“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
— Alan Lakein
By Bill Reidy
All global crises share some important common traits: beginnings, middles, endings and discernable patterns that carry lessons for sales leaders. One discernable pattern is that the economic recovery from every crisis produces both winners and losers. This begs the question, what can sales leaders do to ensure their organizations will not only survive, but will emerge as one of the winners?
When we experience a crisis, we may be tempted to focus our attention on what was happening during the period prior to the crisis. We are also likely to be preoccupied with the current impact of the crisis itself. This instinctive focus on the immediate past and the present helps us understand what has happened and is happening. However, it deals only with the first two phases of the crisis: the “before” and the “during.” These automatic reactions to the crisis fail to consider the future recovery phase.
This phase, typically the least understood, is the one leaders need to focus on to create a solid recovery plan. Experience tells us that we get what we plan for, so the first question we must address is, do we have a team focused on building our recovery plan? The focus should no longer be on getting back to normal or on crisis management, but on getting ready to succeed in the changed business environment.
Companies that will emerge stronger from this crisis must develop and adopt new processes during the recovery phase. Broadly speaking, processes that focus on strategic account management, an effective and measurable sales process, and productive, repeatable sales engagement methods will set the foundation for growth.
To develop an effective account management approach, start with revising the plans for your most strategic and valued accounts. Focus on defining those accounts, identifying the clients’ current needs, and determining how engagement can assist in their recovery.
An efficient and measurable sales process is critical. Begin with thoroughly reviewing your current pipeline of sales opportunities. Identify prospects whose priorities have likely shifted since the onset of the crisis, either negatively or positively. Be honest about the opportunities that can yield success, and move on from the rest. Spending time and energy on prospects that won’t close is a misuse of time and resources.
Sales engagement skills and methodology must focus on continuous improvement. New opportunities may be more limited — therefore, capitalizing on the success of each opportunity becomes critical. Take an honest look at your team’s abilities to perform. Some staff may lack the tools and skills required for success, while others may lack the temperamental and behavioral profile.
Once you have done all of this, essential questions remain to be answered:
What pains and challenges are your current and future clients facing, and how do your products and services profitably resolve them? Addressing this question means moving away from focusing on what your products and services do and moving toward identifying the problems your products and services address, along with the unique value you can create for your customers.
What people and tools can you apply to these opportunities? You need not limit yourself to the sales team in addressing this question. Often, some of the most valuable people in customer service, customer success, service, or delivery are underutilized in the drive for growth.
How do you connect with the most important target markets specifically, and does your lead management strategy need to be revised? Focusing on the leading indicators is key, since waiting until you see results means it may be too late. Leadership must look at quantifiable behaviors and track the leading indicators that show how well or poorly the organization is performing. Do not simply track closed sales; instead, track the behaviors that deliver closed sales and closely watch the timelines and the direction in which the needle is moving.
Successful recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will not be a return to business as usual. It will create entirely new dynamics in every market and will increase the speed of positive changes that were already underway. Every sales professional, sales leader and business leader will benefit from planning for the next recovery as a defining moment, one requiring a hard look at both internal people and processes and the needs of clients. This critical transition, successfully managed, will create positive foundational changes that support scalable, sustainable and long-term revenue growth.
Bill Reidy is president of PWRhouse Consulting, an authorized Sandler Training center and sales force development company in Orlando. He can be reached at www.pwrhouse.sandler.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-418-6033.