When I think about what all of us have been going through over the last months this Bob Dylan song comes to mind:
Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam
Admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
And if there is any organization and process that has changed during the crisis, it is sales.
Hannes Scheiflinger, Sales Director at Herold in Austria, noted that one of the biggest changes has been that sales organizations were suddenly confronted with doing business virtually. He stated that “We had to use the technology we ever used before and we had to create new processes around that technology”. Bernhard Lüders, CEO Sutter TBV GmbH agreed. Bernhard also noted that regardless of the great job his sales organization did in transitioning to virtual sales, there are a lot more tools that could use to make sales processes even more efficient. He indicated that we just need to learn how to implement these tools properly. In my opinion, Bernhard is right, we are just beginning to explore the possibilities of the technology available. As we learn how to navigate this new normal, we will better understand how to better use the technologies available.
In conversation, the members of the panel agreed that the discipline, communication and focus of sales teams and management has really improved during the crisis. Joachim Helfer, Managing Director at advantago GmbH & Co. KG commented that this is one of the most positive changes that he has seen. For me, this is no surprise as many times it takes a crisis to make us stand up to the challenge.
Watch the video here (in German)
But regardless if a team is disciplined, has better communication and better focus, it does not matter if you cannot reach the customer, and this has been a challenge. All of our panelists agreed, reaching the customer has been a mixed experience depending on the industry sector. They all agreed that you needed to handle the different sectors differently. The panel mentioned it was not the time to reach out to a bus company that does transport for events or short-term vacations. On the other hand, there are market segments that need the help of digital agencies, Bernhard Lüders noted that being innovative with these market segments is also important. And gave the example of Sutter’s www.bestell-lokal.de App. This App helps restaurants with the delivery of take out, and it promotes continued customer loyalty for Sutter with the companies they survey in this market segment.
Audience polls are always telling, and in an audience poll during the panel, 50% of the listeners said they are maintaining their customer base, and 40% said that they have a loss of only 5%. Max Eggenberger, Chief Sales Officer, Member of Executive Board at localsearch noted that one of the challenges with existing customers is that some SMB’s were not prepared to do business virtually, they were not equipped for the digital world. But despite this, Max said that his company was proactive in reaching out to their customer base, and this proved to be an affirmative action.
Concerning new business, everyone agreed they were experiencing slow growth. Still, with flexibility on payments, allowing product and service tests as well as giving something away that does not cost their company much, you can continue to grow. These actions can help a company build a basis of new customers.
But in the end, although programmatic is continuing to grow, we need salespeople, especially in the SMB space. Regardless if it is in person, on the phone and or with a shared screen in the virtual world, we need them. The most significant concern from the audience participants was keeping sales people motivated. Over 50% indicated that is what keeps them up at night. So how do you do this? The group agreed through communication, the right compensation system, communication, communication and communication ( this is not a typo). Why is communication so important, if you think about it, even with the right compensation system, you will not motivate anyone if it is not appropriately communicated.
Last, all panel participants in LOCALCOMM Virtual this past week, said another critical factor for success was speed. Therefore-
“Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin’.” Bob Dylan
- Joachim Helfer, Managing Director at advantago GmbH & Co. KG
- Hannes Scheiflinger, Executive in Sales Management, Herold
- Max Eggenberger, Chief Sales Officer, Member of Executive Board at localsearch
- Bernhard Lüders, CEO Sutter TBV GmbH