Today change seems more common than stability. In addition to any uncertainty, sales professionals face increased demands when rebuilding the pipeline. Yet it is clear that there is still business to be won.
Sales teams around the world are trying to figure out how to adapt to what has changed and keep up with what is always in motion. But first we need to assess the new realities brought about by this pandemic.
Here are five ways the world of sales has changed and what teams can do to adapt and thrive.
1. Creative Deal packaging
The payment terms have undergone a drastic change in recent months. In March, the 30-day payment terms were extended to 60 or 90 days as companies cut budgets. Even though we’ve started to see a return to more standard 12-month agreements, payment terms are a lot more open to discussion than they were before COVID.
Longer terms are increasingly in demand – and while this was not an option before, there has been an increase in quarterly or monthly payment terms.
This means that many companies have been forced to confront their transaction structures. What once worked for our clients may not work now, so we need to assess what can be refreshed to meet the new needs and capabilities of our prospects.
Buyers should recognize and appreciate all efforts made to meet them where they are in these difficult times.
2. Develop organized discovery calls to fully understand the prospect’s needs
Understanding what stage your buyer is in their journey is essential in the sales process. This goal may not be as easy as it once was, as everyone’s process has changed in one way or another, so you’ll likely have to learn something new.
Calling out the “new buying process” directly during an organized and in-depth discovery call is the best way to do this. This may require questions to be asked early on about budget, schedule, competitors, priorities, etc. So make sure your reps are fully trained in messaging to navigate these items.
3. A new message is required
It should be taken for granted that you will have to adjust your messaging with new packaging and new faces in the buying process. Assuming every sales pitch you make will reach a C-level office is a good habit to make. So if your voicemail doesn’t speak at C level, it’s time to change that.
Keep in mind that a CFO will have a completely different perspective when reviewing a pitch than a CEO or executive. Whoever reads it, your pitch should answer: why now? Answering how your service can bring immediate benefit to your client’s business is a pressing issue given the current climate.
Stay up to date with current events in their area.
Many salespeople have a general understanding of what their prospects do at work, but no one is fully familiar with the inner workings of someone on a daily basis. This gap makes it difficult to sell or engage, and the problem is exacerbated by issues outside of the pandemic.
Today, there are many factors that affect our lives outside of work. Knowing what can affect your customers can serve as potential talking points to connect on a more human level, or points of contention to avoid mentioning them on calls.
Having this awareness could also explain why you can’t get a response from someone right away. Either way, it’s important to know what can affect your customers and to show empathy.
Ask people how they are doing before you talk about business.
Connecting on a human level and empathizing with others before talking about business can build a deeper sense of trust and confidence between them and your business. Personalization of the sale makes a business stand out from the noise, but these extra steps add another level.
Ernest Owusu, senior director, sales development at 6sense, believes people have become disabled by generic awareness
so much so that good first impressions became the expectation. He says, “Strike while the iron is hot here with hyper-personalized efforts that will guide the prospect to a meeting.”
4. Set aside new blocks for research
Keeping up to date with all the changes that are happening can seem like a daunting task, but it has its benefits. Setting aside blocks of time to research these few items can dramatically help your sales efforts.
Examine what the prospect is saying on LinkedIn.
Social media platforms allow us to update our connections all at once. LinkedIn is a useful tool when you have a business update like announcing a new role or leaving a business. You can also use this as another avenue to research what’s important to the prospect, what they’re focusing on, and how they’re coping. This is an opportunity to get an idea of their situation before a call.
It can appear to be spying on or spying on some, but instead it effectively uses your resources and allows you to lead with empathy from your first point of contact.
Market study on new challenges.
Problems have changed and priorities have changed, but ultimately sales is about solving problems. We sell something to solve the problems of our prospects. We need to make sure that we know what changes our customers are going through so that we know what to tackle in the sales process.
5. Spend time reviewing appeals and coaching
Side-by-side training may no longer be an option, as many work from home. But you still want to be able to make sure sales reps are taking the right steps to close deals.
Prior to COVID-19, coaching actions included reviewing appeals, commenting, and reviewing scorecards. You can sit next to someone and give them immediate feedback. The switch to remote control doesn’t need to hamper coaching efforts.
This is especially important because sales calls see increased participation from executives. On the sales side, their role on these calls is not always aimed at closing deals but at instilling trust and good faith. On the purchasing side, executives are likely looking for data-driven answers to their ROI questions. Our data shows that since January:
- Buy-side leaders join 108% more meetings
- Sales side leaders join 65% more meetings
- Buy-side CFOs join 92% more meetings
- Vendor-side CEOs join 29% more meetings
This involvement shows a level of dedication at all levels of the organization.
It is also necessary to tell reps what they are doing right rather than just telling them where they need to improve. Morale can be low, and only about a third of the comments are positive and encouraging, while the rest tend to be suggestions for improvement. Even when people are away from their desks, it’s important to offer feedback and encouragement.
Assuming that there is no business to be won is the biggest mistake to make in this uncertain market. You will likely find it harder than usual to sell during the COVID outbreak, but times like these reward not only persistence, but progressives as well. Nowhere is this more true than in your sales team.
We must remember to believe in what we are selling in these unprecedented times. You won’t stop selling if you have an offer that you think will help people. The lessons we learn now will be applicable in the future, as many of the changes we see are here for good.
To make sure we don’t fall behind schedule, we need to be flexible with our offerings and transaction structures, be creative in the way we package them, meet buyers where they are, and not get too caught up in the terms. . It also means that we need to conduct better discovery calls and adjust our messaging.
Remember to come in knowing that you are there to help your prospect and their business become the best version of themselves.