In part one of this series on driving your sales towards BIG during Covid-19, I talked to five CEO Coaching International coaches about the key strategic adjustments CEOs need to make so that their businesses can stay on-track to hit their long-term goals.
In the second part of our roundtable, the conversation shifted to the challenge of aligning your sales force to your revamped strategy. Even your best sales people typically take the path of least resistance to hit their numbers. That’s just not going to cut it during Covid-19. The world, your business market, and your customers are undergoing profound changes right now. Anyone on your team who isn’t willing to adapt probably doesn’t belong on your team anymore.
Joining me again for this conversation were:
- David Sobel, a global sales expert who created a replicable and scalable model for Home Warranty of America that culminated in the sale of the business for $50,000,000.
- Craig Coleman, a fintech entrepreneur who achieved 15 consecutive years of growth as CEO of ForwardLine before selling the company to a private equity firm.
- Jason Reid is a lifelong entrepreneur who spent most of his career in the construction industry driving major sales during housing markets of all shapes and sizes.
- Tracy Tolbert has nearly 30 years of experience as a global sales executive. When Tracy was Executive Vice President of Global Sales at Xerox, the firm hit its yearly target of over $1.5 billion in annual recurring revenue.
- Bill Whitehead has been a successful entrepreneur for over thirty years. He grew one of Canada’s leading financial advisory businesses to over $2 billion in assets and sold the company in stages.
These are the four key adjustments that the coaches and I believe CEOs and their sales managers need to implement ASAP:
1. Move your outside team inside.
One of the topics we discussed in part one is the need to reacquaint yourself with your customer base. No country, community, or customer is handling Covid-19 in exactly the same way. Travel restrictions might slow or even prevent face-to-face interactions. Your salespeople need to be able to reach your customers where and how they want to be reached, whether that means via Zoom or at a six-foot distance.
“Some outside salespeople, they’re just strictly winners and chameleons and they will figure it out,” says David Sobel. “Most will be paralyzed. So you might need to pivot your sales force to more of an inside sales model. It’s a different type of person and personality than an outside sales model.”
It’s also a different measurement model. Maybe before Covid-19 you could draw some straight lines between things like calls made and projected sales. But a new environment is going to require new actionable, measurable steps building towards your most important KPIs.
For example, it’s probably not enough to just track cold calls made anymore. Now you might also need to track customer response to your salesperson’s Zoom presentation in the follow-up, which could be a far more important metric than your old bulk call targets.
Warns Tracy Tolbert, “Some of your outside salespeople may not make the transition. They just may not be able to do it. I think you should give them an opportunity. And I think the onus on your sales leadership becomes higher. You need to create more structure for them, you need to create a playbook. And then you’re going to have to put the right measurements in place so that they know very, very clearly what you expect from them as an inside rep. You have to create the right expectations, measure the right things every single day and coach them through it. And then if they can’t make that transition, then they get to make a different decision. Some of them, because of ego, may just not want to do it. And if they don’t want to, that’s okay. That’s their choice.”
2. Pivot best practices.
Here’s another choice that could be bad for business: hunkering down and planning to ride out Covid-19.
As with most crises, there’s no panacea that will return the world to its pre-pandemic state. Even if we do get a vaccine before the end of the year, social distancing recommendations will still be in place, supply chains will still be stressed, millions of talented workers will still be displaced, and money will still be tight for many of your customers. Your Covid-19 strategy isn’t a short-term fix. It’s how you’re going to be doing business for the foreseeable future.
And that’s not all bad.
“There’s a lot here that’s going to be permanent,” says Craig Coleman, “not necessarily because the virus is always going to be with us, but because if companies can make this work, the economics of a more inside process are just strong. So I think those outside sales reps need to see that the world could very well be shifting towards a more online model. Now’s the time to think about how they can pivot in their skills so they can continue to be relevant.”
As part of your outside-in sales pivot, analyze your KPIs that depended on in-person events like conferences or social events. It could be months or longer before your next steak dinner, group theatre outing, or industry get-together. Well-designed virtual events like wine tastings, cooking classes, or game nights can recreate that delicate balance between the personal and the professional that keeps you connected to clients and on your prospects’ radar.
