Haggai Levi
Co-Founder and CEO at SetSail
Table of contents:

Hello, challenges. I’ve never faced a sales situation like the one created by COVID-19—no one has.  

Yep, it’s all upside down. But rather than commiserate, let’s try to focus on a solution. From where I sit, creativity is key. Could our current crisis actually provide an opportunity to innovate and help manifest a better way to lead?  

In talking to other CROs and conducting research, I’ve discovered the top six obstacles that are keeping my fellow revenue leaders up at night. I’ll offer ideas on how we can pivot at each.  

Issue #1. Ramping & motivating sales teams

Ramping and motivating a sale org is difficult in the best of times and right now it’s harder than ever. Think about it: Some reps have to learn product, process, and technology, as well as build internal and external relationships without ever meeting people face-to-face.

Plus, remote work naturally removes the human dimension from learning and work processes, so productivity can drop. Not to mention attention spans.  

Potential fix: You must think differently. Do the standard stuff like regular Zoom meetings with your newest reps to complement any Learning Management System you have in place. Run similar video conferences with your people who’ve been around for a while, just to stay in touch and motivate. But also, think about creative new ways to incentivize your teams throughout the process, that drive productivity and keep everyone  motivated.

Issue #2. Developing faster, more repeatable execution

Before COVID-19, all sales leaders were consistently trying to drive single or double-digit productivity gains across their 2nd and 3rd quartiles.

With new micro-incentive solutions out there, you can program the behavior that leads to tangible growth. Even right now.  

On their own, people have a hard time wiring themselves for truly breakthrough actions. They’re not easy. They take consistent effort. And the behavior has to be repeated over and over.

Tieing incremental yet meaningful rewards to each step of the process is the key to double-digit productivity gains.  

Potential fix: Explore solutions that provide micro incentivizes to your sellers that drive the behaviors that are consistent with closing business.  

Issue #3. Dealing with the inability to monitor team productivity

It’s hard to gain oversight on team actions and measure effectiveness when everyone is working out of their dining rooms.

Reps need to still consistently connect your product’s ROI to strategic drivers within a client’s company. Miss that part and you undermine your ROI effort.

SPIFFs and standard MBOs are okay, but giving your top reps an additional 2% at the end of the day—which is how these programs usually play out—is actually de-motivating to the rest of the team, potentially resulting in unproductive behavior.

Solution: Become able to analyze customer behavior during the sales cycle, and how that can significantly influence The Last Mile—culling the last steps of a sale down to its most critical components. Then, incentivize the bejesus out of those last steps.

Issue #4. Tackling teams’ lack of practice with empathy

Best way to guide your people in handling prospects and clients? Be the example. Your internal comms should be as compassionate as your external messages.

Not all your reps will react to our current health crisis the same way. Some may struggle and need extra support. Set the tone and be the rock. Your teams will reflect this behavior to customers, positioning your company as a trusted resource.

Stress that your outward communications should lead with a safety message. Then, follow with a business message that includes empathy—many clients have been hit hard and are taking losses.

Remind your people they’ll come back stronger than ever if they show prospects and customers they’re here to serve. *,**

Prospective fix: Treat your teams just as you’d expect them to treat customers: with humility and compassion. Your reps will mirror your behavior during outreach.

Issue #5. Getting flexible with contract terms & pricing

Flexibility in contract negotiations is about decreasing friction and keeping the process simple. But decision-making authority might not be something your reps are used to having.

Get them used to offering all clients flexible payments, and new customers’ annual contracts that allow quarterly or monthly terms.

For established customers, defer payments for up to 3 months, and relax on interest terms (as in, don’t charge any). Another approach: Offer discounts on annual contracts for the first year or two.**

Potential fix: Focus on capturing market share instead of hitting targets, through flexible annual fees, deferments, and discounts.  

Issue #6. Losing momentum, then rebounding

It’s imperative. You have to plan for the future even while dealing with the crisis.

Develop conservative forecasts that show how much demand and supply could bounce back, then brainstorm how to restructure your sales model so reps can deliver once the crisis ends.

Can you bring it all inside? Can you add Shopify to your site? Can you enable clients to serve themselves?  

Also: Cross-sell and upsell to existing customers during the inevitable upswing, incentivizing your reps all the while.  

Potential fix: Drive the adoption of new, emerging sales models such as e-commerce and digital self-service. Embrace inside sales as a dominant force. ***    

Consistency is king  

It all comes down to consistency: In teaching, learning, empathizing,  motivating, delivering, and incentivizing. The more consistent we can be in our own behaviors, the more consistent our reps will be in theirs.

If you’d like more ideas on what sales leaders can do during tricky times, contact me here.    

*Coronavirus: How to Reassure Customers During the COVID-19 Crisis

**The State of SaaS Sales in a COVID-19 World

*** Leading Sales Through the COVID-19 Crisis | BCG