Where pipeline visibility isn’t enough, what new or creative sources of data could give you a sense for how sales opportunities will shift over time?
In late March/early April, LLR held several small group collaboration sessions with the Chief Revenue Officers and Sales Leaders from our portfolio companies so they could talk with peers about common challenges and share creative solutions.
There’s no perfect answer and the considerations vary by industry, end market, scale and other factors, but here are some of the insights our CROs shared that may help other businesses as they manage through this downturn.
Support for Customers and Partners
Focus on a single question: “How can I help you?”
No hooks, no sales pitches. Listen to the answers and shift your value proposition to directly support your customer’s primary needs.
Get more intimate with customers.
Companies are finding that this moment gives them more time with customers and, at times, even a view into their home life. It is enabling richer relationships to be built and an opportunity to learn their customer’s business more deeply than before.
Segment customers by pain points and align special pricing/policies to them.
Before implementing special pricing or policies, know how different customer profiles are impacted by COVID-19 or the economic crisis and adjust your discounts accordingly.
Sample considerations from our CROs:
- Are certain international customers facing a drop in the value of their currency that you can meet with reduced pricing?
- Are there ways to support retail clients while their locations are closed with discounted security or utilities programs?
- Are there new features you can offer a customer for free, for now, to get them through the crisis, and if they achieve certain milestones agree to consider a paid upgrade later?
Support channel partners, too.
Don’t assume your resellers, brokers, service delivery partners, etc. have a strong pulse for their customer base or know how to handle the current downturn. Create content or avenues, like an online portal, to help partners thoughtfully communicate with their end clients, understand their needs and continue to win deals or retain clients. Our CROs know from experience that by showing added value to your partner community at a difficult time can build lasting relationships.
Companies are finding that this moment gives them more time with customers and, at times, even a view into their home life.
Changes to Sales Teams and Incentives
Acknowledge their stress and increase communication.
Our CROs were unanimous in their commitment to transparency with their teams, acknowledging the stress of the current situation and concerns about meeting quota. Tell them what you know and what you don’t know, and keep teams focused on what they can control.
Consider asking your CEO to reach out to the team or to individuals 1:1 to show them support from the top. Schedule virtual “office hours” when anyone can join an open Zoom Room to talk. Invite guest speakers for mini-training sessions or non-business Q&A’s to keep the team’s minds fresh.
Be thoughtful in your team changes.
Understandably, some companies have been forced to make reductions in staff. A stack-ranking of the team by performance can help use data to determine which under-performers to let go or furlough. Others who are fortunate to be in a lower risk position decided that making cuts right now will do more harm than good to the remaining sales team’s morale. They are watching performance closely and gathering more data to make informed decisions later that will be handled better by the team.
Consider if quota adjustments send the wrong message.
Certain companies are adjusting quotas now that they have visibility into Q2 or beyond. Yet several have chosen not to make any quota changes to prevent COVID-19 from becoming an excuse for reps to “throw in the towel.” Instead, CROs are finding creative ways to keep their teams’ activity and motivation high, including incentives for events they can control better like largest pipeline creation by week, new customer Proof of Concepts delivered or virtually held meetings.
CROs emphasized the importance of telling sales teams what you know and what you don’t know, and keeping them focused on what they can control.
Shift BDRs to Customer Success.
If they decided now isn’t the time for Business Development Reps to be making calls, some leaders are moving them to Customer Success. They’re offering short-term incentives to check in live with current customers, express empathy and identify which clients need additional support or are at risk of leaving. In some cases, moving Sales Reps works too, as they are the best negotiators to reach a win-win agreements.
Celebrate the wins.
Winning is contagious. Every positive story matters to keeping spirits high and motivation strong: a new logo, a “no decision lead” resuscitated, a rep going the extra mile for a current client, and so on.
Companies are using this opportunity to look for the people who rise to the top with creative ideas and valuable offers to help in any way.
Outreach for New Opportunities
Track new leading indicators where pipeline visibility isn’t enough.
Beyond the pipeline data already tracked, companies are getting creative in identifying leading indicators of where their market(s) are headed. They are thinking about what new sources of data could give them a sense for how opportunities will shift over time, such as news on the financial health of targets, data on supply chain movement and risk, and hits to the website and what content visitors are consuming.
Give the gift of silence.
For companies who do have BDRs making calls, the talk track has changed to focus on how the prospect is doing as a person. By inviting them to share their current experience and then giving them the “gift of silence” to respond, target customers can quickly reveal if they are ready to talk about your solution, or if they simply need an ear to listen.
Test and refine your marketing message.
Many companies are finding it harder to reach people, but those willing to talk are serious buyers. Messages focused on getting clients up, running and optimized while business is slow resonate, as targets want to be better positioned when things pick up again. Quick-launch offers are also helping leads realize they can get the help they need right away – but our companies advised making sure your services group can handle the work.
Prepare now for when things start to recover.
The businesses that don’t deliver mission critical solutions related to COVID-19, working from home, etc., are preparing for when they can reach out and sell again. They are creating content, running sales training, cleansing prospect and M&A databases and implementing technologies so everyone is on-boarded and ready to put them to good use. It’s a great time for the spring cleaning that we never otherwise have time for.
Find more resources from our portfolio companies on business continuity, human capital, security and other critical issues in this challenging business environment in our Collaboration Center.