CEOs are also starting to explore more effective ways of leveraging social media connections. “LinkedIn has become a hot commodity right now,” says Bill Whitehead. “But the way companies are using it is not a lot better than what email used to be. Everybody’s just trying to get through the noise. If you’ve got raving fan clients already make sure you’re connected with them on LinkedIn and then go look through their connection base and identify individuals that could be potential clients of yours. And then, when you call that client of yours up, and you talk about whether they’re happy with their service, ask for a specific introduction. Get more specific and leverage people that you already have strong relationships with and credibility.”
Another vital part of that pivot will be how you, the CEO, stays in front of your sales team. Employees might have appreciated the autonomy of a more hands-off leadership approach before the pandemic. Now, they need to know that the CEO has their backs.
“When Covid-19 hit, I said I’m going to sit in front of my sales team twice a week for an hour on Zoom,” says Jason Reid. “I’m going to look in their eyes, see what they’re doing. I’m going to have them share their stories. I going to have them talk about what’s working, what’s not working. And I’m going to make sure I own the culture of that company. That’s what you need to do as a leader right now, as the CEO.”
3. Retrain your team.
Conversations I’ve had with CEOs and entrepreneurs since March suggest that many companies haven’t made training — and retaining — a high priority during the pandemic. I don’t like those companies’ chances of making it to the other side.
“The reason you break the process down and you measure each stage is so you can train each step along that process,” says Bill Whitehead. “Each step may have different skillsets or ways of dealing with things. Your leadership’s important, and you have to be there front and center as a leader. But if you don’t know how to train sales, if you don’t know how to make these pivots, and you’re sitting there hoping and wishing and praying that this is going to spin itself out in the next few months, I’m saying go get help. Don’t wait.”
On the practical side of things, your sales team needs to master the new global language: video chat. Many CEOs are resistant to scripting their sales pitches because they don’t want their team to sound canned. But scripting also provides consistency, as well as a helpful crutch if your salespeople are struggling to get comfortable with pitching via video.
“The new normal is not doing in-person selling,” says Tracy Tolbert. “So role-playing in person isn’t as important as doing role-playing via Zoom or via the phone. That’s how we’re going to be selling, so that should be the tool we’re using anyway. That’s the new skill we need to develop.”
You also have to make sure your team understands that the psychology of the sale has changed just as much as the medium, if not more so. Your bottom line can’t rely on the same old strategies or the same old customers.
“Customers may not be willing to buy more from you right now,” says Jason Reid. “They might be stuck. You need to train your salespeople to go find new customers. You need a process to do that. You need to do it now. Because if you’re going to just live with that little pool that used to feed you really well, they may not feed you as well right now. Anything that’s a relationship sale is high touch, so it doesn’t have to be just technology. You need to build those relationships, regardless of your technology.”
Adds Craig Coleman, “If real estate is about location, location, location, sales is customer, customer, customer. Figure out what’s changed in their world, figure out what’s changed in how they want to buy and translate that into a winning sales strategy.”
4. Inspire your team to “Win the Day” every day.
As we’ve all experienced one way or another, the challenges of Covid-19 can make just getting through the next day feel like a grind. Even the best CEOs have spent much of 2020 solving one daily crisis after another. No wonder so many companies are struggling to keep an eye on their long-term goals.
However, it’s possible to use that same short-term focus as an advantage. After all, no company hits a 10X sales goal overnight. Hitting BIG goals is a process that starts with hitting small goals, every single day, until that progress begins to snowball. In other words, the best way to keep succeeding during the pandemic is to inspire your team to keep racking up those smaller wins.
“Every salesperson in today’s environment must have a ‘Win the Day’ formula,” says David Sobel. “You need to know what success is when you wake up and put your feet on the ground. What are the metrics I need to hit? What connections do I need to make? You can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say, ‘I kicked some butt today.’ And then share that in your daily huddle every day with your sales team and measure that.”
I believe that there are three kinds of CEOs. Those that let things happen. Those that wonder, “What happened?” And those that make BIG happen, no matter what. Winning businesses always find new ways to win. And those that are losing always use their current condition as an excuse to lose. Covid-19 might be the biggest business challenge any of us have faced as leaders. But it’s also a tremendous opportunity to rebuild your business for the future.
Don’t let this pandemic be the reason why you didn’t succeed. Now is your time to win — and win BIGGER than everyone else.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 600 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 40 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 59% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit: https://www.ceocoachinginternational.com
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