The COVID-19 pandemic has meant businesses and sales teams are being tested like never before.

They are facing challenges and uncertainty that could not have been contemplated before the virus hit – and many are facing serious threats to revenue, and even survival.

It’s crucial to support your people to ensure high quantity and quality sales activity during this challenging time as sales professionals, and build relationships that might not yield revenue in the short term but see them thrive as the market rebounds.

So rather than focus purely on revenue, spreadsheets and whiteboarding strategy, Dean Mannix, CEO of SalesITV, suggests sales leaders should be focused on coaching to the needs of their people.

At a recent Michael Page webinar on “Leading Through Adversity for Sales Leaders”, Mannix explored the psychological and emotional hurdles that sales teams are currently experiencing, and how to coach salespeople out of adversity and into customer-focused activity.

He opened the presentation with a challenge to all sales leaders asking them: “What I want you to think about firstly is, what will your COVID-19 leadership legacy be? What will your people and customers say about you once we see the other side of this?

“The reason I say that is because the impact you have on the human beings that you’re managing and have care of right now, is going to be very significant. And we, as leaders, need to make decisions around whether that’s going to be significantly for the better, or significantly for the worst.

“Whether we admit it or not, our people are depending on us because in times of crisis we look to our leaders – for guidance, confidence, energy and everything we need – to be successful as salespeople.”

Mannix said now was the time to lead and coach salespeople. He stressed leaders needed to shift their focus to the human side of the equation.

“You can look at your spreadsheets all you want, and you can hold strategy and planning sessions but the bottom line is, it’s the human beings working for you that are going to get you through the other side of this crisis,” he revealed.

“It’s those human beings and the number of them you can mobilise that will define whether you fail or succeed in the next 3, 6 or 12 months. That’s because when the human needs of your salespeople are met, they perform significantly better. When their needs are not met, it’s significantly less likely they’ll be focused on the needs of your customers and clients.

“So if you don’t understand your salespeople’s needs and don’t have a model for thinking and coaching to them – there’s a high probability you’re coaching the wrong performance drivers – I can guarantee that you’re not realising the potential in your sales people or this situation.”

Sales performance drivers amid COVID-19

In an ideal world, salespeople are focused on meeting their higher-level needs of advancement, contribution and connection.

However, the COVID-19 environment has meant these higher-level needs are not being met and lower-level needs have become more of a focus and priority for salespeople.

Mannix stressed that if leadership style and coaching failed to meet these lower level needs, the impact to performance and engagement was dramatic.

“If all you’re doing is coaching on the top line needs and you’re not focused on helping your salespeople meet their basic needs, the problem isn’t that your people don’t want to advance, contribute and connect but they simply won’t be motivated to step up in this environment,” he said.

“Salespeople have a basic need for choice or control and importance. If they don’t feel in control and they don’t feel recognised they don’t focus on taking care of customers and clients.

“But before those matter, the basic need for certainty needs to be met and every sales leader needs to make coaching certainty and confidence into their people the number one priority.”

Coaching certainty into your salespeople is all about building confidence around what they can and need to achieve, when they can achieve it by, how they should achieve it and why they should trust you as their leader and go the extra mile for the company they work for, Mannix noted.

“If you can promote and coach these needs every day, you’ll have a team that is significantly more likely to be stepping up above the line and achieving everything that you can as a business during this crisis,” he shared.

Poll insights: Sales sentiment

During the webinar, a live poll was conducted where attendees revealed the following insights:

  • 67% have substantially had to adapt their sales process due to COVID-19 restrictions
  • 32% of sales leaders are now engaging their salespeople in a planned or one-to-one conversation on a daily basis
  • 50% believe their salespeople are significantly prepared, skilled and disciplined in relation to the self-management changes as a result of COVID-19
  • 43% don’t know what their hiring intentions are until COVID-19 passes.

Dean Mannix is a global sales performance coach, and CEO and Co-Founder of SalesITV.

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