The current economy is in a state of unprecedented uncertainty. Let’s take the example of France. The latest indicators relayed by INSEE are quite revealing. Economic activity on 24 April 2020 is estimated to have fallen by 35%, more than 10 million employees in the private sector would be on short-time working and the business climate would be at its lowest level since 1980.

As you will have understood, the context is not very favourable for our companies. In this increasingly turbulent ocean, there will be winners and losers. It is the businesses that will adapt best, and quickly, that will ride the wave. But how do we adapt in this context?

As Country Manager France at Sortlist, this is the question that I repeated to myself every day since the beginning of this health crisis. How to manage a team of 10 sales representatives, remotely, and without any experience in times of crisis as we know it today?

In order to find clear answers, I had the opportunity to invite two sales experts to the Beyond Marketing Webinar that we organize at Sortlist: Chalom Malka, Director of Sales at Aircall, and Clément Paul, SDR manager at Payfit. Together, we tried to gather a maximum of practical advice to be applied in your sales teams on a daily basis.

Here are the 10 best tips to remember:

It is essential to change your sales approach

If you haven’t changed your business approach since the start of the lockdown, it’s time to switch your strategy. 

The benefits of your product or solution are no longer the same for your prospect. Aircall, leader in digital telephony, for example, has completely changed its approach following the crisis. Their solution is now mainly sought-after to enable companies to continue to make calls from home, under the best conditions.

For a company like Payfit, the leader in payroll and HR solutions in Europe, the business approach has also changed. Their sales teams have been trained, at the beginning of the lockdown, to solve the problems now facing their prospects and customers. Rather than hunting for new customers, sales people have taken on the role of educators for their prospects and existing customers.

If you are running an event company for exemple, it could maybe be interesting to create some interesting contents to share to your portfolio of clients and hot prospects. You can for instance give one or two out of your best secret for a successful event. This will build real trust and you will make sure they will choose you once they are able to run new events. 

“Think out of your sales box”

Your prospects from yesterday, are probably not those of today. At Payfit and Aircall, their sales teams are accompanied by a team specialising in Sales Intelligence. This team is responsible for analyzing the market in real time and identifying the best business opportunities.

Unfortunately, not all companies have the resources to have this dedicated sales brain. The good news, however, is that you probably have a CRM that allows you to analyze certain data quite easily. A simple idea, for example, is to compare the type of companies that used to register on your site (inbound) before de-confinement, with the new typology of companies that registered on your site during the de-confinement. This evolution of “persona” should be able to guide you in the selection and choice of prospects to be contacted in priority (outbound). 

If you are a member of the Sortlist community, a good hint would be to see what kind of projects are posted online. You can also have a quick look at our latest barometer. 

A quick analysis that will enable you to react quickly to the new conditions defined by the market.

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“My prospect no longer has a budget”.

You know this sentence by heart. It is undoubtedly one of the most recurring objections in the speech of your prospects. Don’t worry, you are not the only one who has to deal with this objection, and it probably doesn’t mean the end of your prospecting.

As with any business objection, it is important to be able to dig deeper. Your job is to understand why your patient is hurting, to put words to his or her problems, and finally to bring him or her a cure. So don’t limit yourself to taking your prospect’s budget crisis for granted. Make him talk to understand the reasons why.

As the Payfit manager explained to us during the Webinar, he advised us, for example, to dig into several points, such as understanding the impact of the crisis on your prospect’s business, but above all, identify where the budget freeze is coming from. Depending on the answer, you will quickly see whether it is relevant to continue pushing the sales discussion or, conversely, to cut the conversation short. Suddenly, budgets don’t seem so blocked when you hear the second wave of your prospect’s response.

If you are the head of your agency’s sales activity, for example, don’t let this objection get you down, and go and dig where the competition has already given up. Active listening and perseverance are two assets that are all the more important to master in times of crisis.

Be flexible

In times of crisis, decision making is slowed down and not always the responsibility of your contact person. In a hostile environment, it is more difficult to make decisions, and this is normal. Keep in mind that your prospects may be in panic.

Imagine yourself as a communications manager in a large group. The Board of Directors alerts you to your budget expenditure. You will probably have to do more, with fewer resources. Always imagine yourself in the shoes of this director. You are looking at three communication agencies presenting their strategy. For the same quality, there is a good chance that you will agree to sign with the one that will best respond to your board speech. 

And this response must not be that of a discount sale, or of an unpaid project that would expose your own profitability. As Chalom Malka explains to us, flexibility can, for example, be achieved by relaxing payment schedules or by shifting the payment of the invoice by a few months.

