COVID-19 has changed the face of sales and how all of us do business. The transition back to outside sales post-Coronavirus will be no different.
As government restrictions on business relax and stay at home orders loosen, most companies are gearing up and bringing people back to work. Some outside sales reps are getting ready to get back on the field again too.
While most of the world is anxious to get back to normal (us included!), it will take some time to transition back to business as usual. Sales reps, in particular, face a number of issues as they start to venture back out into the world. Just a few of their concerns include:
- Changing market and customer mindsets
- New, larger territories
- Lean operations
The sales teams that expect everything to immediately go back to “normal” and ignore the real changes to their market will face even more missed quotas and failure. Instead, prepare for the changes of a post-COVID-19 and adapt to a changing world. Those that do will be able to not only survive but thrive no matter the market.
Here is what you need to know as you create your plan for returning to work after the Coronavirus.
Health and Wellbeing is Still the Top Priority
While the typical outside sales rep is anxious to get back to the field and life as normal, the health of your team, customers, and everyone you encounter is still the top priority. While some regions are slowly making progress in opening up businesses, there are still other places where it is not safe.
Find out what your country, state, and region guidelines are and follow them carefully. Do not venture back out into the field until they advise that it is safe. Also, follow any recommendations that they have for keeping yourself and others safe, such as wearing a mask, frequently washing your hands, or maintaining six-foot distancing. The CDC website has resources to help you stay up to date on the latest guidelines.
Following official recommendations and guidelines is critical for your health, but it is also essential for maintaining your reputation and your company's. Showing up at a customer's office without a mask, for example, tells the customer that you care more about making sales than their wellbeing. It won't help you land any more deals and will even likely hurt your chance of sales in the future.
Customers will not forget how they are treated during this time. Following official guidelines to keep them safe will help build trust. However, ignoring them for a sale will hurt your reputation for years to come.
Steps to Return to the Field
While you may be anxious to start business again, the road back to the field requires a methodical to be successful. Some of the critical steps to return to outside sales include:
Have the Right Tools in Place
The process to return back to the field will not happen all at once. You will likely to see your customers slowly get back to their offices and resume work as normal at different paces. As a result, sales reps may find themselves doing both inside and outside sales at the same time in the beginning.
To handle the different ways to reach your customers, the right tools are critical to handle an increase in call volume, as well as set you up for more successful outside sales. Now is the time to get used to new technology, rather than waiting until your schedule is full. We recommend some below to help you get back to the field better than ever.
Call the Customer First
Showing up at a customer’s office is risky at this point. Many offices are still not open at this point, and others want to reduce as many visitors as possible. Although everyone wants to return to work, Coming unannounced might mean wasting time and money only to show up to an empty office or, worse, being asked to leave.
Before planning your route, call your customers first. Find out if they’re open, if they are currently allowing visitors, and if they have any health protocols, such as wearing a face mask or taking a temperature before entering the office.
Coming to your customers’ offices unannounced is not a productive way to start back out in the field. Give each of your customers a call first.
Plan Your Route
Once you have found out who you can visit, make sure that you spend as much time as you can with your customers. Planning your route can help you get the most out of your time in the field.
Keep Track of Your Locations
Communication is critical for the sales team. Keeping track of your locations can help management know which have been visited, as well as other reps. It can both help you keep track of the work that you do and allow everyone on your team stay on the same page.
Plus, understanding where you've been and who you have interacted with is essential in contact tracing efforts. If a rep becomes ill while on the road, it will be vital to public health to be able to track their interactions.
Continue to Follow Up with Clients
Your potential customers are in an uncertain position. Continue to show your care and reliability by continuing to reach out to them even after the sales meeting. Regular follow up ensures your customers that you are serious about their business and will go out of your way to continue to help them.
Setting up a sales cadence allows you to regularly maintain contact with your leads without letting any of them fall through the cracks. Your job as a sales rep continues after the initial call or demo. Continue to make sure that the customer is contacted to provide a level of service that sells.
Tips for Sales in the Future
No one can perfectly predict what sales will look like in the coming months and years. One thing is clear, though: sales will not go back to the old “normal” any time soon. Wise sales practices and adaptability is what will separate the new successful sales reps from those that fall victim to the tough economy and changes in customer needs.
Here are some tips to help you navigate sales in light of current events:
Identify Changing Customer Needs and Expectations
No matter what you sell, your customers’ needs have likely changed. What used to be a strong selling point may no longer apply. It will require you to create a new pitch that emphasizes their unique needs and challenges. The only way to know what they are, though, is by asking about their business and concerns, and adjusting your pitch accordingly.
It is a challenging time in sales because there is no one driving concern for every business. For example, some of your customers may suddenly not be concerned with efficiency as they try to save on costs. Conversely, for lean teams that had to let go of much of their workforce, though, efficiency might be more important than ever. There are few uniform responses even within the same industry. You have to be able to listen to what they emphasize and adjust for each person.
