Sales Leadership in the Time of Novel Coronavirus

sales leadership

A Reality Check into the Sales Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented global reach – locking down hundreds of millions of people, and leaving no industry, business, or sales organization unaffected.

In the scramble to adapt to the so-called “new normal,” outcomes such as social distancing, working remotely, stock market volatility, spending cuts, and uncertainty have rendered useless the 2020 go-to-market plans for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies alike.

To ensure we are delivering the most current market insights to you, we will be reaching out each week to sales leadership professionals to better understand the extent of the impact. To that end, we initiated our Brooks Sales Leader Survey in mid-March 2020, reaching out to 84 professionals in sales leadership positions to gauge the most pervasive challenges.

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Sales Leadership Insights Within Their Organizations

1. Lead Flow is Down

The vast majority of respondents – nearly three-quarters — said that their lead flow has taken a substantial hit, notching a significant (38 percent) or moderate (35 percent) decline in leads. Only 21 percent said they have not been impacted in this way, and a small minority (6 percent) indicated that their lead velocity has actually increased.

2. Sales Backlogs are Down

Half of the respondents are experiencing a decline in sales backlogs, terming the downturn either moderate (30 percent) or significant (20 percent). Another 30 percent reported no decrease; 18 percent cited a moderate increase, and another 2 percent reported a significant increase.

3. Sales Results are Lagging

It’s no surprise, given the damage to the lead funnel, that sales results are lagging against the plan. A whopping 73 percent of respondents indicated that they are significantly (30 percent) or slightly (43 percent) behind on plan as a result of Coronavirus. Only 19 percent reported no impacts, while another 8 percent noted that they were slightly or significantly ahead.

4. Organizations Are Taking Measures to Mitigate Impact

Sales leaders are responding to the Coronavirus by taking action to mitigate the impact. These mitigation strategies fit two categories:

  1. Managing the risk of potential health and societal impacts of sales activities
  2. Navigating the financial turmoil thrust upon their organization

We asked respondents to indicate what mitigation measures they are instituting. With regard to the mitigation of health and societal impacts, the following measures received the most traction:

  • 73 percent have canceled in-person events
  • 66 percent are restricting corporate travel
  • 62 percent are using video conferencing and other virtual tools for internal meetings
  • 60 percent are using virtual tools for client and prospect meetings

Among the measures undertaken to reduce the financial impact of the Coronavirus, respondents were most invested in the following:

  • 40 percent are increasing contact with existing accounts
  • 34 percent are increasing outbound prospecting
  • 34 percent are focusing on sales skills development
  • 19 percent are adjusting goals and budgets
  • 13 percent are extending finance or payment terms for customer orders
  • 10 percent are adjusting production of the product

Only 9 percent of respondents said they are continuing business as usual, which aligns roughly with the percentage who report seeing no adverse effects from the Coronavirus at this time.

We also invited respondents to list “other” activities they’re engaging in response to the Coronavirus — with some interesting results. Some of the activities mentioned include:

  • Developing a new product line to better align with customer needs
  • Targeting accounts with the best potential
  • Rethinking their business model
  • Adjusting marketing collateral to address how they best help customers at this time

This is a challenging time for the sales industry. The organizations that survive and thrive will be those that continue to adapt creatively while operating within flexible structures and without abandoning best practices.

Looking to boost the effectiveness and performance of your remote sales team? Our IMPACT Selling Virtual Instructor-Led Sales Training Program is the perfect solution. Our expert facilitators can train your team online from anywhere, in a live, collaborative, virtual classroom. Learn more about our Virtual Instructor-Led Training with our requesting one of our helpful information packets below.




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Written By

Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is the Vice President of Sales Performance Research. In her role, she is responsible for spearheading industry research initiatives, overseeing consulting and diagnostic services, and facilitating ROI measurement processes with partnering organizations. Michelle brings over 25 years of experience in sales and sales effectiveness functions through previously held roles in curriculum design, training implementation, and product development to the Sales Performance Research Center.

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