The New Lean Sales Paradigm

David Bauders

David Bauders
CEO, SPARXiQ

The economy that emerges post-COVID-19 will be different from the one we once knew, and companies want to protect revenue and control costs. One key area of business to immediately refine is sales. Refine is the operative word here because your sales force owns the relationships that ultimately generate revenue. For this reason, sweeping cuts to the sales team might not be the answer, despite the actions of some companies in this economic climate.

“Lean sales” is the new norm for many companies, requiring that they deliver customers what they need and protect relationships in the most efficient way possible. Lean sales is a change in mentality and a paradigm shift from the way many companies traditionally structure their sales organization. This serves as a playbook your sales force can consistently execute to protect and add economic value to the most important customer relationships.

Smart-Size Your Sales Force with a Lean Mentality

Companies are scaling down their large sales teams to smaller ones, largely due to changing buyer behavior and as a response to the COVID-19 economy. Customers now handle 85 percent of business contact without even interacting with another human. Changes in buyer behavior require new ways of selling, which require new mindsets, skills, processes and tools. 

Is your sales team the right size for today and the right fit for tomorrow? Having a future-ready team must be top of mind as companies shift from in-person sales to virtual meetings. This shift is an adjustment for many sales reps who are used to being in the field. Eye contact, handshakes and conversing over lunch have given way to Zoom video conference calls. We can’t understate the magnitude of this change and some salespeople may not adapt easily. They will need different DNA and different competencies.  

Is your sales team the right size for today and the right fit for tomorrow?

The change in the buyer-seller relationship has been happening for some time, but COVID-19 has accelerated it significantly. This presents an opportunity to finetune your sales structure. As your company takes steps in reducing sales team members, as many are, consider your top performers and how you’ll attract the next generation of sales talent. Once you hire them, how can you cost-effectively train and develop salespeople if some of the social distancing practices continue as long-term cultural norms?

Companies must keep these considerations in mind as they seek to do more with less when it comes to their sales organization. Downsizing to a team of sellers that aren’t equipped for today’s sales realities would be a significant misstep and could impair growth as the economy recovers.

Do you have the right salespeople on the bus, in the right seats, to drive revenue in the new economy?

Beyond having the right sales team, it’s important to equip them for success and enable them to deliver value to your customers beyond what your product does on its own. Remember how 85 percent of customer interactions aren’t even involving human interaction? If customers can find the information they need and make a purchase without a salesperson, they do exactly that. When salespeople are involved, it’s critical that they deliver more than just technical product information and the ability to purchase. This requires business acumen, skills training, relationship management and effective coaching from your managers.

SPARXiQ is here to help, whether you are working to smart-size your team with the right salespeople or develop your sellers to be future-ready. Click here to learn more about our various sales talent development solutions.

Build Competitor-Proof Customer Relationships

Sturdy and secure relationships lead to better business and help a company survive trying times like these. We all know customer relationships are important, but can your sales force identify which are the strongest and which need more work? There are affirming behaviors to observe from customers and actions salespeople can take to start building more valuable relationships with clients.

Our Relationship Quotient sales training program teaches sellers to evaluate relationships with clients and develop the most important ones strategically. In addition to focused efforts to build trust, the relationship development playbook requires an understanding of how value determines buyer decision making. Along these lines, the sellers who will thrive now and in the future will build loyalty by delivering value that aligns with buyers’ goals and challenges.

Delivering this fundamental value to buyers without getting sidetracked by extraneous sales activities is part of the lean sales approach. This is one example of how lean sales processes boost productivity beyond eliminating waste. Having a smaller sales team doing the same bloated sales approaches can only reduce your revenue opportunity. Instead, the smaller sales team that is focused on the right activities can actually deliver growth with a smaller payroll. Lean thinking begins with what the customer wants and works backwards from there.

Predicting the Unpredictable

Think about the post-COVID-19 economy and what sales will look like. As with any cultural transformation, people will have learned new behaviors (and habits) that will shape the new economy in long-lasting ways, both in terms of how buyers buy and how sellers sell.

Flattening the COVID-19 curve is working, but it’s making the economic fallout and potential recovery difficult to predict. We live in a new world that the military has coined VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Forward-thinking companies are making moves to position themselves for the growth to come once the VUCA environment settles down. Some of these adjustments, like expense control, are predictable. Expense control is necessary but likely not sufficient to solve a company’s challenges. New approaches to revenue generation are necessary.

The big question is, how can companies make agile revenue-producing decisions to go beyond cash preservation and expense control? Revenue can be difficult to predict and manage and the modern buyer’s preferences were already changing before COVID-19. Do you have a revenue protection plan in place?

The right internal evaluation and analytics can ensure you have a lean, future-ready sales force. Looking toward an eventual rebound, how will your sales team learn new skills to adapt to modern buying processes? How will your sales team become more knowledgeable at a lower training cost?

SPARXiQ offers tools and resources can help you answer these questions. If you’d like to chat, let us know.

To learn more about lean sales and protecting revenue amid the COVID-19 economy (and the recovery to come), check out the recording from our webinar with AchieveNext here.