Anticipate the end of the crisis

The situation we are all experiencing today is, hopefully, temporary. That is why we must be able to anticipate the end of the crisis by adopting the right reflexes today. Aircall’s sales director explains, by way of example, that you must not forget this anticipation in the contracts you sign with your customers. If you are a marketing agency, for example, don’t hesitate to negotiate with your client a second project to start as soon as the crisis is over, following the current project on which you had agreed to be more flexible.

Your client will see in your speech, understanding, but also a desire to continue to work together in the long term. This approach is therefore intended to be reassuring for him. He knows that he is in good hands.

Don’t say yes too quickly

You signed a contract a few days before the containment and today your customer wants to renegotiate the clauses because of Covid-19.

This case is far from being an isolated case on the market. Faced with this type of situation, you must once again show curiosity and not accept to return to the negotiating table too quickly. An excellent reflex to adopt is to be able to understand if it is a bluff or not on the part of your interlocutor. So before you rush headlong into the conversation, take your time to address the subject. A few days of discussion will allow you to understand whether this contractual renegotiation is legitimate or not. This time will also allow you to detect certain inconsistencies in your client’s discourse. If this is the case, challenge him on these inconsistencies. There is a good chance he will let go. If not, return to Tips 4 and 5.

There’s no bad time to prospect

The salesman’s adage: “Keep your pipeline full” has never been truer, especially in times of uncertainty. Because if it’s not the case for you, coming out of the crisis can give you the effects of a good hangover. Unfortunately, our brains often tend to play tricks on us and find good excuses not to prospect. As our friend Jordan Belfort so aptly put it: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” In other words, stop making excuses, pick up the phone and get your story straight.

As a marketing or communication agency, you don’t always have the right resources to be able to prospect. That’s fine. A good tip would be to give a call to every decision maker you have been working with in the last 2 years of business. Take the time to get some news from them. Ask relevant questions about how their business has been impacted by the crisis. Truly listen to them, show care. You would be surprised, how many deals this year you would be able to make thanks to this strategy.

Win your new success cases

You and your teams are teleworking, and therefore in conditions that are certainly far removed from those of your usual work environment. 

And this new environment will undoubtedly affect your motivation to prospect on a daily basis. The time when you would pick up the phone is long gone, often thanks to the strength of the group, driven by the same dynamics. According to Clément Paul, it is essential today to revitalize yourself, from a distance and between colleagues, thanks to several success cases that have been picked up in times of crisis. “These 2.3 new success cases will motivate your teams to make 3 to 4 times more calls.”

The emulation is therefore not a question of you or your sales teams being successful. These successes should be highlighted and seen as the new trophies won by your company. Team spirit is undoubtedly one of your core values, and it is time to apply it today more than ever.

Over-communicate with your teams

Your coffee without your colleagues probably doesn’t taste the same since the beginning of lockdown. Whether you’re in a small apartment in the city, or in large spaces in the country, the social distance remains there. And that distance has to be broken, and quickly.

Otherwise, your colleagues will lose much of their motivation. There are simple solutions to this problem. At Aircall, for example, they have created a new “Channel Slack” that allows anyone to start a videoconference at any time of the day to discuss anything and everything (but especially not work). This ingenious initiative makes it possible to re-appropriate the good times spent around the coffee machine of yesteryear. This broken social distance, allows everyone to find the strength necessary to become efficient again during a day of prospecting, or before an important meeting with a customer.

Keep the priority on your existing customers

Not all companies are fortunate enough to have different sales divisions: between the “hunters” (often called Account Executive, Business Developer or Sales Development Representative) and the “farmers” (Account Manager or Success Manager) who enable you to bring in and retain customers respectively. If this is the case for you, you will have to make a choice: is it better to spend my week finding new customers or on the contrary, to spend time with my existing customers in order to retain them?

Faced with this choice, there is not one truth. It will actually depend on your situation. If, for example, you have a portfolio of clients who are continuing their projects during the crisis period, it’s better to keep them warm, and give them top priority.

This proximity will undoubtedly work in your favour, and will allow you to control your income. If, on the other hand, because of the confinement, a large part of your customers have stopped part of their budget at your company, you will have to prioritize the development of new business opportunities. In short, spend your human resources where the income is.

Conclusion

As you will have understood, this health crisis should not be a fatality for you, your teams and your company. To be able to surf this uncertain wave, no secret, you must adapt to the market and deliver. This is the only way to be able to bounce back and avoid a difficult tomorrow.

And finally, don’t we all do this job to be challenged?

 

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