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6 things great Sales Leaders do in a Crisis

Disruption is front and centre right now and we are all looking forward to a time when we can get together with our friends and colleagues.  Gee an opportunity for kids to go to school and pursue sport would be brilliant too, but let’s not get carried away.  In reviewing a battery of brilliant recent articles and e books recently, I sought to dig in a bit to a recent piece from McKinsey by Brian Gregg, Aimee Kim, and Jesko Perrey April 2020.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I never considered that our children and ourselves would live in a digital age, but then I wasn’t thinking about a global pandemic or a single global economy.  I was more interested in exploring my creativity and wondering why I was born in the 1970s and living in suburban Sydney and not in another time and place.

Thinking about what the lasting impacts of the present C-19 crisis could look like, and ideas on how we can best respond.  My frame of reference is often through sales leaders, senior leaders and emerging leaders, however, can apply more broadly of course.

Recognising the sharp shift to online – pre purchase research, purchasing and delivery, rapidly increasing the experimentation with virtual sales, making digital interaction increasingly important.  This experimentation on the part of buyers is expected to have lasting effects, indeed until there is an expectation that the pandemic will take long enough for these to become habit.

Needless in to say, in B2C, consumer confidence has taken a hit globally, with uncertainty how demand will rebound for non-essentials post crisis:

Although several sectors have performed well, many have collapsed. We estimate that consumers might cut back as much as 40 to 50 percent of discretionary spending, which translates to roughly a 10 percent reduction in GDP (Gregg, Kim and Perrey).

The recommendations for commercial leaders include:

  1. Review and remove waste of the business, Get the band back together, virtually, with a single-minded focus to ensure that you can ride this out. During transformations that I have lead and participated in, I looked at the business through the lens of a customer, team member or business owner.  Think about what is purely a legacy issue, with little positive impact? Now make it smarter or eliminate it.  Where are the painful processes, pull them apart and find a better way.
  2. Communicate with and protect key people, up to 80% of a business value is intangible – the people in the business. Right now your team feel isolated and are expecting you to step up, to recognise the situation, their situation, to share reasons to persist, to listen and to help.  Strong leaders have strong connections with the individuals in their teams and understand their value to the business, their aspirations and what is happening outside of work.  Now is the time not to lose or to disenchant your key talent, whether they be the best people on the phones, in the warehouse, servicing equipment, driving trucks or indeed coding, designing, estimating, project leading, following up outstanding accounts or resolving issues.
  3. Thinking about those core clients, at this point over-service, be a shoulder to lean on and support them continuing the partnership through the ups and downs. To do so with empathy is key, there is no point in pushing them, it is a journey navigating this crisis and we need to have the right mindset to be of service in the spirit of mutual respect.
  4. Marshall resources, build a buffer, ensuring that cash is king.  Take the hatchet to the parts of the business that deliver little value, low growth, low margin businesses over a multiyear time frame.  Especially with the view of the cost of sale, is it worth it or is it a segment that you remain attached to despite the pre-crisis doldrums?
  5. Think outside of the box – what can be done now to take the business and your team through this frustrating situation and get a step ahead? Herd mentality can be dangerous and times like the can be an opportunity to go against the norm.  I am trying to think who coined: ‘don’t waste a good recession’ – this is time to get rubber to the road.  The GFC energised me, making me very purposeful and transformed my approach and habits making for an incredible 2010 and 2011.
  6. Digital development – virtualise where possible, clients are experimenting with digital increasing, this is an important time to do the same. Being easy to deal with, some markets omni channel is required with sophisticated clients and prospects.  There are parts of the sales process that need a parallel process for prospects/clients that can’t be visited and won’t come to us.

Please feel welcome to discuss with me, or have a look at my Papers in Resources at www.adamcallender.com.

Happy 42nd birthday to the wonderful Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, it has been 42 years since the number 42 became famous!