Today, change feels more common than stability. On top of all the uncertainty, sales professionals face increased demands while rebuilding the pipeline. Yet it’s clear that there is still business to be won.
Around the world, sales teams are trying to figure out how to adjust to what has changed and also keep up with what is still in flux. But first we must assess the new realities this pandemic has brought on.
Here are five ways the sales world has changed and what teams can do to adapt and prosper.
1. Creative Deal Packaging
Payment terms have faced a dramatic shift in the past few months. Back in March, 30-day payment terms were extended to 60 or 90 days as companies were shrinking budgets. Even though we have started to see a return to more standard agreements of 12-months, payment terms are up for discussion much more than they were pre-COVID.
Longer terms are being asked for more and more — and while this wasn’t an option before, there has been an increase of quarterly or monthly payment terms.
This means many businesses have been forced to confront their deal structures. What once worked for our customers may not work now, so we must evaluate what can be refreshed to meet the new needs and capabilities of our prospects.
Buyers should recognize and appreciate any efforts made to meet them where they are in these challenging times.
2. Develop Organized Discovery Calls to Fully Understand the Prospect’s Needs
Understanding what stage your buyer is at in their journey is key in the sales process. That goal may not be as easy as it once was since everyone’s process has shifted in some way, so you are likely going to have to learn something new.
Directly calling out the “new buying process” over an organized, in-depth discovery call is the best way to do this. It may call for questions to be asked early about budget, timing, competitors, priorities, etc. So ensure your reps are fully coached on messaging to navigate these items.
3. New Messaging Is Required
It should be a given that you will have to adjust your messaging with new packaging and new faces in the buying process. Assuming that every sales pitch you make is going to reach a C-level desk is a good habit to get into. So if your messaging doesn’t speak to the C-level, it’s time to change that.
Keep in mind, a CFO is going to have a completely different perspective when looking at a pitch than a director or executive. One thing that should be answered by your pitch no matter who is reading it is: why now? Answering how your service can provide an immediate benefit to your customer’s business is a pressing question given today’s climate.
Stay up to date with current events in their area.
Many sales reps have a general understanding of what their prospects do at work, but no one fully knows the inner workings of someone’s day-to-day. This gap makes it difficult to sell or engage, and the problem is exacerbated by issues outside the pandemic.
Currently, there are many factors impacting our lives outside of work. Knowing what may be affecting your customers can serve as potential talking points to connect on a more human level or points of contention to avoid mentioning during calls.
Having this awareness could also explain why you may not hear back from someone right away. Either way, it’s important to know what may be affecting your customers and embrace empathy.
Ask people how they’re doing before talking business.Connecting on a human level and showing empathy for others before talking business can establish a deeper sense of confidence and trust between them and your company. Personalizing selling helps a business stand out from the noise but these extra steps add another level.
Ernest Owusu, senior director, sales development at 6sense, believes that people have become turned off by generic outreach so much that good first impressions have become the expectation. He says, “strike while the iron is hot here with hyper-personalized efforts that will guide the prospect toward a meeting.”
4. Set Aside New Blocks for Research
Staying up to date with all the changes happening may seem like a daunting task, but it has its benefits. Setting aside blocks of time to research these few things can help your sales efforts tremendously.
Review what the prospect is saying on LinkedIn.Social media platforms give us ways to update our connections all at once. LinkedIn is a useful tool when you have a professional update such as announcing a new role or your departure from a company. You can also use this as another avenue to research what is important to the prospect, what they are focusing on, and how they are coping. It’s an opportunity to get a sense of where they are at before a call.
This may feel like snooping or spying to some, but instead, it’s effectively using your resources and ensuring you can lead with empathy on your first touch point.
Market research on new challenges.Problems have changed and priorities have shifted, but at the end of the day, sales is about being a problem solver. We are selling something to solve the problems of our prospects. We need to ensure we know what changes our customers are facing so we know what to address in the sales process.
5. Dedicate Time for Call Review and Coaching
Training side by side may no longer be an option as many are working from home. But you still want to be able to ensure reps are taking the proper steps to close deals.
Prior to COVID-19, coaching actions included reviewing calls, commenting, and reviewing scorecards. You could sit next to someone and give them immediate feedback. The shift to remote doesn’t need to hinder coaching efforts.
This is especially important as sales calls are seeing increased executive participation. From the sales side, their role on these calls is not always intended to close deals but to provide confidence and good faith. From the buying-side, executives are likely seeking data-driven answers to their questions that tie back to ROI. Our data shows that since January:
- Buying-side Leaders join 108% more meetings
- Selling-side Leaders join 65% more meetings
- Buying-side CFOs join 92% more meetings
- Selling-side CEOs join 29% more meetings
This involvement shows a level of dedication on all levels of the organization.
It is also necessary to tell reps what they’re doing great rather than just telling them where they need to improve. Morale may be low, and only around one-third of the comments are positive and encouraging, while the rest tend to be suggestions for improvement. Even while people are away from their desks, it’s important to offer feedback and encouragement.
Presuming that there isn’t any business to win is the biggest mistake to make in this uncertain market. You will likely find selling during the COVID outbreak more difficult than usual, but times like these not only reward persistence, they reward the progressive-minded, too. Nowhere is that truer than in your sales team.
We must remember to believe in what we sell during these unprecedented times. You won’t stop selling if you have an offer you truly believe will help people. The lessons we’re learning now will be applicable in the future because many of the changes we are seeing are here for good.
To ensure we don’t fall behind, we must be flexible with our offerings and deal structures, creative in how we package them, meet buyers where they are, and not allow ourselves to get too caught up in terms. This also means we must conduct better discovery calls and adjust our messaging.
Just remember to enter with a mindset that you are there to help your prospect and their company be the best version of themselves.