that at least 50% of salespeople are going to miss targets this year. That’s right, in businesses that are still operational, more salespeople than not are going to miss targets. Sales is going to be more difficult for the foreseeable future.
On average, buyers that still have budgets need to justify decisions to 6.8 stakeholders. So, even when budgets exist, there is enormous pressure to make the right call. Winning clients and closing deals is getting tougher. Although in some sectors it’s going to be more difficult than others, and this is one way companies could look at adjusting the approach to sales.
How do sales teams adjust?
Sales leaders, teams, and senior managers need to accept that changes are needed.
It’s no longer business as usual.
It might be some time until we are back in a place where the world feels normal again. Economies and sectors are going to take time to recover, and some, such as tourism, hospitality, leisure, and travel may never recover to pre-Covid economic health. Or if they do recover, it could take years.
For sales teams to adjust, the following needs to be taken into consideration and changes made.
#1: Practice empathy and active listening
Right now and in the months ahead, potential clients (and current ones) need compelling reasons to make purchasing decisions.
Salespeople aren’t only competing against incumbents, they’re fighting doubt, uncertainty, and fear.
Buyers are looking to minimize risk. Sellers need to understand and empathize how not going ahead is more risk than saying yes. This could mean providing a better, more cost-effective service than an incumbent, or helping a client solve a problem the global situation has created.
For salespeople to succeed, empathy and active listening is essential. You need to be able to put yourself in client and prospect shoes, now more than ever. Only this way is it going to be easier to hit targets and close deals.
#2: Consider then reconsider sales targets
Sales targets are produced based on the previous years figures.
Now is the time to think how relevant those figures are to this current situation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Has the market changed?
- What changes have you seen so far?
- What do you expect to happen next (3, 6, and 12 months)?
- Are those growth targets realistic anymore?
- How far on or off-target was the team before this?
- How difficult, or not, has it been trying to win new clients since the pandemic hit?
Work with stakeholders, including senior leadership and sales team members to put together some new (rough) figures for 2020. Be as realistic as possible. It’s a pointless exercise to put together unrealistic figures now and put the team under pressure to achieve those.
Whereas, more realistic targets are easier to achieve and put the whole team under less pressure. This way, senior leaders can adjust to a new projected minimum rate of growth, making other decisions around that as needed.
#3: Assess sector impact of Covid-19
Look at the clients you serve.
Then do deeper, and look at who those clients work with. Who are their clients?
Now if you can, go deeper still, and ask who they serve?
If you can look back two or even three chains deep in the supply chain, you can assess more accurately how badly, or not, your company and therefore sales team is going to be affected. Use this information to make judgment calls on what action to take and how to adjust strategies.
#4: Assess regional and country-wide impact
Sector specific assessments are crucial for B2B sales decision making.
However, what’s going on in the local area, or across your country, territory or region could have a big impact too. It depends how much you are affected by the local and national impact of Covid-19. Take that into account, as best you can, when making strategic sales decisions.
#5: Look at lateral growth moves
And finally, look at where there are potential opportunity areas.
If sectors you serve are struggling, are there adjacent sectors that would benefit from your products/services?
How could you grow even under challenging circumstances?
Look at ways you can make lateral moves, seek out opportunities, and spend some time exploring those. If you win a couple clients in a new sector, keep going, and get closer to hitting new targets in unexpected ways. Businesses that adjust and survive during times such as these are far more likely to succeed and thrive when the economy picks up, which is going to happen.