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Building a Rebound-Ready Strategy for the Year Ahead

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In the beginning months of the global pandemic, many organizations witnessed themselves and others undergo one of two classic human stress responses: fight-or-flight.

Those that went into fight mode pivoted quickly, making the necessary budget cuts or pushing things to market so as to develop new offerings. Those that didn’t, however, are likely dismayed that what they’d hoped was a two or three-month proposition is likely to continue for quite some time.

Even though the economic recovery may take longer than they initially expected, there are strategies that organizations can adopt to rebound and rebuild momentum in the year ahead. Whether sales leadership or sales enablement, an effective adaptation requires the effort and persistence of the entire organization in order to make a considerable impact. Here are some ways to manage the uncertainty of the current market situation, and bounce back with greater resiliency than ever before.

The Initial Pivot

As many of the changes that the business world has undergone in the past several months may have appeared temporary at first, it is clear now that some of these changes will remain long-term. At this juncture, it’s imperative that leadership proactively consider how they might need to reallocate resources appropriately to maintain long-term stability.

Here’s a must-do checklist that can have a considerable impact at the on-set.

  • Secure your customers. Replacing customers when existing ones leave, in addition to attaining the ones already expected, is a big lift. As such, it’s critical to secure your existing customers in any way during this period of volatility. This could mean moving people from your sales team to customer success or account management roles, or having sales reps go back and reestablish relationships with their former accounts that have been moved down the pipeline.
  • Help your customers (and gain trust in the process). Sales reps should be learning about the challenges that their own customers are facing in this unpredictable market, and should seek ways to provide assistance through their multitude of connections. Gain trust with existing customers by introducing them to other existing customers that could benefit from their service or product.
  • Seek out warm leads. During these less-than-exuberant economic times, leverage cross-sell and up-sell opportunities as frequently as possible. Drive revenue through the growth of existing accounts, and have a formal and clear-cut referral program in place that gets reps in front of a possible lead. Ensure sales reps are connecting with their most satisfied customers in order to get that first introductory meeting with one of their peers or connections.
  • Create relevant content. There’s a lot of content out there right now, but zero-in on thought leadership pieces that customers and prospects will use and appreciate. Learn from sales reps and customer success folks about what the biggest concerns, challenges, and inquiries are from their customers, and address them as soon as you can with relevant, high-quality pieces.

Re-Evaluate Strategies

Once the initial pivot checklist is complete and under control, executives and sales leadership can dig deeper into some of the expectations and processes that were established prior to the current crises. Although this will require those at the top to face some difficult realities in terms of goals, it will undoubtedly pay off in the long-run to address issues before irreversible escalation occurs down the road. Here are some of the key elements that should be considered and implemented as part of your rebound strategy:

  • Reassess revenue goals. When looking at the next six months, it’s necessary to be realistic about what’s feasible for the organization and sales team. Whether you think revenue will go up or down depending on your industry or current situation, it’s only sensible for goals to reflect that honestly. Otherwise, one risks demoralizing the revenue-facing teams that are ultimately responsible.
  • Adjust rep’s quota accordingly. Once revenue goals have been reassessed, it follows logically to adjust the sales reps’ quotas as well, in order to be fair and maintain a positive sales culture through uncertainty.
  • Instruct reps to create their own business plan. Encourage revenue-facing teams to build out a straightforward document that outlines where their business will ideally be coming from, whether through referrals or up-selling tactics. Don’t let this be an exercise in futility — review this document with them monthly to follow their progress.
  • Holds reps accountable. Once these new expectations have been established, the work doesn’t stop there. Holding sales reps accountable for their performance and behavior is necessary for the deployment of a successful rebound strategy. If there are C-players on the team, it may be time to replace them with some of the many A-players flooding the current job market.
  • Ditch the old playbook. It’s no surprise that engagements between rep and buyer over phone or email have seen significant growth in lieu of face-to-face connections. With that said, the entire cadence of interaction is changing, and the rep’s sales process and plays should reflect those changes.

