As we talk to CEOs and sales executives and take a look at trends affecting the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, a clearer picture of our future is starting to come into focus.
As businesses clamor to reopen and businesses ponder what their role will be in their customers’ lives, we now realize that we’re not headed toward a “new normal” — rather, we’re headed toward the “next normal.”
Though predictions of pent-up demand and hockey-stick-style growth are tempting to consider, it’s likely that a very cautious and traumatized consumer will be taking baby steps back into the market, rather than giant leaps.
Here at The Brooks Group, we have conducted a Sales Leader survey each week since mid-March, when many businesses were forced to close and workers who could do so, set up shop from home.
As we compare the statistics we’ve benchmarked along the way, it’s clear that we are in a time of “visible ambiguity,” as one of our Brooks colleagues says.
The results of a recent survey — conducted the week of April 20 — found that more than 50 percent of polled companies considered themselves significantly behind their 2020 sales plan — while only five percent believe their tracking at or ahead of plan.
Leads have all but dried up — cited regularly in the weekly survey as a substantial challenge; and canceled or delayed deals have only added to sales woes.
Finally, in a bid to protect what’s already on the books, companies are increasingly reconfirming the credit status of their customers (37 percent) and talking about payment terms (27 percent).
The net sum? People are now accepting that we won’t be able to just flip a switch and be back where we were just a couple of months ago.
So what does the reopening economy hold for businesses that will soon be wading back into the playing field? And what will the “next normal” look like for sales leaders and their representatives?
A recent Harvard Business Review article cited four things that sales organizations will need to do in the short term to adapt to the crisis. These include:
- Refocus: It’s clear that most buyers are deeply uncertain about parting with funds right now. Sellers, say the Harvard researchers, should meet this uncertainty with a flexible posture — helping with extended payment terms and contingency plans if necessary. If customers are preoccupied, sales teams can be doubling down on lead generation, account prioritization, and other activities that will position the organization for future success.
- Retool: Face to face, these days, is defined by the pixelated visage of our customers over Zoom — and many predict that digital sales techniques will be with us for some time to come, if not permanently. For those on the teams who are technologically challenged, it’s no longer acceptable to stumble through by dialing in and hoping for the restrictions to lift. Sales teams must go digital, and do so now.
- Retrench: Many companies and industries have taken to extreme downsizing measures to conserve cash flow. But eliminating sales roles across the board can be a recipe for disaster since these roles represent the key to future revenue. Though digital self-service and inside sales channels can pick up some slack, companies will need to continue to employ outside sales professionals to keep their businesses viable.
- Rebound: Though rose-colored glasses are in short supply these days; it is true that the economy will eventually thaw. According to the Harvard researchers, some trends that were on the rise prior to the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate — to the positive — as companies bounce back.
In our experiences, companies that were willing to think differently during the most challenging economic times tend to bounce back the quickest and experience the most sales growth. What are you doing to prepare yourself for the reopening economy?
Here at The Brooks Group, we have developed a series of helpful virtual selling tools designed to get you – and your sales teamshutter – back on track. Reach out to a sales effectiveness expert today.