Sauga 960 Series – Sales Team Leadership Through Crisis

In our continuing Sauga 960 radio interview series, we tackle sales team leadership in a post-Covid world.

Your Business, presented by David Wojcik, understands business. As the CEO/President of the Mississauga Board of Trade, he focuses on current commercial issues and how they affect entrepreneurs and key executives. 

Listen here:


David Wojcik:                  Tough decisions need to be made in times of crisis, especially when it comes to sales. Sales is the first to suffer in a downturn, and leadership in this area is critical for success. To help us with the conversation is our sales guru, Linda Kern, the founder of the Kern Group. The Kern Group provides a sales growth process and its unique tools for driving sales results, empowering both sales managers and sales representatives to succeed. Linda ensures both parties are listened to, understood and aligned to meet their objectives. Welcome Linda.

Linda Kern:                       Thank you, David.

David Wojcik, Sauga 360

David Wojcik:                  Linda, there are some companies that are doing really well, and some companies have salespeople that most of the time are really out there selling, but they get into a mode right now where they’re selling a product that is in such high demand that they become more or less order takers. We’re not here to talk about that side of the equation, we’re here to talk about the other side of the equation, where salespeople they’re digging and scratching for every single order that can be had. So, how do you keep that sales team motivated that’s trying so desperately hard, but may just not be getting the results that they’re normally used to?

Linda Kern:                       Mm-hmm. I mean, one of the first things I would say about leading a sales team through a crisis situation like we’re in right now is that you’ve got to keep the communication really high and very regular. So, make sure that you’re still conduct, and if you haven’t been conducting sales team meetings, that you begin to conduct sales team meetings on a regular basis. One of the goals of those meetings is to motivate the team, to help them through it. So, the first thing I’d say around motivation is hear them out, ask them how they’re feeling, not just how they’re doing and listen to them. How are their families feeling? How are their families doing? I mean, you really want to get the emotion dealt with when you’re talking with your team. So, you go around the table in a team meeting and you ask everybody how they’re feeling.

The other thing you can do, because it’s tough to know what to do as a sales person during this time, how do you bring a new business that’s not opportunistic or taking advantage of this situation? So, one of the things you can do, which is good in any time is ask for their ideas. What do they think? How do they think that they can continue to add new opportunities and deals to the pipeline, get their input.

David Wojcik:                  Now, we know that when we’re feeling out of sorts on a personal basis, a psychologist will tell us, well do something that feels normal to you. So for a man, it might be, if you’re really feeling out of sorts and you’re feeling something’s not right, you go shave, because it’s something that you do every day, most people, you do every day and it’s something that you do automatically. And it resets your mind. What about in the sales process? Because when we come into a crisis like this, we end up getting thrown off our game. So, what are some things that we can do? Or is that a process that you would recommend for people is to do stuff that’s normal? Do the stuff that you would do every day?

Linda Kern, The Kern Group Inc.

Linda Kern:                       Absolutely. I would say, get up in the morning and stick to your normal morning routine. And at this time, you can take your commuting time, your time it takes you to get to the office and you can add a couple of things. So, some of the people I respect the most that I’ve been talking to during these times have been saying things like, well, I’m meditating in the morning. That’s a stretch for a lot of us in sales, because we are such high energy people that sitting still for five or 10 minutes can be really tough. And this particular fellow sits for an hour, but we can maybe add some just get still practice to our routine. Go for a walk, that’s something that I’ve been doing an awful lot.

But then when you get back from that so-called commuting time to do something for yourself, shower, get dressed, many days throughout this work from home time, I’ve been putting on regular work clothes, especially from the waist up because of all these Zoom meetings I’ve been on, but I’ve actually had days where I’ve put a suit on, because I’m just like, I’m going to step right into it. And then, you establish it’ll be a slightly different routine as I was mentioning using your commuting time. And it may be a slightly different routine, again because salespeople are usually out on the road, a number of them if they’re outside sales, but just find that cadence, find that routine and do your best to stick to it.

