The road ahead

Firstly, I need to acknowledge how challenging the past couple of weeks have been for most people in business. The sad reality is that many companies will not survive these times and roles will be lost. Personally, I have spent the last 2 weeks talking to clients and contacts who have all been affected in different ways. There is shock, disbelief and hopelessness out there, but there is also pragmatism and optimism. This is not an article, however, about doom and gloom, it’s an article about the opportunities that are in front of us in the months ahead. The game has changed, and for many that means things are getting interesting.

You don’t have look far to find depressing news, but there are also positive stories. You can now see positive environmental statistics coming out of China and spot fish in the Venice canals. There are great examples of people helping each other out in a time of need. Having people in lockdown may be an opportunity for a reset about what is valuable in life, and so there will be positives. 

Business wise, yes, we are taking a substantial hit, but we are also seeing positives. We have had to move our programmes online, but this does open our offering up to a wider audience and we can now use the knowledge of speakers from all over the world. Will we go back to how it was before? Possibly, but we are already questioning the value of in-person verses the opportunities that online brings. We have also noted an improvement in the communication we are having as a team and are focusing our time on getting better as a company. We are confident that we will get through stronger than ever.

From a sales perspective we believe we will see significant changes in several different areas and there will be many positives. We are expecting the following changes in the months ahead, and this will have a significant effect on sales and sales teams.

Restructuring of sales teams

This is a perfect time to think about how your sales teams are structured. We expect many sales teams to be restructured with some losing their jobs and some being put into different positions. The traditional outbound salesperson was already slowly becoming redundant, so this has merely sped up their demise. This is not to say the outbound salesperson will be no longer be of value, but we do expect significant changes to their role as companies realise the cost of the full time outbound salesperson simply outweighs the benefit. This means the outbound salesperson will need to adapt.

We have already seen the inside sales rep, working closely with marketing, starting to become more and more important. The reasons are obvious, the inside sales rep can communicate with a much larger number of customers, travel costs and time are significantly reduced, and the quality of video platforms are excellent and will only get better. If you did have territory-based sales reps then maybe you can provide a better service to your clients by having more product or industry specialists. If you remove the constraints of choosing a salesperson because they are based nearby then you can improve your customer experience.  We are also expecting the relationship of sales and marketing to take another step closer with many companies moving instead to one revenue department.

Technology

We should expect massive amounts of innovation in the months ahead and particularly for us in the sales world, we expect to see technology that will change how we sell. Since Coronavirus has taken effect, the number one area our clients are asking us about is what technologies they need to be using. We stated at the start of the year that the Mood of the Sales Leader report suggested sales leaders have been sitting on their hands regarding sales technology and run the risk of being left behind. That statement has never been more important than now. Companies need to understand how to use video conferencing, video messaging and appreciate the value in online communications.

With sales teams working remotely, the value of the CRM has escalated. If sales leaders want to understand how their teams are working then a CRM that tracks emails, email open rates, and makes sure opportunities are being correctly managed are vital.

As mentioned above, if you are in B2B the connection between your marketing and sales teams are more important than ever, and the good ones will focus on the connection between the two. If your marketing messages are personalised, have a great balance between automated and personal then your team will win. Any sales leader who is not schooling themselves on sales and marketing technology is missing a huge opportunity. We must however have a good mix between technology and real people connection,

Empathy

Discussions with clients and contacts over the last two weeks have been invaluable. As valuable as technology is, we still want to communicate directly with people, and the conversations have for me been very cathartic. Even though we are now in lockdown, it is more important than ever to talk to people, although we must be genuine and respect people’s situation.

With regards to our people, this is a strange time and the best leaders will increase their communication with their teams. Corporate anthropologist Michael Henderson believes that when you have people working remotely you need to be in contact with them 4 times more than when working from the same office. That is a considerable increase that we now have to undertake, and I have spoken to many leaders who have done exactly that.

We also believe that those who sell with genuine intentions, are empathetic to their customers and want nothing but a win:win scenario, will continue to win. We all need to walk in our customers’ shoes. Those that do will win.