5 Sales Strategies to Fuel Recovery and Revenue Growth

A guide to reigniting your sales team and making your business more resilient.
 
Time to read: 10 MINUTES
 
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, sales strategies had to change overnight. Just ask Bright Horizons, a child care provider that runs 1,100 centers across the United States. Ceasing business-as-usual operations could have meant financial disaster.
But it didn’t. Instead, the company identified a new customer demand and shifted its entire sales team to focus on a new market: day care centers for essential workers.
“We saw that essential workers had a huge need for child care, and we had the solution that could help them,” said Shuang Stoppe, Vice President of Sales Operations at Bright Horizons.
Bright Horizons wasn’t alone in making the transition. Businesses in every industry have had to adapt how they sell — most without a playbook for success. That’s why we created this guide — to help you survive, recover, and even grow revenue during these times.
We spoke with dozens of sales operations leaders and distilled their advice into five steps you can take right now to increase revenue. Along with each step, you’ll learn how a real sales leader faced similar challenges. While change can feel overwhelming, remember that you aren’t alone, and you have plenty of options to retool your selling strategies for success.

Step 1: Assess Your Sales Forecast

Every solid sales strategy starts with a forecast. Your sales forecast is the best way to see what’s coming into your pipeline and what isn’t, while you still have time to change the outcome. Extreme weather, economic crises, global pandemics like COVID-19 — all can dramatically change your forecast. But that doesn’t mean you throw the whole thing away.

Instead, take time to determine which deals are still realistic and which customers you need to focus on. Here are three tips to maintain an accurate forecast. 

Reevaluate deals to see what’s still viable

In times of change, reps shouldn’t make assumptions about where their deals stand. Evaluate each opportunity to get a better department-wide or company-wide forecast, pictured in the next screenshot. That will help you better understand your customers’ current appetite to buy and assign resources accordingly.

For an example of what you might discover by evaluating open opportunities with fresh eyes, consider global leader in business cloud communications Vonage. Vonage asked reps to speak with customers and update the status of each potential deal in the company’s CRM. Many were moving faster than expected — sometimes by as much as three months — because its customers needed a work-from-home solution immediately, and Vonage’s Unified Communications and Cloud Contact Center were the perfect solutions. "At Vonage, our unique approach to forecasting allows us to have a 360 view of each customer opportunity, empowering us to get insight on a particular opportunity and its timing," said Anthony Chapa, Senior Revenue Operations Leader at Vonage. "This process has allowed our sales and operations teams to maintain — and even increase — forecast accuracy, even during the past few months as we face the global health crisis.”
"This process has allowed our sales and operations teams to maintain – and even increase – forecast accuracy, even during the past few months as we face the global health crisis."
Anthony Chapa, Senior Revenue Operations Leader, Vonage

Forecast more often

Taking a “set it and forget it” approach to forecasting simply doesn’t work these days, so increase how often you forecast. For example, Nielsen found it had to update its forecast twice a week, instead of once, to keep up with the pace of change. In doing this, the forecasts became more accurate, and major changes were captured faster in order to give Nielsen a chance to respond.

Track opportunities that have dropped out of your forecast

In addition to your standard tracking of why you lost an opportunity — like competitors or price — you should also track the impact of the global pandemic.

For example, Nielsen began tracking pandemic-specific causes for lost deals and responded to each differently. The company tracked when a live event had to be canceled and when opportunities stalled because Nielsen missed that touchpoint with the prospect. Nielsen’s team then targeted those prospects with virtual events and virtual client meetings. When an opportunity dropped due to something outside of Nielsen’s control like fluctuation in the value of currency across markets, the company refocused its attention on opportunities that were still in play. It made a playbook to address common issues seen across markets so all local markets had advice on how to negotiate in these specific situations.

As your forecast data helps you identify both bright spots and risks in your business, you can adjust your sales strategy accordingly. Learn more about how to build your sales forecast.

Step 2: Reevaluate Your Go-to-Market Strategy

Your customers’ behavior has fundamentally changed. Many sales teams must now connect with customers remotely, and demand for your products may wane with customers who have been hit hard economically. On the flip side, the products or services you offer may appeal to a new market you haven’t considered. Plus, customers’ attitudes toward sellers are shifting. In a recent survey, customers rated the number one most important quality of a salesperson as product expertise, not offering low prices.
"Customers’ attitudes toward sellers are shifting, with customers rating the most important quality of a salesperson as product expertise."

To grow revenue, you’ll need to adapt your sales strategy for the current market and get creative about how you sell to customers. Here’s how to get started. The end result: a refreshed go-to-market strategy.

Optimize your existing approach

Start with a report on your current customers. Then group them by industries to identify your biggest markets, and use analyst reports or news sources to understand how they’re affected.

