Today’s guest post was co-authored by Tom Hill, Partner, Axiom Consulting Partners, and Donncha Carroll, Partner, Axiom Consulting Partners.
Many of our clients are projecting a dip in revenue this year. None of us know if we're dealing with a V- or U-shaped recovery yet so the level of future demand is uncertain. Coming out of the dip, customers will alter how they run their business and will likely change their evaluation criteria of vendors and buying behaviors. When making future decisions, customers will consider their current vendor’s tone and level of help and support provided throughout this period, which will surely test the quality of those relationships.
As sales teams work remotely in this era of social distancing, 40% of their time they used to spend traveling, is now free. As unemployment ticks upwards across the U.S., most sales reps will want to stay busy in a down market by demonstrating their value to the business and their customers.
To succeed, salespeople need to focus their attention on meeting their clients’ varying needs. Some customers may not want to hear from the reps as they deal with more pressing challenges, while others may need additional help in this tough period and will look to valued suppliers as an important source of support. Other customers may have a tactical set of needs and will look to renegotiate planned purchases, short-term price considerations, and terms of payment, etc. Understanding the shift in priorities is critical to protecting your brand, strengthening relationships, and positioning your business well for the future.
So, as companies consider how to handle sales team engagement and deployment, they are asking questions, and we wanted to offer up a few thoughts for you to consider.
Sales Deployment Strategies
Q1: Knowing things have changed for most, how can we identify and accurately profile our customers and their needs?
Assessing Needs: Determine what questions are most important to ask and then call a sample of customers to determine their needs and concerns during this crisis period. Develop a quick scoring system to map customer relationships into new needs-based profiles and prioritize appropriately.
Analyzing Behavior: Run targeted financial reporting to analyze actions customers are undertaking (e.g., pausing orders, delaying payment). Determine how new buying and payment patterns are emerging, develop personae for buyers and influencers and find similar existing and new accounts to target. We find this helps your sales team to focus in the right areas and improve efficiency.
Identifying Market Opportunities: Discover if there are additional markets for your goods and services to uncover opportunities and potentially uncover new, tangential offerings for customers to expand revenue. You can use information from D&B or other publicly available sources to get started.
Q2: How should we deploy our sales team to focus on what's valued by customers today?
Shifting Short-Term Focus: Leverage inside sales tactics to refocus your field team on activities that align with each customer’s profile (see above). Start with simple scripts that outline how the business plans to support each account profile throughout the period and to emphasize short-term assistance over a pushy sales approach.
Planning for the Rebound: Focus on account-planning activities based on your projections for how each customer segment is likely to come out of the downturn (e.g.,a spike in demand, or a re-evaluation of supplier relationships).
Q3: How do we ensure measures, goals, and compensation are aligned with this short-term shift in focus without disrupting longer-term operations?
Adjusting Goals: Lower thresholds so reps can get into the money and update quotas based on the new financial forecasts/projects. Redefining goals for this unique situation can take considerable time and effort, so don’t rush it. However, do tell the team that you are making adjustments so they know you are addressing the evolving problem.
Adjusting Measures: Consider activity-based measures that emphasize relationship management in the short-term, and plan to recognize and reward those actions during this period of uncertainty with a return to outcomes-based measures later. Set up retention bonuses or put LTI in place for your most valued salespeople to retain them. Opportunities for people to move are limited now, but the rebound could result in a very hot market for talent so it’s important to keep professionals engaged.
Get started today and address how you deploy your sales teams to your customers so you can create a stronger, smarter and more resilient sales organization. Learn more about how Axiom Consulting Partners helps clients improve sales effectiveness here.