The COVID-19 pandemic left no stone unturned when it came to disrupting industries around the world. Although the pandemic forced some businesses to shutter, it helped others evolve.
Economic disruption forced businesses to pivot — most had no choice if they wanted to stay above water amid a shutdown. The growth of digital sales accelerated at warp speed, accomplishing in six months what would have likely taken six years. Consumers are behaving and purchasing differently, both in business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies. As a result, businesses have adjusted their selling strategies to keep pace and prepare for a new era of sales.
The pandemic’s range of impacts — negative, positive, and everything between — has been vast. Some companies were deemed nonessential and had to cease operations; others benefited from increased demand for specific products and services. For example, Walmart reported nearly 9% in first quarter revenue growth due to increased demand for grocery pickup and delivery services. This situation’s unpredictable nature has put some small businesses in a holding pattern, waiting to quantify the pandemic’s total impact on their operations.
Challenges Faced by Small Business Owners
Whether businesses have been positively or negatively affected, most have been forced to adapt to changing consumer behavior in some way. New customers are waiting to make their first purchases, and returning customers are holding off on reordering.
This situation has paralyzed some companies in fear. They’re hoarding cash and hoping business will return to normal instead of focusing on how business may look different moving forward. This is a disservice to those businesses because everyone will have to learn how to sell differently in a completely changed environment.
On the other hand, future-focused businesses have used this time to reach out to their best customers to see how they are doing — and how they can help support them in a tough time. They have resisted the urge to draw inward and have communicated more with their customers. Most importantly, they’ve given thought to where their company fits into a future that may be vastly different than the one they knew before the pandemic.
How to Respond to a Crisis in Business
When the status quo changes, the “old rules” no longer apply. Old assumptions either need to be validated all over again or changed to fit the new reality. The leaders of small and midsize businesses and growth companies have enough to worry about without trying to get a handle on sales leadership.
In sales, for example, the old assumption was that you had to be face-to-face with a customer for them to buy. COVID-19 quickly proved that assumption to be incorrect. Smart businesses have considered how they need to respond differently to this unknown environment.
In this new world of digital sales, customers gain information through webinars, instructional videos, and online demos — not solely through a salesperson. If your company feels overwhelmed and behind on adapting to this new environment, it may be time to consider sales leadership alternatives. Developing a sales advisory board and finding mentorship opportunities can be great solutions from a strategic standpoint.
If you need tactical help, it may be time to consider hiring a sales consultant. These four questions can help you determine whether that might be the right choice for you:
1. ‘Do I have the sales experience to get our organization where it needs to be?’
As the owner of a business, you have not spent a career in sales leadership and likely have not navigated a crisis from a sales standpoint. A new era of sales requires someone with the experience and technical skills to figure out how to respond to a crisis in business. To help your business evolve with new standards, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your current skill set. Have you weathered sales crises before? Do you have what it takes to lead your team forward?
2. ‘Would I be better off focusing on my core competency?’
If you’re like most business owners, you expect yourself to be an expert at every departmental discipline. In reality, you might be better off focusing on your core competency. It’s more constructive to find someone to run sales who has that as a core competency, freeing you up to focus on what you do best.
3. ‘Do I have the time to be an exceptional sales leader?’
Being a sales leader in title only isn’t enough. You may have the interest and skills, but do you have the time to devote to being a great sales leader? You are called to lead the organization as well as every department. A successful sales leader must have the time for weekly pipeline review meetings with each sales rep and to travel with reps as needed. If that doesn’t fit into your schedule, you might consider hiring a sales consultant.
4. ‘Do I have the right sales infrastructure in place to maximize my sales team’s performance?’
As a business owner, the onus is on you to consider whether your company is set up correctly to get the results you seek. That includes having the right people in the right roles, a CRM customized to your workflows, and a compensation plan that appropriately incentivizes sellers while outlining appropriate KPIs and a defined sales process. You may have the time, desire, and skills to lead a sales team, but do you have the correct sales infrastructure in place to allow for growth?
The pandemic has changed the way the world works — especially how small businesses approach sales. In this new environment, customers are more accustomed to purchasing digitally, and your sales team must be able to pivot to keep up. As a leader, you need to do some soul searching to determine whether you have the time, talents, and resources to lead that charge — or if it makes more sense to outsource your sales leadership by hiring a sales consultant.
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