You should answer three questions:

  • What is the economic impact to my top industries?
  • What demand (or lack of demand) is that creating for my products?
  • Can I address that demand in a new way?

Tech company Podium found that its customers in the restaurant industry began relying on takeout orders to make up for lost business from their dining rooms. However, many struggled to coordinate those orders.

As the maker of a messaging tool, Podium was in a prime position to address that need. Within a few weeks, Podium created a new product that let restaurant workers manage ordering, payment, and pickup — all through text messages. The change created big business for Podium and a huge impact for its customers. One local bakery using the service received 600 leads in two weeks. Learn more about how Podium adapted its go-to-market strategy.

Look at new markets

Evaluate the total addressable market to find new opportunities. Are there areas you haven’t previously considered? What industries are on the rise — for example, personal protective equipment or delivery services? Take time to look beyond what’s worked in the past, and consider how else your products can be used or marketed to take advantage of those buyers.

Case in point: With the rise of COVID-19, premium tent manufacturer TentCraft identified a new use for its products on the front lines of relief efforts. TentCraft realized healthcare professionals could set up its tents — more commonly found at outdoor events, like college football games — for mobile, drive-through virus screenings. By thinking beyond its traditional customers, TentCraft was able to expand its base and help its community.

Step 3: Optimize Your Sales Territories

Next, it’s time to review your sales territories. Optimizing your territory design can increase sales by 2%–7% without any change in total resources or sales strategy, according to research by Harvard Business Review. Have some territories grown? Have others struggled because of new regulations, like shelter-in-place rules, or consumer behavior changes, like reduced travel? That means it’s time to take a fresh look at your territories.

Consider how many reps you’ve assigned to each territory and, if necessary, reassign them to what are now your largest areas for accounts. To create the least disruption when adding coverage, focus on aligning two key areas: industry and location.

"Have some territories grown? Have others struggled? That means it’s time to take a fresh look at them."

Here’s more detail on what to think about for each.

Aligning territories by industry

At Salesforce, we create territories for a few top industries with high growth potential. This allows us to staff up to go after these new opportunities and enables our sales reps to become experts on those particular industries. To ensure success, we’ve built out industry-specific guidance and playbooks to help our reps talk to customers with the right language, ask relevant diagnostic questions, and understand product use cases by persona. Want more insights on how Salesforce does sales? Check out our tips to plan the ultimate sales kickoff.

Review territories by location

You should also consider adjusting territories based on the opportunities that specific locations provide. For example, De Nora Water Technologies provides self-service, sustainable onsite disinfectant generators. With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company saw a spike in demand for its product, especially in two new markets: private businesses and municipalities. It needed to strategically add reps to cover the new opportunities, but because different areas were hit harder with the virus, need also varied by location. De Nora used Salesforce Maps to identify hot spots and visualize how to strategically assign more reps and distributors, and it was able to effectively cover the new opportunities.

Learn more about how location intelligence can empower your sales teams.

Step 4: Upgrade Your Sales Motion

Now that your sales reps know where and who to sell to, empower them with an updated, upgraded sales motion. Your sales motion is your end-to-end sales process and methodology — in other words, the exact steps your reps take to sell. 

Follow these tips to reimagine your sales motion. We’ve broken down advice from Salesforce’s own sales leaders for each phase of the selling process, from prospecting to closing.

Prospecting

At a time when many companies have tightened their budgets, every prospect becomes important. Try these approaches to become a prospecting pro.

  • Standardize your best practices. At Salesforce, our sales managers create customized, prebuilt activity sequences for their teams using High Velocity Sales. This way, managers can standardize their prospecting best practices, including when to email a prospect and when to call, and can even include suggestions for what to say, with call scripts and email templates.
  • Leverage your entire organization. If someone at your company already has a relationship with a potential customer, bring them into the deal to help open doors. With more sales reps now working remotely, you can broaden the way you deploy and hire salespeople. For example, remote work is allowing many companies to put their top sellers on big opportunities they couldn’t have in the past, due to travel expense and time.
  • Experiment with social selling. Social connections can craft the basis for a meaningful relationship. Social selling is a lead-generation technique where salespeople directly interact with their prospects on social media platforms. Consider adding social selling to the mix, since your sales teams can’t attend as many in-person networking events as they used to.
  • Prospect within your current contacts and accounts. Your current network, including customers, might be your best opportunity for cross-selling and upselling. But follow selling expert Tiffani Bova’s advice: “What I don’t recommend is mass emailing every contact in your database without any personalization, value, or insight. Instead, rally around your customers. Go back to your existing customers and sell more of what you’ve already sold to them. Come up with creative ways to connect.” 
Get more insights from Tiffani on selling in today’s new context in this video.

Preparing

Before your sales reps get on a video call with a customer or send an email, they should be well-versed in the latest product messaging and customer pain points.

