Just a few months ago, sales leaders thought they had a handle on what Q1 and Q2 were probably going to look like. Like all good leaders, they had a strategy in place to bring in higher revenues and help their companies grow.
Then, of course, the COVID-19 virus began to spread, and those strategies and plans immediately went out the window.
What the New Normal Looks Like
We’re past the initial phases of adjustment, but we’re all still getting used to all kinds of breaking news and what people are generally calling the “new normal,” including:
- Working from home full time, in some cases trying to stay productive with kids or partners in close quarters.
- Processing bleak data about the economy: Stocks have tumbled, certain industries (notably the hotel and airline industries) have collapsed almost overnight, and 22 million Americans filed for unemployment in a span of just 4 weeks.
- Seeing news stories daily about shortages of hospital beds and needed medical supplies, people falling ill or dying, and high levels of stress among our healthcare workers.
These are dramatic changes. If nothing else, they remind us of what’s always been true: change is constant. As humans we typically assume that things will pretty much continue to roll along the way they always have. To see such dramatic, high-stakes change overnight can feel scary and unsettling.
Is it Okay to Keep Selling in a Pandemic? (Yes!)
Along the way, sales teams have wondered: is it okay to keep selling right now? Given all that’s going on, is it appropriate to prospect and try to grow business?
I agree with those who’ve stepped in to tell salespeople yes, you should absolutely keep selling. As Anthony Iannarino put it, “Selling is not something that you are doing to someone. It is something you are doing for someone and with someone and for their benefit.”
The very best salespeople and sales teams are value providers. (That’s why the only kind of sales candidates we find jobs for at ProActivate tend to think of themselves in this way – that’s what makes them A players!) Selling is about offering creative solutions and being a trusted advisor to your customers. That’s always been the formula for success and sales growth, and the pandemic doesn’t change that.
As a sales leader, it’s your job to look toward the future and plan for success. But how can you plan for success when the future is so uncertain?
How to Plan Now for Success in Q3 and Q4
If you’re like most sales leaders, you’ve taken enough steps to find some temporary stability. Your teams are probably getting into the work-from-home groove and finding ways to stay bonded and motivated. Your managers have adjusted their practices to coach effectively and gain visibility into the sales pipeline.
If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to start thinking about Q3 and Q4 now. Yes, it may be juggling act as we wait to see exactly when and how social distancing will be phased out. But the job of any good sales leader is to imagine a better future and set a course to get there.
If you plan now, you can emerge from this pandemic stronger and even ahead of your competition. Here are my top three recommendations and action items to make that happen.
Hire the best now (don’t wait!). Higher unemployment rates means sales leaders can pick from a bigger pool of highly qualified candidates (and likely offer salaries that reflect market rates rather than paying more to keep pace with competitive offers). You should have plenty of tools that allow you to continue with the initial phases of hiring virtually (at ProActivate we use Zoom and SparkHire for remote-friendly interviews – contact me for customized advice about keeping your search for top talent going strong).
Question your assumptions about what a strong company culture looks like. Certain sales leaders have pointed out that the pandemic has revealed how much we can actually get done working from home. Have you been assuming all this time that salespeople need to come into an office, or they won’t produce? Consider the fact that a more flexible work from home culture could be seen as a plus for existing employees and might even attract new talent to your team (many A players value work-from-home positions).
Coordinate how to roll out your post-pandemic projects. Social distancing probably caused you to put certain plans and projects on hold temporarily. Start planning now for how you’ll get those up and running when possibilities open up again. What tools will you need to put those projects in place? What departments or teams will need to be involved, and how much advance notice will they need? Who will be in charge of execution? Your level of preparedness will dictate how quickly you can get set up to expand and grow your business. (Harvard Business Review has offered this handy post-pandemic strategy planning worksheet for leaders.)
Celebrate in whatever way you can. As I teach in my peak performance mindset workshops, an attitude of gratitude is a mark of a resilient personality. As we emerge in a post-pandemic world, there will be reasons to remain cautious, and many of us will continue to struggle with loss. But I would advise leaders to think about ways they can celebrate the good. It will be important to lift people’s spirits in whatever way you can and give them a sense that good things are around the corner.
Although it’s easy to forget as we read the news and hunker down at home, these circumstances are temporary. Never let a temporary condition prevent you from planning for future success. The more you plan, the more likely you are to see the results you want!