Methods for Team Inspiration

Although customer-centricity has been the theme of many strategic and tactical developments during these times, it’s important to reflect on how your revenue teams are coping with their new environment. Don’t forget to continue nurturing the professional development of people on the team, and seek out opportunities to build their trust. As more is expected of them than ever before, here are some tips to continue fostering those relationships and keep the team spirit alive.

  • Find a common mission to rally the team behind. Unifying the team behind a single goal can instill feelings of togetherness that virtual formats often lack. Whether it’s securing X amount of new clients in a given quarter, or something more administrative like revamping old email templates, find concrete missions for the team to work on together.
  • Provide extra training to build confidence. Sales reps are having to utilize a whole different skill set in order to be effective as a remote agent. Many of them were thrust into this new landscape without the proper training to adequately prepare, and it’s important that leadership finally accept that this isn’t an entirely temporary situation. Consider reallocating unused travel budget towards training, and give reps their own training budget to use how they see fit for their own professional success.
  • Celebrate the wins, big and small. Encourage reps to brag about their achievements, whether it’s getting a meeting with a sought-after client or closing a deal. Managers and leaders should be recognizing any and all accomplishments as publicly as possible. Consider having a celebration-themed hashtag on a communications channel, so that reps can give, receive, and witness these little boosts throughout their day.

The Importance of Data Analysis

With many shifting trends and behaviors, it can be difficult to pinpoint which sales activities have the most impact. With various other at-home commitments throughout the day, time is a precious commodity — which is why it’s important to use data analysis when evaluating how a rep’s time can be optimized. Sales enablement is often the gatekeeper of these critical metrics, so leverage these insights throughout the reprioritization process. Consider the following to guide oneself through the analysis phase:

  • Identify a new Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): As a result of the shifting market, is there a new ICP that better suits your organization? If so, pull these new ICPs from your existing customer database to learn more about their situation and how to position offerings.
  • Conduct client interviews: Have sales reps, customer success teams, or executive sponsors interview existing clients about best practices. Share these insights in a monthly newsletter with their respective name and company to pique additional interest from prospects, referrals, or growing customers.
  • Analyze the fastest closing deals: Pay attention to the industry, company size, or the compatibility of their existing technology to discover any trends that could be useful in prospecting. With these fast-closing deals in minds, who is their best persona and lead source?
  • Review the average amount of days in a pipeline stage: Many of the core sales pipeline metrics are changing which can make time management from a rep’s perspective tricky. Although certain stages in the deal may take longer to advance than before, it’s important to use the new average as a baseline for understanding when it’s go-time for closing out a deal, and when it’s taking too long.

Self-Care to Effectively Care for Others

One of the easiest things to put on the way-side during this time is attention to care for oneself. It’s important that everyone from leadership to frontline reps make a conscious effort to improve their own mental conditioning and wellness throughout this challenging time. Here are some tips:

  • Disconnect from technology and go outdoors. Many reps are immersed in technology more than ever before, so take note to put the phone and computer away to re-energize in order to prevent burnout. Taking walks outside or getting exercise can improve both physical and mental health, and thus contribute to better productivity overall.
  • Schedule breaks into the day. Since the lines between home and office are now blurred for many professionals, the concept of breaks also becomes murky. Schedule breaks on the calendar and be protective of them in order to establish healthy boundaries between work and wellness.
  • Share gratitude. Although it may be difficult at times, take a moment each day to highlight the things that one is grateful for. Whether in a gratitude journal or with friends and family, do this as a reminder of the positive.
  • Complain productively. Being resilient may be a goal, but it isn’t always a reality. Remind oneself that everyone has off days, and find someone to share those moments with. Take a sick day for physical and mental health to put oneself back on track.

At times, it may seem overwhelming to rebound from a situation that isn’t even over yet, but the organizations that take the time to do so thoughtfully will be better positioned to adapt to the future economic uncertainties that are inevitable in the business world. Consider these tips and strategies to re-engineer a realistic business plan, inspire revenue teams, leverage data for success, and care for oneself in order to get your teams and organization back on track.