An executive team sits in front of their computers watching the concerned and, in some cases, confused faces of one another. They have completed the gut-wrenching discussion about who stays and who goes, either permanently or temporarily, to provide some level of liquidity to weather the storm. However, now they stare silently into their webcams, knowing that the cuts might not be enough to keep the lights on if they are unable to continue operations to the point that provides sufficient topline revenue. All with the stark reality of the following:
- Channels – Channels to market are decimated for a period due to social distancing
- Retention – Many large customers are hit hard, and there is concern over whether they will hang on
- Organizational Structure – There is a tattered sales organizational structure as a result of the cuts and furloughs
- Roles and Responsibilities – Holes in the organization, due to cuts, are leaving employees with uncertainty about what to do
- Ideal Customer Profiles – 70% of our prospects and customers that were “ideal profile” last week are no longer viable due to the impact of the crisis on them
It may be either comforting or unsettling to know that companies face these exact same challenges every day. It’s not just “macro events” like 9/11, banking crisis, or COVID-19, but also “market events” and “micro events” that nobody hears about in the news, that drive these difficult circumstances outlined above. How ever it manifests itself, the faces look the same, and the big question for executive leadership teams does not change: “What do we do now?”
Channels to Market
Option 1 – remote sales team, option 2 – remote sales team, and option 3 – remote sales team.
You need to review your customer engagement process and re-evaluate some of the activities that are not realistic with the necessity to maintain social distancing. It is also critical to evaluate the responsibilities attached to each activity and decide who will do it under the circumstances of reduced staff. Everyone will need to wear multiple hats and check their egos.
How you treat your clients that are hit the hardest by this will directly impact the lifetime value you realize from that client. Everything from collections processes to renewal procedures to upsell/cross-sell activities need to be handled with the utmost care. Consider the emotional ramifications of every touchpoint with customers. Additionally, make well-thought-out decisions on how you can invest in helping your clients if your company is in the position to do so. People will remember those moments where you leaned, and in the face of a difficult situation, you will have a loyal customer for life.
Organizational Structure and Roles and Responsibilities
Although the timeframe is not certain, the persistence of the situation with COVID-19 does not feel like an insurmountable long-term setback like it was for the banking crisis of 2008. Executives have varying levels of optimism on how long this will last, but for the most part, it is perceived as “a moment in time”; whether that moment in time is, “close your eyes and count to one” or “close your eyes and count to one 12 times” is up for debate. Whatever the timeline position that is taken on this, plan your organization as a temporary solution to a challenge that has a finite life span. People that have a reduction in capacity in one area of their job can pick up the tasks of another role until normal channels of operation resume and reopen.
Ideal Customers and Prospects
Some of the market segments that you serve may have been hit harder than others. You need to establish the right motions and approach to each of those segments. The ones that were hit harder may be the ones where you have to invest in helping them and lean in as an organization. This moment will pass. What can you do today to help them that will inspire long-term loyalty later on? On segments that were not impacted as profoundly, you should still be very attentive to the emotional narrative and make your approaches to those clients and prospects respectful to the circumstances, even if they are in a healthy enough position to buy your products and solutions. Above all, do not forget that there will be a human toll from this crisis, and some people may have experienced very personal impacts with friends, family, and loved ones. Every person will have a different set of emotions so understanding the ideal market segments is not enough. Your sales teams need to understand the emotions of the buyer, because the company may be in an “ideal market,” but the buyer may not be in an “ideal state of mind.”
These are just a few words of wisdom from people who have faced these “macro events” in the past, and there are plenty of us out there that are willing to help. The faces on the executive teams are familiar, but there are some rapid changes that you can make to weather the storm and come out the other side in a stronger position. Our biggest piece of advice for everyone is just to ask for help. Join our community “Inspire Others” on LinkedIn to continue the discussion and share best practices with your peers to help get through these trying times.