As businesses, we are in uncharted waters, with each day bringing new and unprecedented challenges. Uncertainty is uncomfortable for everyone and, while every team is uniquely impacted, sales teams are challenged with the urgent need to generate revenue to keep the lights on.
“We have a fundamental neuroanatomy that orients us toward stress in highly charged times,” Rich Fernandez, cofounder of Wisdom Labs and an expert in resilience, said to Harvard Business Review. And this can start an unhealthy cycle: “A symptom of distraction is more distraction. Then we feel more anxious,” says Susan David, a founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and author of Emotional Agility.
1. Listen and Share: Customer-facing teams are the front line of a business. Pandemic or no pandemic, they are the eyes and ears of an organization. Now more than ever these teams should be listening closely to current and prospective customers.
Communication of feedback and concerns should be shared and laddered up to leadership to help inform the broader impact and implications and identify patterns and trends. Open lines of communication allow for the sharing of insights from external conversations in real-time to encourage cross-functional alignment and the ability to be proactive across all departments.
2. Practice Empathy: With both your team and customers. Carrying on with business as usual simply won’t work. Ask your team what they need and talk with them one-on-one giving them the opportunity to talk about their concerns. Empathy leads to trust and the ability to move into problem-solving mode.
Customers always come first; putting yourself in their shoes will help navigate finding the right time, the right platform, and the right message for outreach. The situation we find ourselves in will require B2B companies to rebuild prospect lists, while B2C businesses balance the fine line between driving sales while being sensitive to consumers’ state of mind.
3. Prioritizing Internal Communication: Lead by example. The way company leadership communicates and interacts with teams will impact adaptability and morale, creating a knock-on effect all the way down to the consumer. Quarantines and sheltering in place can create feelings of isolation as teams work remotely.
Communication and keeping company culture alive is crucial to keep teams intact and productive. Platforms like Zoom and Slack make communication effective, efficient, and even fun. Being empathetic to the challenges a sales team may be facing closing deals and encouraging creativity can help them get through this difficult time.
4. Maintain Motivation: In the current situation, it is important to reinforce collaboration over competition, but the sales culture of most businesses has some level of competition. Research shows that even small rituals can reduce stress and improve performance, so if finances allow, leaderboards, spiffs, and other incentives should still be a part of your sales team’s culture and are easily adapted for remote work. While it’s important to stay positive and celebrate wins no matter how small, recognizing and addressing low performance swiftly and determining and addressing the reason is more important than ever. Not every miss is a result of a lack of performance or work ethic—it’s important to dig into the underlying reason with compassion.
Uncertainty is a breeding ground for stress and unhealthy habits. Encourage self-care—sleep, exercise, and good nutrition are proven stress killers and productivity enhancers.
5. Focus on Value: These uncertain times require sales teams to focus on communicating value while circumstances continue to change. Sales and consumer-facing teams need to continue demonstrating value for current customers while proving to potential customers that their product provides significant-enough ROI to justify the spend when money is tight.
Susan David recommends returning to values. Even when “a lot of power and choices are being taken away, you still get to choose whom you want to be,” she explains.
Photo: Claudio Schwartz via Unfiltered