Because these times are unprecedented, there is no way to anticipate or predict how your target customers will now respond to your product or service. The best way to find out is by listening. Most of your pitch should be spent asking questions and listening rather than talking. It requires greater flexibility and empathy than ever before.
Maintain a Personalized Touch
Research into sales during COVID-19 revealed a troubling trend: customer interest is up while sales are down. The decrease in sales has coincided with an increase in email prospecting and decrease in call volume.
Sales reps rely too heavily on email to reach a maximum amount of customers with little to no personalization. This "spray and pray" method is a poor prospecting tactic. Instead of reaching more customers, many sales reps are inadvertently making otherwise receptive prospects irritated, and their emails are promptly sent to spam folders. Blasting impersonal emails has a significantly negative impact on sales.
Prospects don’t need more emails to clutter their overflowing inboxes. Instead, strive to create a more personalized experience. Phone calls are far more meaningful and give you a chance to stand out from the crowd. Use personalized messages and thoughtful comments on social media to generate warm leads that are far less likely to waste your time. If you do send emails, strive for thoughtful and creative ones. For example, a video may be more engaging for your intended audience and a way to personalize it.
You can't blame poor sales entirely on COVID-19. Customers are still interested even in uncertain situations. Much of the poor sales performance during this time has more to do with lazy prospecting practices than genuinely uninterested customers.
Most reps choose outside sales because they enjoy getting out and meeting people. Stay at home orders have been rough for most as they have been chained to their desk, making phone calls, sending emails, and holding virtual meetings. They look forward to getting out and traveling again.
However, it’s not time to abandon everything you learned while doing inside sales now that you can start to travel again. Even while government regulations relax, there may be some companies that still do not allow sales reps into the building. Many hospitals, for example, are still off-limits to sales reps.
This is a time of transition, not complete abandon. Be flexible to meet your customers where they feel most comfortable. Include options for your customers to meet online, such as through Zoom and GoToMeeting. You want your customers to be happy to meet with you, not afraid. Flexibility will ensure you can still communicate with the maximum number of people.
Many companies have been forced to make cuts during this challenging time. These leaner operations have caused sales reps to be in charge of larger territories and take on more customers.
At the same time, personalization is more critical than ever to succeed. Successful sales reps are spending more time in conversation and trying to figure out how they can best help their target customers. This takes more time than meetings in the past, but it's essential to success. There’s no way to create a consistent and predictable sales process right now, which sales reps used in the past to be efficient.
How can a sales rep succeed with even more challenges on their plate? The right tools to streamline every other part of their business.
Tools to enable sales efficiency are no longer optional. They are necessary to make sure that you spend your time in front of your customers, whether virtually or in-person. Cut down on time spent elsewhere to ensure you have the time you need for selling.
Some tools that can help you increase your efficiency include:
Calendly allows you to schedule meetings quickly. You can avoid the back-and-forth as you try to nail down a time that works for everyone. It also lets you be more flexible as Calendly is offering free integrations with video conferencing until June 30th.
Replace the tedious signing process with virtual DocuSign. There is no need to send documents back and forth with the easy forms to send and sign virtually. It also helps ensure greater privacy than paper documents.
A winning proposal is crucial to getting the customer excited about your service or product. Proposify will help you create, send, and track better proposals. It comes with templates that can be reused and customized for your customers. It can even include videos and live chats to help you personalize your proposals. Your customers can also sign electronically to make it even easier.
Sendoso can help you maintain contact with your customers, even if they are not ready to meet in person. Sendoso allows you to send gifts physically and digitally to keep deals moving and improve your relationship with customers. Sending gifts to your customers can be an easy process and can help improve the customer experience.
As the #1 sales engagement platform, Salesloft is the go-to sales solution for many reps. The sales platform helps you to create more meaningful connections with customers. It will also improve your productivity to help you get back to spending your time actually selling instead of administration work. You can use SalesLoft throughout the buyer’s journey to get better insights and communication.
Depending on your location, finding a parking spot can take as long as driving to your customer. It can waste valuable time on top of being a source of stress. SpotHero lets you see available parking beforehand. You can even book a parking spot before you arrive so that everything is seamless.
When it's time to get back on the road, we're here to help. As you navigate new territories, you don't want to waste time trying to find the most efficient routes. Map My Customers helps you plan for your most productive day so you can spend less time driving and more time with your customers. Our routing feature allows you to find the most efficient route to plan out each day more effectively and help you get the most amount of time selling.
In addition to planning the most efficient route, Map My Customers can help sales teams remain cohesive as they begin to travel again. Maintain seamless contact with other reps and leadership to be as effective as possible. It can integrate seamlessly with your current CRM, or you can use our lightweight CRM that is perfect on-the-go.
Preparing for Work in a Post-COVID World
While the Coronavirus presents a number of challenges for sales reps, those that prepare for a new sales landscape can set themselves up for success. Customers still need to buy and can use your product, but you need to adjust your sales approach. A more efficient and personalized process can help you succeed despite the challenges and changes in sales.