Jim Peduto

In the wake of the coronavirus' unprecedented impact, our clients are repeatedly asking two questions: "What is the long-term impact on my business?" and "How can we position ourselves to emerge from the crisis with a competitive advantage?"

The coronavirus' economic devastation is unlike anything we've ever experienced before, so there is no playbook. However, the lessons learned from other economic collapses are clear.

Weak salespeople will be revealed

Selling has become an order of magnitude more difficult than it was just six months ago. For over 10 years, your sellers have been working in an environment of positive economic news and price increases. That ended when the virus arrived. The wind is no longer at their back. Add to that the fact that buyers in a slowing economy have increased power. That means more pricing pressure, which weak salespeople have always had trouble handling.

Salespeople will need to sell consultatively to survive. Transactional salespeople will struggle. As we have repeatedly said in this column, fewer than one in five salespeople have the skills to sell consultatively.

Selling will be different

Before the pandemic, two out of three distributor customers indicated that they preferred four or fewer face-to-face meetings per year with a salesperson. Three months of Zoom meetings have hammered home how little value most face-to-face interactions are. Your team must be able to sell remotely in order to survive. You might think your team has so much expertise that people want to see you no matter what. Think again. That mindset is contrary to every piece of research and the realities of market forces. Face-to-face selling will always matter, but so will the ability to sell remotely.

The natural tendency is to look at the economic climate and accept rationalizations. You need to be brutally honest. This is a perfect time to focus on your revenue engine. You cannot cut your way to greatness. You will need to grow. "Hunkering down" is a reaction, not a strategy.

The coronavirus is giving many firms the illusion that they are busy. The question is, how well will your team be positioned when you put out all the fires?

What can you do? Begin by looking at your sales force and answering these questions:

1. Can your existing salespeople execute your strategies to accelerate growth in the current environment?

2. Can your salespeople generate more new business?

3. Can they sell more with a lower cost of sales?

4. Do we have the right salespeople in the right roles?

5. Which of your salespeople can learn to sell consultatively instead of being commoditized?

6. Are your salespeople selling on price? Who can become a value seller?

7. Can your under-performers be saved and what will it take to save them?

8. Do your sales systems and processes support a high-performing sales force?

9. What impact is sales management having on the sales force?

10. Do you have the right sales model? You have the right model if you are growing faster than GDP plus inflation and reducing your selling cost.

11. When was the last time you had a world-class best practice sales evaluation focused on systems and processes, strategies and your people? Not a checklist, not a self-evaluation, but a world-class data-driven evaluation.

You may have had the "right" sales model at one time. However, everything has changed. The competitive landscape is merciless, customers are more informed than ever, and now there are economic headwinds.

Healthcare professionals are unanimous; the steps that you can take to protect yourself from the coronavirus are quite simple. The same is true of inoculating your business from changing business conditions. Begin by checking the health of your sales model. You can start with this free tool: https://knowledgeworx.com/knowledgebase/sales-force-grader/

Jim Peduto is the managing partner and the co-founder of the Knowledgeworx, LLC and is certified in Sales Force Effectiveness. Knowledgeworx is dedicated to working with business owners and CEOs who want to grow revenue and increase profitability. He can be reached at jim@knowledegeworx.com.