When COVID-19 hit, contractor sales professionals were swept into uncharted waters. Now that the initial shock is behind us, those waters, while still challenging, are now perhaps a little more navigable. Salespersons are facing an urgent and immediate need to maintain revenue and customer connection, while at the same time implementing mandatory (and likely on-going) social distancing and work from home requirements.
Here are 5 ways for contractor sales staff to stay focused and on track in our new work realities:
1. Establish open lines of communication and share customer feedback with the company.
Customer-facing staff are the eyes and ears of contractor operations. The sales team, including management, need to make it a priority to share customer feedback and concerns, both from sales activities as well as field service experiences. This enables companies to have a better understanding of the broader impact and implications that COVID-19 is having on both their own business as well as their customers. It will also allow you to foresee any patterns and trends that could be helpful in how your company moves forward with your sales initiatives.
2. Reassuring customers and adjusting your sales messaging
Your customers are also feeling the pain during this time of crisis. Their priorities will shift as they face new and unexpected challenges. As you help your sales team adjust to a new reality, no matter how temporary it may be, you must also do the same for your customers. That doesn’t mean you should stop selling. Sales staff must balance being empathetic to the current situation with the need to continue to hit their sales targets – which is a double-edged sword. The best philosophy to adopt? Serve first, and then sell.
For example, think about pausing your cold email initiatives for a while. Standard messaging may come off as insensitive right now. Instead, take this time to rework and re-frame your messaging to align with your customer’s most urgent needs. As people adjust, use that time to create more value-driven and empathetic messaging. Once the workforce is more acclimated to this new reality, reintroduce cold outreach initiatives with helpful content that customers and prospects can immediately benefit from.
Don't forget to communicate your plan with your team. Let them know that a new direction is necessary and give them an outline of what they should and shouldn’t be including in their messaging.
3. Keep communication alive.
The way sales-people communicate and interact with customers greatly affects relationship and sales adaptability. To keep prospects engaged and customer relations strong, sales staff should make it a top priority to keep communication and sales tone alive throughout remote work.
It’s important to keep regular contact with company updates to maintain customer connection. Sales teams can utilize video meeting tools Zoom or Microsoft Teams for face-to-face connection. You can also utilize recorded video and pre-recorded updates so your customers can view on their own time.
4. Set individual and collective goals, and approach performance issues with compassion.
For many salespeople, company and team culture has a lot to do with competition, or another form of motivation. Sales competitions may not look the same this quarter.
If finances allow, leaderboards, spiffs and other incentives can still be a part of a sales team’s culture. They can easily be adapted for remote work and can help celebrate short-term, small wins. In the long-term, hitting or missing these team targets helps gauge if you need to adjust or relax your goals to cope with the current situation.
If your team uses a sales tracking system like Dynamics 365 Sales, team members can share and view real-time sales prospecting updates and deal leaderboards. If your company does not use a sales tracking system, leadership can consider sharing daily or weekly leaderboard and goal progress updates via email or other team communication platforms.
While it is important to stay positive and celebrate the wins, equal attention is necessary to help the lower performers. Not every miss is due to lack of work ethic. Some people are out helping family or friends, and you need to take that into account.
5. Encourage your sales teams and customer service mangers to focus on value.
Customer facing sales and field staff are also facing the need to communicate value under changing circumstances. Contractors have two immediate priorities:
Continuing to demonstrate value for current customers
Proving to potential customers that your services provide significant enough ROI to justify purchase when money is tight
For sales prospecting, new opportunities may be scarce, but prioritizing these key messages and ensuring they are prominent in all communications will help sales and customer teams stay on track in uncertain times.
We hope this article will help as you consider ways in which to thrive during this challenging time. Our world has been through many crises before and while this one is unique, we will get through this one too. Don’t wait for COVID-19 to end before adjusting your sales strategy. Rather, adapt and innovate to ensure your position in the marketplace is solid.