When your sales teams were in the office, they gained tribal knowledge to help them prepare for customer conversations by overhearing each other on calls or having impromptu post-call discussions. Now, you need to get them prepared virtually. Here’s how.

  • Practice new messaging: Did you update your product messaging to reflect the new environment? If not, get your presentations and call scripts up to date, and train your sales team accordingly. At Salesforce, one way we train on messaging is by hosting mock call competitions. During one recent competition, sales reps were recorded on practice sales calls, which managers monitored with Einstein Call Coaching. The pretend customers represented businesses at different stages of recovery and growth. Reps spent ample time on objection handling so they’d be more prepared for real conversations. At the end of the exercise, managers provided feedback, highlighted best practices, and selected winners, ensuring our sellers would be as confident as possible before engaging with actual customers.
  • Understand customer needs: Our sales leaders equip reps with third-party research tools that surface real-time information about prospects, like the latest publicly available business metrics and competitor profiles. These tools help ensure every rep has a great baseline of knowledge about their customer before reaching out. 
"When we were in the office, there was tribal knowledge sellers could gain from hearing each other on calls or impromptu post-call discussions. This doesn't happen in our new virtual sales environment."
Nathan Liss, Director of North American Enterprise Sales Enablement, Salesforce

Crafting a Proposal

In a time when funding is limited and objections are high, sellers need to be able to clearly prove their value. Your proposal should highlight the unique value your company can offer each specific prospect or customer, not a generic solution that would work for almost anyone.

A smart way to train your reps to communicate your company’s value is to train them to be insight sellers. Insight selling is the practice of turning relevant information about your customer’s business into valuable insights — then suggesting the next best action. Combined, these insights become the foundation of your sales pitch. Insight selling is more like consulting than traditional pitching. An insight seller’s value comes not just from sharing knowledge, but from doing the analysis for the customer.

The Path to Insight Selling
Ensure your sales reps can make tailored recommendations of what your customers need and how they can use your products to achieve their goals. We do this with Sales Cloud, which provides us with a full profile of each customer, including internal and external data. Sales Cloud helps our sellers anticipate customer needs at each touchpoint and explain our value against those needs. 

Closing

Today, high-level leaders are more involved in purchasing decisions than they were a year or two ago. To close deals, your reps need the business acumen to win over not just their standard buyer, but decision makers all the way to the C-suite.

Give your sales reps opportunities to discuss their accounts with more tenured peers through formal or informal mentorship programs. Coach sellers to understand and communicate the big picture — including competitors, the industry, and external market factors — so they can present and close confidently, no matter who’s signing.

And don’t forget ongoing training. At Salesforce, “We pulled sales training from the back half of the year into Q1 and Q2 because we felt it was crucial to quickly ramp up our sales reps in the current environment,” according to Danielle Berry, Senior Director of Enablement at Salesforce. Our sales teams also receive guidance at every stage of the sales motion using Path, so reps have a visual representation of the stages required throughout the sales process.

Step 5: Measure and Readjust

After you make changes to your strategy, the final step — and it’s a critical one — is to measure your progress to determine if your strategy has been effective. 

First, monitor the business holistically by checking overall pipeline, forecast, and deals closed to understand if the strategy updates are working. 

Then, check on your reps to identify who might need additional coaching on your new strategies. Specifically, you’ll want to measure:

  • Each rep’s activities: For account reps, look at how many emails, calls, and video chats they’ve tracked in your CRM. For inside sales reps, review how many calls they’ve placed and connections they’ve made. Reps needing inspiration? McAfee increased its activity numbers by hosting a weekly challenge for reps. Reps got cash prizes for every meeting set, and the top performer for each week got a bigger dollar amount. The entire team could see who was winning through the virtual leaderboard, with High Velocity Sales tracking reps’ activities in real time.
  • Each rep’s closed deals, forecast, and pipeline. Measure by dollar amount, rather than number of deals, to get the best idea of their impact to the business. For more insight, Vonage compares results based on reps’ cohorts. Reps have three groups based on how long they’ve been with the company: 0–6 months, 6–18 months, or 18+ months. Comparing reps against their same cohort helps account for training and onboarding.

This granular level of evaluation is critical in a time when circumstances and opportunities change by the day. Depending on what you find, you may need to refresh and reoptimize, and that’s perfectly fine. As the world continues to change, you’ll continue to change with it. 

“We will learn a lot from this experience, and come out even stronger tomorrow.”
Pilar Schenk, Vice President of Global Sales Operations, McAfee
 

More Resources

 
Demo Video

How High Velocity Sales Drives Efficient Virtual Sales

Demo Video

How Salesforce Maps Optimizes Your Territories

Webinar

How to be a Trusted Advisor For Your Clients When Everything Has Changed

 
 

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