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Leading Sales Teams Through a Crisis

Leading Sales Teams Through a Crisis

This is a guest post from Greg Queen at Sales BQ®.

These days, it can feel like all we talk about and all we hear about is COVID-19, the “new normal,” and how all of our lives are rapidly changing. It can be easy to get lost in the worry and fear. Instead, I have been taking the same approach that I use in my sales process: be authentic; be confident; stay positive; and always remember that, no matter how bad it seems, this too shall pass. Below are some of the steps we’ve taken to move forward amidst the chaos. 

Assess Each Prospect

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for sales teams. From business development representatives to enterprise closers, pipelines everywhere have been decimated. Many B2B buyers felt trapped, unsure whether the virus or the economy was the bigger problem. Realistically, the less buying the buyers do, the worse it is for the economy – which can turn the buyers’ dilemma into a never-ending cycle. To get in front of this, my two sales teams and I looked at every deal in the pipeline and gave it a  ‘Before Crisis’ score and a ‘During Crisis’ score. This allowed our sales reps to focus on the deals that were still viable, and plan where there could be sales soon.  

Show Compassion

The first thing my team did was show real compassion. We interrupted the automated email funnel and crafted personal emails, manually reaching out to each of our prospects. We made sure to provide reassurance that we would be there for them, now and later. We let them know that our teams were still functional and intact, just working remotely, and our operational teams were ready to go.

Find Ways to Help

As meetings and demo cancellations rolled in, we let our prospects know that we understood. We reminded them we were in this with them and offered whatever sincere help we could. One sales rep even shipped toilet paper to a prospect after finding out that they had none at home! We continued to check in with our prospects. We know that, eventually, normalcy will return, and the prospect’s business needs still exist. Health and family are everyone’s priority right now, but by continuing to reach out with compassion, we can ensure we will be there when the prospect is ready. 

Embrace the Silliness

When children and pets started popping up in the background of Vidyards and Zoom calls, we owned it. My cute three-year-old daughter occasionally pops into meetings, where she waves, and it gives everyone a little bit of levity. Recently, one of our sales reps had his four-year-old introduce himself in a demo as ‘the sales rep’ to a new prospect! Humor goes a long way in bringing people together during a challenging time. One enterprise rep is even using her 11-year-old as her intern. She’s fetching coffee, cooking lunch, and taking notes.

Transition Back to Selling

Once week three began, our sales reps began moving from the personal, soft emails, and slowly ramping back into full-on sales mode. Today alone, one rep booked 3 discovery meetings after making 60 calls. Sales reps may be concerned about sounding tone-deaf, but it helps to remind the team that prospects will appreciate authenticity, and they understand that we all have jobs to continue.  

Lead With Compassion

In order to keep things running smoothly, leadership must stay confident and positive! On the grand scale of things, this crisis is a blip, but most companies are going to miss some of their numbers. In assessing the crisis, we realized that most of our team had never seen anything like this pandemic before. However, we had to trust that our A-players would still perform. We decided to give our employees a little freedom and trust, allowing them a few days of adjustment and checked in to give them support in the meantime. We made sure to communicate with our employees to make sure they felt like important members of the team and to make sure they were coping with the changes. 

Celebrate Every Win

When leadership maintains a positive attitude, it passes through the team. Using communication like Slack or Whatsapp has allowed us to celebrate the little victories, and helped continue building morale and momentum. Whether it is a sales rep booking a discovery call, or a full-on closed deal, it is so important to celebrate every win!

Engage the Team

We are conducting virtual non-working meetings, having coffees in costume, and hosting virtual happy hours—all things that will allow the team to decompress, be human, joke, and interact while staying engaged.

This crisis has made life different in many ways, so anything we can do to create consistency and normalcy (with some adaptations for relieving stress from the situation) helps our teams look at the successes instead of the darkness that is all over the news and social media. 

If you get back to work with authenticity and compassion, and stay confident and positive, you will come out on the other side of this. If your team is selling through the crisis, rather than using it as an excuse to shut down, they will be stronger when the rebound hits.  

Don’t stop generating revenue during crisis! We’ve created a quick-guide to help you pivot and keep revenue flowing during these times. See it here.


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