Common COVID-19 Sales Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Continuing our series on COVID-19’s effects on sales, we’d like to examine a few common challenges we’ve seen emerging in our latest research into the state of sales. We’ve encountered three primary problems that consistently come up in our research and are presenting potential solutions to each issue we’ve identified.
Buyers aren’t answering the phone/emails
Reaching potential clients by phone can be difficult even when they’re in the office. If they’re working remotely or working a hybrid schedule, connecting might seem impossible. And that’s if you even have a non-office number to contact them at. In many cases, you won’t. Emails? Those often go unanswered, too.
The first order of business is to make sure that your emails are being received. To do that, leverage one of the ubiquitous sales automation or email tracking tools that are available on the market. The right application for your team should integrate with your email client and be able to notify you if an email was successfully received. Hubspot provides such a tool, but there are many more out there that might be better suited for your organization.
Secondly, if efforts to reach your buyers through the traditional methods of phone and email remain unsuccessful, utilize social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – to see what conversations your target markets are having and identify opportunities within those discussions to contribute meaningful conversation. Emphasis on meaningful – you want to establish credibility, value, and Trusted Advisor status, and a comment that offers no insight or value does nothing to help build those things. Set reminders in your calendar to continue checking social media periodically – especially after the economy has stabilized.
Thirdly, if you’ve tried everything above and still can’t connect with buyers, you might need to step back and assess where potential new or underutilized markets might exist (which can also result in new revenue streams even after economic recovery is complete).
Also remember to be patient with yourself and your sales pipeline. These are stressful, uncertain times, and everyone is trying to traverse these choppy waters as best as they can.
Your sales strategies lack consistent results
So you’ve devised a great response sales strategy and it’s working. Then the next Monday rolls around and suddenly it’s no longer working. The reason? Conditions are changing rapidly as medical experts and scientific researchers undercover more information about COVID-19 (and there’s still much that we simply don’t know for sure). Correspondingly, states and countries have adjusted their plans to meet the new knowledge – throwing further chaos into the equation.
Jessica Chase, Sales Manager of Premier Title Loans, encountered precisely this problem. A data-driven sales leader, Jessica found that the COVID-19 crisis created statistical instability, and her sales reps were uncovering different challenges on a near-daily basis. Strategies devised in response only worked for a few days at a time.
To counteract this volatility, her sales team utilized a two-pronged approach. Their first tactic was to switch from monthly planning sessions to weekly ones. This shift allowed sales representatives to be more flexible and agile in responding to rapidly changing conditions. Their second strategy was to increase the frequency of sales coaching sessions in order to help sales reps stay adaptable. The net result of these adjustments was a much smoother workflow and increased profitability.
So if you’re having trouble maintaining consistency in your results, you might likewise need to contemplate drilling your planning timeline down to shorter periods. And of course, more frequent sales coaching is always an excellent idea – as our research demonstrates, there was a need for more sales coaching even before the pandemic.
The sales team is having trouble staying motivated and on-task
In tough economic times like these, employee morale is a real issue – especially in areas like sales, where the rejections and buyer silence grow even more pronounced than they usually are. This can make it difficult for sales reps to stay motivated and upbeat. Additionally, while working remotely has considerable advantages for a work-life balance, distractions can be commonplace and make staying on-task a challenge.
To address this, meet virtually with team members more frequently. Not only can these touches help align strategy and address issues as with the Premier Title loans example above, it can help employees working from home keep on track.
Another good idea to consider is asking the team how you can support them in transitioning to either fully remote or a split remote/in-office setup. Putting together a guide for working from home can be quite helpful, and there’s ample advice on the Internet on how to create a conducive, work-focused home office setting.
Be cautious of being *too* dialed in, however. Just as many sales reps dislike micromanagement, which can lead to an inefficient, resentful team, so too should you give remotely working staff space and breathing room to get the work done. Remember, the most critical thing is that they’re meeting or exceeding their KPIs, and so long as they’re doing that, you can expect the right output from those efforts.
COVID-19 has led to a series of sales challenges – some new, some more intense versions of commonplace challenges. The key to surmounting these obstacles involves creativity in adapting your sales and prospecting processes, shifting the strategic-level timeline, increasing coaching frequency, and ensuring you’re providing the support remote workers need.
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