According to Salesforce, 60 percent of sales reps report an increase in virtual meetings since 2015. Think about that for a second. Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold this year, sales reps would typically engage with prospects in a variety of ways – through emails, calls, online meetings (with video) and in-person meetings.
The in-person meeting was often a critical component of the sales-to-customer relationship, as it allowed sales reps to establish a more human, meaningful relationship with prospects and existing customers. The in-person meeting also has a special place in sales history for closing deals, following a series of calls, emails and online meetings that initially set the stage and provided necessary information to customers.
Now, the in-person meeting has been completely removed from the equation. What does that mean for sales reps who still have to meet their sales targets, move prospects through the buying journey and support the needs of existing customers. For many, this is likely adding the pressures they already feel and could impact their ability to close deals. A recent Doodle study supports this, with 59 percent of US employees reporting that shifting to online-only meetings has made it more challenging to engage with clients. Meanwhile, 23 percent are fearful that online meetings will lead to fewer interactions with clients.
So what should heads of revenue and chief sales officers do to motivate and guide their sales teams towards success in this virtual world that’s become our new normal?
Prepare your sales team for the new normal
Change is inevitable. So is the uncertainty that comes with it. Rather than fear change – or keep it at a distance – senior sales executives should help their sales team become comfortable with and anticipate this. As I explained earlier, the pressure to be engaging with customers (and prospects) is incredibly high right now.
Given the importance of the online sales pitch – a state-of-play that’s likely to extend beyond the Coronavirus pandemic – sales teams would do well to take an athlete’s approach to their presentations, recording, rewatching and analyzing their performance for areas of improvement. The data support this: 63 percent of employees are willing to record and re-watch their virtual meetings if it could help them become better presenters and strengthen their client relationships. Opportunities abound for the sales teams who are willing to go the extra mile to create extraordinary online experiences at clients’ convenience. Doing so could very well mean the difference between a highly engaging and trusting client relationship and a client who ends their relationship with your business.
There’s also the potential for improving and streamlining your entire sales process. It can sometimes take weeks to schedule a date and time when all the client’s key stakeholders are available for a sales call. Intelligently integrating scheduling technology into the sales meeting experience, for example, can make that process painless for the prospect/client and save tens of hours for the sales executive.
Don’t mistake sales onboarding for sales training
While many businesses put a freeze on their hiring plans in March, April and May, we’re seeing things shift back upwards. Companies are getting back to filling critical roles and advertising more job postings online. And there certainly isn’t a shortage of talented, hard-working salespeople on the market.
For the heads of sales teams, my advice is to not just focus on big wins from salespeople.
Look for diamonds in the rough with potential and a continuous learning mindset. But don’t just hire sales people and set them loose. One of the biggest reasons for under-performing sales teams is that they aren’t given thorough training and aren’t mentored on an ongoing basis. Don’t make this mistake. In fact, more than half of all salespeople lack necessary sales skills and 58 percent are unable to answer buyers’ questions effectively.
Unfortunately, many sales leaders mistake onboarding for training. They are two completely different things. Companies that do train their sales teams tend to focus only on the onboarding process with the result that, after 90 days in the role, sales executives have forgotten almost all the content.
The upside of consistent learning and development is undeniable. One report suggests that sales training increases individuals’ performance by 20 percent. According to the same report, high-performing sales teams are twice as likely to have received ongoing training as their low-performing counterparts.
Build trust with and within your sales team
Managing a sales team is no easy feat. Simply promoting a high-performer on the team, which is what many organizations do, isn’t the answer and often leads to long-term performance issues. Great sales leaders build trust with their team and create a shared group dynamic in which members feel like part of a bigger whole.
What sets an exceptional sales leader apart from a mediocre one? And how can an exceptional sales leader build trust with and within their team?
- Regular cadence of one-to-one meetings: More frequent and personal communication is the key. Leaving your sales reps to fend for themselves without ongoing guidance, direction and feedback will certainly affect your team’s performance (and sales numbers). Scheduling one-to-one meetings frequently with all sales professionals indicates that their role and their progression is vital to the company and provides a sense of support that is vital for achieving success.
- Build a team: While each employee may have their own professional goals and preferred approach, there must also be shared team objectives and equal investment in a culture of excellence.
- Provide clear goals: Goals should go beyond monthly or annual sales figures; salespeople should be provided with daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals that are discussed openly and honestly. It’s just as important that those goals are not used as a stick to beat sales teams with, but as the foundation for detailed feedback, recognition and improvement p
- High emotional intelligence: Exceptional sales leaders will spend time understanding their team members, how they like to be managed and their professional goals.
- Remove barriers to success: Beyond organizing regular training and upskilling, one crucial facet of a manager’s role is discovering anything that’s hindering their team’s performance, from internal processes that are no longer fit for purpose, to implementing tools and technologies that can maximize efficiency.