As sales organizations prepare to resume business operations, Gartner, Inc. has identified three key workstreams to help respond to, and prepare for, a rebound in sales post COVID-19 quarantine. CSOs around the globe are taking decisive action to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 crisis by implementing innovative practices, driving change to address the unique challenges and re-thinking the future of business.
“Organizations that quickly adapt to this new normal of uncertainty, helping make sense of the market dynamics and driving a market narrative, will see a host of benefits,” said Nick Toman, chief of research for the Gartner Sales practice. “Well-developed but flexible plans that help the business evolve, to shifts in customer behaviors, and related impacts on sales team morale will be critical in providing clearer points of engagement for customers, partners and sales teams alike.”
A Gartner poll of 38 CSOs on May 7, 2020 revealed that more than 60% of senior sales leader respondents believe they will reopen offices and resume pre- COVID-19 business operations by June 2020. To do this, Gartner research shows leading sales organizations are focusing on three key workstreams to help respond and adapt to COVID-19 disruption:
Optimize Cost Savings with an Eye Toward Rapid Recovery
Increasing operational efficiencies is the number one priority for many business leaders, particularly CSOs who continue to report demand indicators are softening. Sales leaders should partner with finance to create and continually revisit quarterly revenue impact scenario plans. CSOs must make clear their market re-engagement plans, highlighting necessary shifts in digital commerce, virtual selling, and digital marketing spend to their executive teams. Cost-cutting should avoid these areas, even if that means reducing near-term sales capacity.
Revise Customer Engagement Strategies
There has been a tectonic shift toward digital channel buying as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and sales organizations need to rethink their customer engagement strategies to focus on a more omnichannel approach. Despite this, another Gartner poll of 80 CSOs on March 26, 2020 revealed that only 24% of senior sales leaders have conducted an audit of their digital buying experience from the customer’s vantage point.
“Sharing data-rich sales presentations, intended for face-to-face, lengthy meetings with customers is a losing proposition right now. Leading sales organizations are rethinking how to drive and build customer consensus, and not simply waiting for face-to-face selling to happen again,” said Mr. Toman.
Sales leaders must assess gaps in digital content, buying aides/tools, virtual demo capabilities, etc. to better leverage the opportunity to help buyers evaluate decisions and align customer stakeholders digitally.
Maximize Seller Productivity
While many have already set up and are maintaining remote work environments for sellers, sales leaders must now plan for how they will retool the sales force for a rapid rebound. Sales leaders must focus sales skill building efforts on guiding buyers and leading with insights, reissue sales playbooks with focus on selling virtually, and shift sales manager focus exclusively toward supporting sellers.
“Sales managers have been an afterthought in this crisis, but focusing their energy on immediate commercial support is perhaps the greatest productivity lever a CSO has,” said Mr. Toman. “As a result, this will require sellers to be prepared for more strategic and empathetic sales conversations with customers.”
Additional information is available to Gartner for Sales Leaders clients in the report "Next Steps for Sales Leaders After the Initial COVID-19 Disruption," “Bi-Weekly Update: CSO Response to COVID-19 (4 May 2020)” and “Bi-Weekly Update: CSO Response to COVID-19 (18 May 2020).” Learn more about how to lead organizations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center, a collection of complimentary Gartner research and webinars to help organizations respond, manage, and prepare for the rapid spread and global impact of COVID-19.
About Gartner for Sales Leaders
Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement. Follow news and updates from the Gartner Sales Practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerSales.