If the current context seems a little gloomy, with each member of the team working at home, we have decided to seize this moment and focus on the essentials. At Plezi, this involves reevaluating everything that makes up the company – where we came from, our fundamental building blocks – our identity.
By going out of our way to use this added time we’ve managed to find ways to reinforce and grow together, even if we are physically apart and even if we miss each other (already)!
We asked our Inside Sales Manager, Claire Kilic to give us her point of view on the last few weeks and how to encourage the sales team when everything seems to stop.
In this article, we’ll go through:
- Advice to reassure and strengthen the internal team
- How to adapt your sales approach to your prospects
- Our results dealing with the current context.
Let’s not mention “he-who-must-not-be-named”. It’s the reason why most start-ups and small companies went from normal activity to almost nothing overnight. It’s a name that’s on everyone’s lips, in every email, all over the news and has paralysed and invaded our lives completely.
However, the world does go on, and while our normal working lives may have been reduced to zero, it is a period of massive change. After the shock comes the change and we are seeing that all around us.
Our day to day life in sales is never straight-forward. We’re already used to slow-periods and the moment when work doubles or triples, without always knowing why. Our job, because we are constantly in touch with our prospects, is to be able to adapt and change.
Let’s not kid ourselves though, this moment is a real challenge! As the weeks go on, we are finding a new and viable working method, that is less difficult than it was a few weeks ago.
So, let’s discuss honestly how this period has affected our work in a time like no other and, also, our results. How do you actually ‘limit the damage’ and encourage your sales teams in difficult times? Three words, measure, reassure and readjust.
1. The team: motivation and listening
The team’s cohesion and confidence is at the heart of the machine. With our day to day life massively impacted, in lockdown and isolated, how do we communicate and keep our energy as a team? We tried the same approach as with our prospects: to see, understand and adjust.
1.1 Take the time to talk to each other and start new projects
First of all, we took the time to listen to each other. By setting aside time to speak to each member of the team, I could better understand their fears and feedback.
Since working from home, we’ve put certain things in place:
- a team meeting for 15 minutes at the end of each day to share our thoughts, feelings and what meetings have been put in place.
- a one-to-one meeting to make sure everything is going well to quickly spot a drop in morale.
Thanks to this feedback, we rapidly put in place a new approach so the sales team could communicate better with prospects in these new circumstances. In a presentation called “Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine” I compiled a set of arguments, which I will go in to below.
The most important thing during these moments is to convey optimism. Teams need to feel that they can achieve their results and continue to move forward, otherwise, nothing will work as you want. This is why we have set daily goals and celebrated any victory.
As the weeks have gone on, we’ve spaced out those daily talks, to let the team breathe, but I am always available for meetings with my team when the need arises.
We also started new projects in groups of two, redesigning our offers, rethinking our meetings, benchmarking, cleaning up our CRM… we can take advantage of the moment to engage the team in things that will have a long-term impact.
1.2 Strengthen the link with marketing
At Plezi, we are very aware of how we work and have done everything to ensure that working from home doesn’t leave us feeling isolated. We have always had a strong link with marketing and we continue to do so, particularly concerning leads and how they are managed.
Our work in this area has paid off during this difficult period. It’s due to the close alignment between sales and marketing that we can react very quickly. It is also thanks to our inbound marketing that we have incoming leads, but I will come back to this later.
1.3 Adapt the tools to the situation
Our tools haven’t radically altered, but we rely more on some than we did before. Video calls have become a fundamental part of our everyday lives and we communicate more on slack due to not being with each other.
We’ve also been making sure we can target our calls to mobile numbers, rather than landlines in order to get in touch with prospects.
2. For our prospects, new methods and approaches
An unprecedented situation, calls for unprecedented methods. We know very well that our prospects’ lives have been affected in one way or another and that affects our relationship. We wanted prospection to become empathetic to call companies in a more strategic way.
2.1 The first week: let the storm pass
The first week for our teams was complicated, especially for the Inside Sales (which are the first link in the chain – they qualify our leads). Our sales team found themselves dealing with people who were facing difficult times – uncertainty, unemployment, illness…
So, at first, we reduced the sales pressure that we applied. Secondly, when contacting prospects, we listened to how the situation was impacting them, got feedback and tried to take in the shock of the first two weeks, so we could reorientate our strategy.
2.2 Begin again and with empathy
Thanks to the feedback from the team, we changed our commercial approach. By discussing what was happening with us – sharing our experiences – we let our prospects know that we understood what they were going through.
This became the pillar of our sales approach, listening and empathy. Here are more details:
- to gather and give positive energy, by encouraging the sales team to take care of themselves and their own feelings in order to better transmit positive vibes to our prospects (dynamism and smiling are a the core of this profession. As we say: “energy is contagious, either you affect people or you infect them! ”.
- above all, don’t try to take advantage of the situation in any way.
- let prospects understand that we know it is a difficult moment for budgets or strategic decisions, but that a conversation can help prepare for the future.
- on the contrary – persuade prospects that now is the right time to ask bigger questions and look at things more in-depth.
- legitimize our presence, share best practice that we have implemented internally, the choice of our communications whether that is a webinar, online events, articles etc.
By selecting the right type of business sector and approaching prospects with tact and empathy, we were able to renew the dialogue and have real, constructive conversations.
2.3 Don’t get discouraged
Most of all we didn’t want our salespeople to become discouraged. While so many sectors have been affected by the crisis, many are still active and we didn’t want to be paralyzed by the situation.
Many B2B companies have continued their work from home. Certainly, some are new to it and don’t have the same discussions they would in an office. That’s why we still reach out to our prospects and have been keeping a positive attitude throughout.
To constantly link everything to the current crisis, leads to a downward spiral – no one answers, so don’t try to contact them etc. Many of our prospects have taken advantage of the time to look into long term projects and ask themselves more questions. Supporting them during this period creates a great bond.
3. Our results
After a few weeks of putting this new approach into practice, what provisional results can we see. Of course, we don’t know what the future will bring, but we do have encouraging feedback. acquisitions that have paid off, prospects with ambitious ideas, and a sales team who kept their energy and nerve, while learning to adapt during a difficult time.
3.1 An effective marketing strategy
It is the continuation of our inbound marketing strategy that keeps us afloat when the sales team cannot be as effective as normal and all events have been cancelled.
In fact, we have seen an increase in our marketing leads and the reason is simple: lots of people are taking advantage of this period to keep an eye on what’s going on. Our content, articles, webinars and advice are bearing fruit, and there are many prospects who come to us through this content.
3.2 Prospects who want to start ambitious new projects
At first glance, this figure may seem stage, but our conversion rate in terms of sales is actually higher than before the crisis. Proof that those people who are motivated and engaged with their issues won’t just sit on it.
While the moment is complicated, many of our prospects have realised that digital marketing is a priority now, more than ever, and they have shown real motivation in engaging with us.
Some comments from our SDR’s (Sales Development Representatives) :
“A prospect said to me, if it hadn’t of been for the crisis, he would hae called in six months time!”
“I made a call with a prospect that went very well. We were going to speak again in June, but they came back much earlier. They said that management was aware of the need to move forward quickly, with inbound and digital marketing, that it had their support and budget.”
3.3 A motivated team finding its rhythm
This is the main point for us, and seeing it on track is reassuring. Our team, tight and motivated, took the plunge and adapted brilliantly. Our new processes and habits help maintain a close tie.
We are continuing to add extra challenges, such as different targets and rewards for the sales team while their targets change and adapt with the time. This too, adds to their motivation, gives short term goals with real rewards and a different victory each day.
The moment we’re living through, whether we pronounce its name or not, has affected our daily lives more than ever. To not discuss it is a mistake, but to let it overtake us is also wrong. Thanks to the support of the whole Plezi team, together we managed to stay motivated. At Plezi, we know what we must do: to keep the sales effort up and to adapt, it is also to make sure our entire business is affected as little as possible by circumstances we can’t control.
And you, have you managed to keep the sales team going while being in lockdown? What strategies have you implemented? How do you see the future? Let’s talk about it!
Inside Sales Manager