Leading in Uncertain Times

Apr 02, 2020
4 min read
We’ve entered an unprecedented time in the world of business. Xactly’s Founder and CEO Chris Cabrera has three key tips to lead enterprise sales and marketing teams during uncertain times.

I think it’s pretty clear to see that we’ve entered into an unprecedented situation on a global scale. Businesses have quickly adopted digital processes and technology, but this is an entirely different ballgame. Operating a fully remote workforce is something that many businesses have never done before.

Fortunately, we are not alone. We are all adjusting to this steep learning curve together. It’s a difficult time. For me, a day feels like a week, and a week feels like a month, and that said, we will weather through this; things will get better.

Lessons From Past Experiences

Looking back at the 2008-2009 crisis and considering the financial circumstances the world faced, I’d like to think that we handled this recession in the best way possible. From that experience, I gained some valuable insights and lessons that can help all of us navigate today’s uncertain situation. Most importantly, we all realized that we would prevail. 

Here are my three key tips for leaders to help guide their organizations. 

1. Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, things got much worse than we expected, and it took a lot longer to recoup than we thought it would. Today’s situation is slightly different. Business-wise, we need to plan for the worst-case scenarios to ensure that our companies and employees are well taken care of. This may come in the form of hiring freezes, eliminating wage increases, and canceling events—and it’s something that has to be done. 

We recently announced that our annual user conference, Xactly Unleashed, will be going fully virtual. Our goal is to still provide our customers with the valuable insights and knowledge they need, but in a way that doesn’t require travel, and most importantly, doesn’t put anyone’s health at risk.

2. Take This Situation Seriously

Considering the varied news reports, we all have to take today’s situation seriously. This is an unprecedented time. We are experiencing massive impacts on how we are managing our day-to-day living, conducting our businesses and measuring the effects globally. 

Leaders—including myself—have to take a hard look at our organizations and decide the best path to follow. Adhere to the rules. It’s not easy, but if we do this, we could affect the curve in a positive way and hopefully, reduce the spread of this virus. I realize that it is very difficult for us to be inside, away from friends and our favorite places to visit; it is not an option—we have to remain quarantined. 

3. Get Outside

We’re all human, whether you hold an executive, managerial or employee position. Every single one of us is experiencing new and difficult situations. We are juggling our families, little kids, homeschooling, and carrying on business from our homes. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to stay home and out of the office, but I also can’t stay locked up inside. I am taking calls on my treadmill and engaging in DIY projects in my free time.

We all need to get up, move around, and take time outside. 

We’ve started encouraging our teams to take calls outdoors. In fact, our Chief Customer Officer, Bernie Kassar has begun meetings while walking around his neighborhood, and we’re all taking time each day to go outside and breathe in some fresh air.

Change is Imperative

Now more than ever, enterprises need tools to motivate sales teams, track their work, and reward them for performing the right activities to ensure sales productivity stays high.

We understand what you need and can help you. Plans need to pivot. Forecasts need to be adjusted, and incentives need to be created on the fly. Access to data and the ability to proactively adjust sales plans is essential at any time, but it is especially critical with the challenges we’re facing today. We have the solutions that can help with all that and more.

Finding the Silver Linings

No one can say for sure what the true impact of this situation will be on businesses or even the world. Finding the silver linings is key. I shared a video recently discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraged our employees to share some of the positives they’re finding. Some of my favorite responses included: 

  • "One silver lining I have recognized is a greater appreciation for the technologies that enable us to keep in contact with friends and family.” - Justin Turner, Sr. Manager, Customer Support
  • “Seeing the amazing bond of our team from a different light! We can’t physically be together, but we are finding new ways to connect and the love has never been greater!!” - Gwen Knudsen, Director, Demand Gen
  • “Getting to have lunch with my little girl every day so far!” - Nick Bevelacqua, Director, Lead Generation
  • “The clarity to step back and appreciate the products/services that I have taken for granted and the people who make them possible.” - Ashley Nevins, Senior Product Manager

As leaders, we have to practice empathy. We can’t expect business-as-normal from our employees—because none of what is happening is normal. I recently sat in on a sales meeting, where our rep was taking the call from his garage. This is okay. In fact, many calls have started to include children, dogs, and the noise that comes naturally from living life at home. It is all okay.

My hope for this situation is that companies come out of this with changed thinking. For now, I’m keeping an open mind and navigating each day as it comes. We’ll all get through this together.

Learn more about Sales Performance Management and how you can get started today in our free SPM workbook.

  • Culture
  • Sales Performance Management
Chris Cabrera Headshot
Christopher W. Cabrera
Founder and CEO

Christopher Cabrera is a seasoned executive with senior management experience at both early-stage and public companies where he has managed sales, operations, marketing, and business development.