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  • Writer's pictureNick Nichols

Dear Sales Leader: What's your Post-Pandemic Plan?

COVID-19 has changed our world, but it will end at some point. Just like we had to make preparations for its onset, we must be ready to recover our business when it’s gone. The question is, are you working on a plan? Yes or No? One of those answers will feel a lot like getting hit by a truck!

As the Sales Leader, your sales team will be looking at you for direction and so will your executive team, unless of course as SMB Owner that is you. Since SALES basically drives everything, either way the question will remain, NOW WHAT? We have no idea how long this situation will last but what you are doing right now will greatly effect how long it impacts your business.

You likely don’t have good access to your customer base, but you need to be prepared when you do. However, you should have at least remote access to your sales team, and assuming you had a good sales strategy before all this started, you can start the updating with your sales team and the new metrics you will be using for post-pandemic success for whatever timelines will be left in 2020.

Let’s start with your success metrics. You can’t reset your overall Goals and Objectives if you don’t have your new metrics in place. As said previously, we have no idea how long this will last but for the sake of our examples let’s assume we start recovering after June 30th, giving us Q3 and Q4 of 2020 to make something positive happen. We will focus on the most common measurements but some of your businesses may have some unique financials and you can probably apply the same logic to them.

· Top Line Revenue: It would be easy to just divide your previous 2020 target in half or stay with your quarterly targets already in place for the year. The difficulty here is that we won’t have the momentum we usually expect when we get back to business, and there will be a ramp-up period. I can’t honestly tell you how to anticipate what ramp-up you should expect but I will give you a couple of tips for your analysis. 1. The more you prepare now and have a good strategy already in place, the shorter your ramp time will be. 2. Re-establish a strong partnership with your best customers and try to plan together. Your ramp-up will most definitely mirror theirs!

· Sales Quotas: You already have a quota plan for your sales team. You know what percentage of the business they were accountable for, so obviously just apply that percentage to your new target…with two possible adjustments. 1. As the Sales Leader you want to be sure you have the best chance of achieving your new target for the business. Therefore, the sales quotas for your team should be based on your new target plus 10% to 15%. This also reduces the risk of paying bonus compensation before you hit your target, protecting your OpEx budget.

2. To be both fair and motivational, the team members responsible for your best customers should likely carry a heavier burden and thus their commissions and bonuses will be greater for hitting their targets. This assumes that your compensation is based on percentages, which it should be.

· Team Goals & Objectives: If you reset your overall business objectives, that has to be re-communicated and re-directed to your team. Again, you may need some very specific Gs & Os for your team based on your unique business situation, but they will likely fall in one of the suggestions below. 1. New Quota: Obviously you have to re-establish ACCOUNTABILITY for the sales targets. 2. Pipeline Review: Focus on the Forecast and Upside business they were predicting before all this happened in the hope of not losing them. Set activities and targets on the most important opportunities and track them. 3. Sales Activities for key accounts and existing customer base: You must define the expectations and sales activities that drive the behavior you need to service your existing customer base, especially your best customers. They must understand the importance you are assigning to protecting this business, even though they may not be the greatest drivers to their commission plans.

4. Sales Activities that identify and drive new business: They must fill their Pipelines for sustainable growth. The solutions you provided before the pandemic may be somewhat different than what customers are looking for now. Your competition may be different as well. They need a new business target for every month of every quarter. 5. Personal Growth: Invest in your sales team. They are not too busy right now to learn and grow. Find ways to add on-line learning to their day. Maybe it’s advanced product training, updated sales skills, leadership development or advancing their business education in some way. Use this time to make your sales team better; it is one of your primary functions as their Sales Leader.

Next we need to focus on your CUSTOMERS. Now is not the time to go back into your “hard sell, features and benefits, we are the best solution” strategy. If you want to win them back and beat whatever competition remains, focus on what’s important to them. They have the exact same priority as you do: getting my business back and being successful again. As we mentioned earlier, partner with them and understand what their priorities are because yours will ultimately be the same, whether you know it or not. What do they need right now to get up and running again: additional inventory, specific products, quick delivery, additional customer service or even special payment terms? They can’t pay you until they collect from their customers, so find a way to help them! Redefine your value proposition to differentiate yourself as a partner. If you help your customers protect their business, you are ultimately protecting yours and building a strong relationship for the long haul.

This is truly a strange time for all of us. I have seen a lot of chatter about building “crisis sales plans”. As Sales Leaders, our jobs are to adapt and succeed in every changing environment, crisis or otherwise. There is no one to blame for all of this and all of us are virtually in the same boat. If you don’t develop your plan now, your team will probably develop their own or follow your best salespeople instead of you. Communication is key so re-establish your strategy and their accountability to the plan and simply LEAD!

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