Selling is never easy. It’s a profession where rejection is part of the daily routine, and only the most determined and skilled will succeed. Keeping sellers motivated is critical to organizations achieving their corporate objectives and revenue goals. Add to that a global pandemic and the economic crisis it’s wrought, and things get even trickier. So how do you keep sellers focused to maintain sales performance in such turbulent times as these? How do you continue to support sales in the new normal?
Customers often have more pressing matters than buying stuff. Budget uncertainties have companies looking to cut costs. And travel restrictions and health concerns have taken away sellers’ key tool – face- to-face meetings.
As we adjust to a new world of virtual selling and a market that’s rapidly shifting, organizations must empower their teams to manage these challenges.
Maintaining sales performance: 3 essential steps
Sales compensation adjustments
When circumstances change so dramatically, organizations need to reconsider their sales compensation plans. What was a reasonable quota for a seller earlier this year may now be an impossible goal. Without realistic targets, a sales rep will quickly become demoralized.
According to a survey of 219 companies conducted by the Alexander Group in the wake of the pandemic, 82% plan to make adjustments to protect sellers’ pay. The study found that sales leaders are considering a range of methods to do this, including guarantees, quota changes and payout formula modifications.
Any changes to incentives must be communicated quickly and clearly to the sales team as they manage current challenges. Sellers with ready access to commissions data that shows them how their payouts are calculated will remain focused on their goals.
Sales coaching and training
Training is always essential, but even more so now as sales reps try to navigate the new normal.
Gartner advises organizations to focus on sales training to help sales reps learn new remote selling skills as well as nurture skills to help customers through the crisis.
“Creating stronger sellers with more skills will be a strength and advantage as we move forward,” Melissa Hubbard, Gartner senior research director, wrote in a blog post.
Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis, even the most talented sales reps could benefit from sales coaching.
The onus is on sellers to understand their customers and how they’re being impacted in order to know how they can be supported, advised Diana Weigand, senior consulting partner at Miller Heiman, now part of Korn Ferry. Sticking with the product pitch mindset is a mistake.
“Be human. It can’t be pitch focused,” she said in during a recent webinar presented by Korn Ferry’s Miller Heiman Group. “Shift to an account relationship mindset.”
Ease sellers’ daily work
As they work in a challenging environment, the last thing sales reps need is to get bogged down in additional reporting requirements and administrative tasks.
Leaders should resist instituting new metrics to gauge sales effectiveness in an attempt to exert control, according to a Harvard Business Review article. All the effort spent on data gathering and review will leave less time for effective sales performance management.
Automation and AI can help sellers by reducing the amount of time they spend manually entering data into systems and by providing them with key customer insights.
Position for growth
Despite all the uncertainty, businesses still have pain points that need to be solved. Sellers that take the time to understand how they can provide value and engage with customers empathetically will succeed.
The massive ripple effect of the crisis on the economy has impacted companies differently – some, like those in travel, have been devastated while others are experiencing tremendous growth. In an environment where everyone is dealing with change, it’s up to each sales rep to figure out the specific impacts to their clients, and how to help.
Organizations that take the right steps to support their sellers now will protect their revenue streams and put themselves in a position to uncover avenues for growth.