In a February 2020 Sales Management Association webinar presented by Scott Weinhold, EVP of Strategy and Innovation, we discussed the increased levels of stress that B2B salespeople were facing due to the fear and uncertainty caused by information overload and chaotic buying processes.
In fact, here’s a direct quote from Scott: “The buying process is very different today. It is chaotic. Gartner shared that the average size of a B2B buying group is 11 people. The average number of channels that each stakeholder engages with is 4.5. The amount of time spent with a salesperson throughout the process is 17%.
Your buyers are overwhelmed with the amount of quality but conflicting information out there. Salespeople need to help their customers find clarity, but they are struggling with the same amount of inputs which is leading to fear, uncertainty and stress in our reps.”
And boy, if we thought salespeople were stressed before, COVID-19 said “hold my beer!” Those dynamics have suddenly multiplied by orders of magnitude.
Increased and Different but Not New Chaos
The point here is that fear, uncertainty and stress in the sales process isn’t new. Disruption isn’t new—in fact it’s a constant in the modern buying experience. But, this extreme level of both personal and economic chaos hasn’t been seen in most anyone’s working lifetime.
The initial panic button reaction from vendors and associations is “go virtual”. “Let us help your organization transition to virtual learning.” Don’t get us wrong, we think that’s great that everyone is trying to help in any way they can. But, here’s the problem: If your training wasn’t cutting it before, it certainly isn’t now. Moving it virtual isn’t going to help that. And we know that despite heavy investments, the ROI on training is among the worst in sales. In fact, prior to our current state, three-fourth’s of every dollar invested in methodology training is not returning the revenue expected. What do you think the ROI is now?
If your training wasn’t cutting it before, it certainly isn’t going to help you now.
The Secret Sauce: Agility + High Impact Activities = Clarity
So, before you convert your sales training program to virtual, now is a good time to re-evaluate whether your current strategy is working and if it is proofed for future downturns—whatever they may be. We believe we have two very important and misunderstood factors (based on research) that are critical stabilizers for any sudden pivot.
Prior to our current slowdown, your salespeople were likely annoying your customers. How do we know? In a Florida State University Study that reviewed hundreds of B2B sales calls:
- 61% of buyers said sellers didn’t understand their buying process
- 68% said they don’t adapt to their situation
- 90% of sales conversations were not important to the customer or differentiated
Think about that – 90% of what prospects heard was either noise, boring or just flat out annoying—and that was prior to them being worried about their family and friends and concerned about losing their jobs. Rigidity, the hallmark of standard methodologies, was already hurting your deals.
We believe you need to think beyond a standardized methodology and focus on training situational agility—a critical enabler of driving results and allowing for pivots in tough times.
Coaching to High-Impact Activities
You don’t equip and enable agility in a vacuum. VantagePoint has always believed the sales manager is the most under-appreciated powerhouse for sales force effectiveness (based on our research). And more research has piled up recently to validate that fact—from sources such as Gallup and Gartner.
But during this crisis, the sales manager’s role is now more vital because salespeople have a massive number of panicked questions racing through their brains. The need for clarity has never been more urgent and important.
The need for clarity has never been more urgent and important.
Look at these layers. Which one can your managers actually manage and coach – activities. However, a default that often happens is to focus on results and ask for more. Coaching becomes inspecting. When you focus on high-impact activities that you CAN manage and coach that are mapped to the KPI’s, it provides clarity for sellers and managers.
Now is the time to ensure that no matter what, your sales managers have a framework that enables them to always answer these questions:
- What should my salespeople be doing?
- How can I help them do it?
- Is it working?
By enabling your sales managers to answer these questions, you can:
- Stabilize the sales force in a time of stress and uncertainty
- Minimize the negative impact of unprecedented distraction
- Make your frontline sales managers THE competitive advantage of the future
An Example of How This Works Now
At VantagePoint, we actually drink our own champagne (much tastier than Kool-Aid), so we thought we’d give you a real-world example of how we’ve pivoted:
- Create a new guidepost. We created a new ROA model for the marketing and sales team to ensure the entire demand pipeline was focused on the same results—ones that we believe are achievable now.
- Define any changes to targets and message. We defined the types of buyers that we think are open to having conversations with us right now. While many sales teams without guidance are increasing “spray and pray” emails and calls right now, we’ve decided to get really targeted and focused about who we’re talking to and what we’re saying
- Train! We had mini training sessions for our sales team to reinforce agility, the new story and how to proceed with their deals.
- Coach and reinforce. Our team (from marketing to product to sales leaders) are providing coaching and reinforcement tools to help the sales team move forward.
The interesting thing is, we did nothing different than what we preach regularly.