Crisis sales plan: an essential strategy | Sunday Observer

Crisis sales plan: an essential strategy

12 December, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent enduring recession have caused business bankruptcies, higher debt piles, tighter financial burdens, and lower revenues throughout the world. In Sri Lanka, specifically, micro, small, and medium-sized businesses that have provided the highest contribution to the overall economy were the hardest hit sector. While most large organisations are on the verge of recovery rapidly, smaller businesses are still struggling to get back on their feet.

Most organisations are still adapting to the new environment. Many businesses are operating without some of the pre-pandemic segments and attempting to invent new offerings for their customers in response to the market changes. In attempts to recover from the crisis, the effectiveness of sales efforts is a must, regardless of the size of the business. Similar to the customers’ response on how to re-approach the sellers, sales teams also must readjust and realign their strategies.

It has become clear that the country will not be back to ‘business as usual’ anytime soon. At the initial stage, changes in the sales environment brought on by the pandemic were viewed as temporary adjustments. Everyone presumed to commute to offices, visits to customers, face-to-face meetings will resume in a short time. That was the experience of the world in most of the previous pandemic situations.

On the contrary, in Covid-19, in a few months after the breakout, the virus proved that it is here to stay indefinitely until either the world finds a permanent cure. Hence, companies need to settle into the current status of new normal and shift focus to new sales strategies. For any organisation that has not yet concentrated on new approaches, it is time to systematically update to meet the renewed competition.

Product standards

As businesses emerge from the pandemic crisis, clarity about new customer buying patterns and behaviour must be focused on and more effective sales metrics have to be utilised. The product standards seem to have changed and buyer choices and demands on quality and pricing also visibly have changed during the past many months.

Therefore, companies that fail to respond adequately will face graver challenges to survive the newly emerged aggravated market conditions. Businesses need to take a fresh look at their sales models. This includes rebuilding customer selection criteria, segmentation, new products, and so forth.

Any business that relies on direct sales to bring in revenue must update the sales effort to suit the ongoing conditions. This means devising and implementing a crisis sales plan. Placing sales at the centre stage, leveraging sales to discover new needs, improve customer experience, and prove safety by adhering to health guidelines should be the key elements in a crisis sales plan. The timeline that must be considered is for an extended period because, according to health experts, the pandemic threat is not likely to be over soon.

Companies have no option but to continue selling even in the worst crisis to survive. However, depending on the severity and nature of the crisis, an effective and aggressive crisis sales plan can even better the performance in the long run. All it needs is an adjustment to the pre-pandemic plan if such a thing has existed.

If not, a whole new sales action plan can be prepared with new inputs from the market.

First and foremost, the planning team (ideally including the entire sales team) must identify the type and the scope of the crisis to determine the best response. As the ongoing emergency is global and indefinite, the plan must be medium to long-term. The current crisis is not merely a global health emergency, but is an enormous financial disaster.

Crisis sales plan

The type and duration of the crisis will help guide the best and most appropriate responses, modifications, communication strategies, and suitable messages to the potential customers. The changes planned for the sales drive must be done keeping in mind that the crisis sales plan will severely impact all company’s operations. Hence, a multidisciplinary approach is required with the involvement of other departments as well.

Communication, internal and external, is critical during and after a crisis. Revamping the communication strategy must include all stakeholders in the new communication effort. A proper channel must be opened for the sales team, all other company employees, suppliers, and customers. Particularly, keeping the customers and prospects informed about the possible new changes, adjustments, benefits and other important areas is essential.

Mere completion of the plan and initial implementation alone is not sufficient. A crisis action plan has to be refined after putting it into practice.

It is critical to continuously assess the effectiveness of the actions recommended, throughout the crisis.

Managements must bear in mind that crises are dynamic events that can change day by day or perhaps hour by hour. The experience with the Covid-19 shows that the emergence of new variants with different forms and different hazards is completely unpredictable. Therefore, constant and continuous monitoring and making adjustments as necessary are required for the crisis plan.

Irrespective of the accuracy of the information, the precision of strategies, or the sensibleness of the plan, it is the sales team that ultimately is the frontline for bringing in revenue. Hence, it is extremely critical to keep the sales team members focused and motivated throughout the crisis. By nature, salesmen are impulsive and can easily be de-motivated when their day-to-day work is forcefully disrupted.

Communication

Continuous lockdowns, travel restrictions, strict health guidelines, and more importantly, refusal of face-to-face meetings can discourage sales team members. The current scenario is not a normal occurrence where sales practitioners can push their way in as usual. They are forced to slow down standard selling activities. Therefore, effective and plentiful communication individually and as a group is extremely vital to keep the team inspired. The sales leader, therefore, have an added responsibility and accountability to drive their teams through the crisis.

The customers themselves are in a different mindset at this moment.

A good strategy to follow is to make sure about the actual situation about the business category the customer belongs to. Through the internet, it is not difficult to research a specific category before communicating with them.

The laws and rules related to selling that was there for many years will not change because markets are coming out of the pandemic. Sales people still need to find ways to attract and qualify prospects, perhaps more than what they did before the pandemic. The difference in approach is to uncover the new issues of the customers more meaningfully and provide distinctive and tailor-made solutions whenever possible. Even when working remotely, the sales team members need to focus on the right activities.

As the economy reopens, the sales team should consider the pandemic as an opportunity provided to them. If the communication drive is effective, the customers with new needs will appear requesting diverse solutions from reliable business entities. Hence, if the credibility of the organisation is established suitably well through an efficient crisis sales action plan, customers and prospects will approach such businesses plentifully.

A crisis plan is created to face a dynamic and critical situation. The challenges confronted are most often more severe than in normal times. Hence, the crisis plan prepared and implemented can produce better results even after the crisis ends because the energy went into planning and implementation.

A crisis can alter market conditions permanently. Approach to competition and the methods of selling can be different from what it was. Therefore, instead of reverting to the standard plan that existed previously, doing adjustments to the crisis plan can produce better results. 

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