And one of the things I would recommend in the morning in terms of setting that routine is come up with three to five things, might be two to three things that you want to accomplish outcomes or results in that day. So yes, you might have a to do list if you’re that kind of person that has all the minutiae of things you’ve got to get done in a day, but come up with outcomes and results, things like I’d really love to book a phone conversation with so and so. I’d really like to try to advance that sale to the next step. I’d really like to prepare the proposal for so and so. Make them end results, not all the little steps that lead up to it. That’s another task. This one is really, I’d like to get these three things accomplished today.

David Wojcik:                  How do you think the sales process, when it comes to meetings is going to change in the post COVID era? Do you think that we’re going to be doing more of the Zoom and the Microsoft Teams meetings or whatever you happen to have? Have we become so used to it and we’ve been forced to become used to it, do you think that will be a tool that will be utilized more afterward or do you think that things will go back to the normal way or whatever that happens to be of face to face meetings?

Linda Kern:                       I’m predicting a hybrid and I’m going to answer this from a glass half full perspective. And by that I mean, I am still going to request face to face meetings. I’m still going to go out and see prospects go out and see clients. I like that, they like that. I mean, the reason that we do it is to show our prospects that we’re willing to take the effort to come out and see them. And I also think that there will be opportunities for us to actually get more meetings when somebody objects to us coming face to face, where we can say, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t we have a 20 minute Zoom call as an initial discussion? And then if we both think that there’s a fit for us to work together, then we can get together after that. What do you think about that?”

And so, that would be the in between stage, and then the least case scenario would have been, or will probably still be the phone. So, you’ll really have three modes of working with clients. Now, the phone, something like a Zoom call and then the face to face meeting. And I would like to see the same number of face to face meetings still happening for the reasons I mentioned, but also let’s turn some of those phone calls into Zoom meetings to make them more impactful. The only thing I’d say six weeks into the COVID crisis is people are getting a little bit of Zoom fatigue, and so you really have to watch that as well, that I’m still having phone calls with people that are either my clients or people that I’m collaborating with on projects. I’m not only having Zoom calls. So, it’s really going to be a hybrid, I think you’ll mix it up and you’ll know which is the right solution for the person you’re talking to.

David Wojcik:                  Well, I know for the initial meeting for me, I do like to see somebody’s face and then I’m okay seeing it on a screen, certainly being able to see somebody in person is a nicer environment, but that could be just me because I’ve been around for so long. When it comes to the sales meeting, should you still continue the sales meetings in a regular fashion just like you did and should they be structured differently?

Linda Kern:                       And do you mean, when you say sales meeting, do you mean with a prospect or a sales-

David Wojcik:                  No, sorry, this is with the team now. Sales leadership, having the sales meetings with the team, should it be structured the same, or should we be adding something different into it?

Linda Kern:                       I would still, when you’re having a sales meeting with your sales team, I think that you still need to keep the structure fairly simple or fairly much the same, is what I mean here. So, if you had monthly or biweekly sales team meetings, or even weekly sales team meetings, I would recommend during this situation to have them more frequently, I think monthly is not enough right now. Sales people need more direction at this time and it’s changing weekly. So, I’m recommending, and again, it depends on how much change is in your industry, but I recommend engaging with your salespeople as a team every single week, they need your direction. They need your help, they need to be able to tell you how they’re feeling, what’s going on and that type of thing.

And they also need to understand since their sales goals have all been balled up into a crumpled piece of paper and thrown in the corner like one of my clients said, they also need to know, well now what? Not only what is my resulting goal should it be now, but also what should I be doing on a weekly basis, on a daily basis? Should I still continue to prospect? And that will depend on the business that they’re in, but they need to know from their sales manager, what they should be doing, what those days should look like, how much should they be engaging with existing customers? What does prospecting look like right now?

And that’s a question I’m getting from a lot of people here we are week six, how do I now turn … Okay, I’ve controlled my costs, I’ve turned everybody to remote workers. I’ve done some layoffs. Okay, now I’ve got to look at sustaining or starting to rebuild. And so, they need to understand that.

David Wojcik:                  We’ve been in conversation with Linda Kern, from the Kern Group. Linda, thanks so much for being with us.

Linda Kern:                       It’s my pleasure as always David, I hope to see you soon.

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