Sales is tough right now. Reps and leaders need to do more with less. Here’s how to make the most of what you have.
“Our selling motions may never be the same after COVID-19.”
“Competitive intensity is only going to increase … we could fall behind.”
“We will have to do more with less given hiring and spending freezes.”
Those are among a handful of common refrains I hear from sales leaders these days — many of whom are on the hook for driving revenue growth during one of the biggest economic declines in our country’s history.
As a senior director of business value services at Salesforce, I work with our largest enterprise customers — including Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, and Philips — to help them develop a return on investment for key sales initiatives. So, when nearly everyone I talk to (and the surveys show) concern over revenue decline, I know that this is the year of doing more with less.
Sales leaders will need to zero in on where they and their teams can increase efficiency, manage risk, and most importantly drive revenue. They will need to ruthlessly prioritize, deploy effective tools for sellers, and train their sales reps on new skills required in the current selling environment.
The following are a few strategies I’ve seen my customers use to meet the challenge:
Focus on doing a few things well
Sales is all about telling the right person the right story at the right time. In a “do more with less” environment, sales teams must focus on the best markets, accounts, and decision makers to pursue.
This prioritization requires an intelligent, data-driven approach. One of my Fortune 500 customers was able to leverage predictive insights to determine which deals might get pushed into the next quarter. They then developed recovery plans to speed up deal closures and were able to capture millions of dollars in revenue in the current quarter.
Looking to prioritize? Consider taking the following actions:
1. Regrade and rescore your accounts based on current revenue and future potential
Plot each of your accounts on a 2×2 matrix from low to high, with future potential on the vertical axis and current revenue on the horizontal axis.
2. Determine your highest priority accounts and any resource gaps
From the matrix above, your main focus should be on the top two quadrants: customers with high future potential and high revenue. For each of those quadrants, you want to determine if you have the right sales coverage and resourcing, which might include various channels and roles.
3. For high-priority accounts, develop strategic account plans to uncover new sales opportunities
The account plan doesn’t need to be a novel, but at a minimum should include an executive-level account overview, key sales goals and objectives, top opportunities for the year, and a relationship plan. From a plan execution standpoint, you should include the account team roles and responsibilities, a meeting cadence, and an overall action plan. At a minimum, sales leaders should review the plan on a monthly and quarterly basis.
4. Leverage an integrated tool to track account progress and performance
The tool should include data and insights across marketing, sales, and service. For example, Salesforce allows you to track account-based marketing initiatives, pipeline metrics and growth, and any service challenges or opportunities.
Improve business systems and processes
In a 2019 study, 94% of business executives said it was internal complexity preventing growth, not lack of opportunities or competitive threats. Some of our customers have reduced costs by hundreds of millions of dollars by standardizing and simplifying their systems and processes.
To try the same, consider taking the following steps:
- Outline each system or tool that is involved in the sales process.
- Determine how much each tool is used during the sales process as a proxy for value. Generally, unused tools signal low value.
- Create a plan to sunset systems and tools that add little value to the seller or process.
One of our Global 500 customers inventoried the different tools and systems that its sellers used as part of a sales cycle and came up with more than 30! They found multiple quoting tools and calculators, along with different processes and software to analyze the pipeline and forecast. By eliminating the overlap, they were able to save money, reduce complexity, and improve the seller’s experience.
(Read more about how another customer, cybersecurity firm McAfee, approached streamlining their sales operations.)
Manage business risk
Without surplus financial resources, risk increases. You lack the room for error to make a bad acquisition or launch a nice-to-have marketing campaign or product. The following are areas of risk to pay attention to:
- Talent: In tumultuous times, your best sales managers and sellers may be at risk of leaving or poached by your competition. It’s important to evaluate your sales talent and execute any necessary retention strategies, such as multi-year retention bonuses or new professional development opportunities.
- Customer: Looking at data, such as past buying behavior or service issues, can help you predict which customers are at risk of defecting or shifting their spend. For example, a customer who stops buying as frequently or as much as they once did may be at risk of defecting. They may also be contacting the service center more and have an increasing number of support cases.
- Reputation: How a company reacts in challenging times will often be a defining moment in how they are perceived by a cross-section of stakeholders (e.g., prospective and current employees and customers). Short-term headcount reductions may ultimately prove unproductive and costly in the long term.
One of our large enterprise customers in the technology space minimized its risk by focusing on smaller acquisitions that contributed to immediate revenue growth and were a strong cultural fit. These smaller acquisitions allowed them to quickly welcome new customers, while maintaining their company’s customer-focused reputation and collaborative culture.
The next step
The ability to drive sales and growth in tough times is ultimately a return to basics. It means remaining single minded about the things that contribute to revenue. Companies that can adapt to a changing market and nimbly adjust strategies and processes will not only perform better during a downturn, but will set themselves up to thrive and grow when the market turns.
For more strategies to fuel your business’ recovery and revenue growth, read our complete guide. Or watch the Sales Cloud demo to learn more about how a data-driven and intelligent approach can help you better invest time, energy, and resources.