Keeping your sales team motivated and effective despite the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused social and economic disruption of historic proportions. We know from the financial crisis in 2007-2008 that a recession always results in a shift in consumer behavior. Currently, loss of income due to illness, lockdown, and layoffs have put most households under a financial strain, forcing consumers to shop differently, prioritize essential goods, and online shopping.
The global shifts in consumption have hit sales teams particularly hard. Except for a select group of lucky industries, such as IT services, e-commerce, and pharmaceuticals, most companies now have a narrower consumer base. Private enterprise buyers are more reluctant to make financial commitments. Additionally, most sales teams are working remotely, which enhances “pandemic fatigue” and loneliness and has also drastically changed the way sales interactions occur. Sales representatives are no longer able to pitch their product the way they used to before the pandemic – over lunch, in sales conventions, or face-to-face meetings. These environments allowed sales representatives to set the right mood, use their body language, and read social cues to increase their effectiveness. Therefore, the change in circumstances has affected not just customer relationships but also team morale.
Sales representatives are no longer able to pitch their product the way they used to before the pandemic – over lunch, in sales conventions, or face-to-face meetings. These environments allowed sales representatives to set the right mood, use their body language, and read social cues to increase their effectiveness.
Just because your sales team has to work remotely doesn’t mean they can’t adapt and effectively perform their sales duties. McKinsey suggests five things that managers can do to reenergize organizations in the long-run. We’ve adapted these recommendations to specifically tackle how to keep sales teams motivated and effective during the pandemic.
McKinsey suggests five things that managers can do to reenergize organizations in the long-run. We’ve adapted these recommendations to specifically tackle how to keep sales teams motivated and effective during the pandemic.
Be optimistic and focus on evolving the organization’s business model.
As a manager, you may be having your doubts about the future, but you must maintain a hopeful and accepting attitude for your sales team. This attitude is less about emitting encouraging messages about returning to normal soon and more about accepting the current situation and trying to make the most out of it. In particular, reconnecting to the organization to its big WHY or purpose can help create a new perspective within your team. Ask questions such as:
- How can a shift to online shopping allow us to evolve our team’s business model?
- What new opportunities does the pandemic result in for our core business?
- How can we implement new strategies and methods that will benefit us in the long run?
- What new customers and needs can we identify at this time?
Be attentive to signs of exhaustion and stress within your team.
While your teams’ mental health and well-being are most certainly already on your radar, keep in mind that the transition to working and selling remotely may be more challenging for some than others. Currently, many people are experiencing feelings of disillusionment, grief, anxiety, and isolation. Numerous factors, such as the physical space they work in at home, whether a family member has gotten ill or whether they have access to outdoor space or sunlight, can contribute to feelings of exhaustion and influence how they cope with remote work. Therefore, it is crucial that managers check-in often.
McKinsey reports: “When you ask people how they are doing and get beyond the perfunctory answers of “I’m fine” or “I’m managing through it,” a deeper level of challenges emerges: “I’m anxious, overwhelmed, and lonely,” “I’m completely burned out,” “I’ve lost my sense of optimism,” “I’m not sure how much longer I can keep going like this.” Hence, as a leader, make sure to place a special focus on the well-being and connection of your team.
Upskill your team’s sales, adaptability, and resilience skills.
Upskill your team through (preferably short and accessible) online courses that cover everything from how to maintain engagement via Zoom to the basics of online sales and how to develop resilience skills. Adaptability and resilience are critical skills to develop at this time, as they are at the core of powering through the pandemic and the period ahead of us until we get a vaccine. Providing your sales team with personal development skills that will help them grow and cope will help navigate their work. Research suggests that companies that invest in their employees’ well-being see up to four times higher profit.
Develop strategies to stay connected with your customer base.
Make sure that sales representatives have a straightforward method to stay connected with their customers. Determining how often customers should be contacted and through what medium of communication will help maintain customer relationships remotely without becoming annoying. Additionally, make sure sales representatives know exactly what they will say during calls and consider how the pandemic affects their customers. If they are uncertain about how to do this, offer to give them feedback on their approach.
Adapt sales activity measures for remote work.
When sales representatives may feel demotivated due to a decrease in sales, consider shifting your performance measures from a results-approach to a key sales activities focus. How many outreach emails are they sending? What’s the quality of their leads? Are they organizing and keeping an eye on their inbox regularly? Based on this, develop non-monetary prizes to incentivize your team. This approach will provide opportunities for your sales team to be still able to perform well, despite the difficulties of selling during a time of economic crisis.
Times of crisis call for decisive leadership moments. At this critical time, it is vital to support our sales team in a holistic way to make them feel seen and capable of succeeding in their job. The above suggestions can help your sales representatives feel cared for, stay optimistic, see the silver lining in the current situation, and group their skill set to adapt to the pandemic and grow personally.
Consider which of the above points are most critical to implement first within your organization.
Suppose you are ready to embark on online learning. In that case, we recommend that you pick a social learning platform that allows you to keep morale up, keep the team motivated, and allow constant social interaction and communication amongst your team.
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