I read a great book recently from NYU business professor Scott Galloway about how the markets are shifting due to the Coronavirus.

In “Post Corona”, Galloway notes that COVID-19 is behaving like an accelerant to existing market conditions, rather than triggering any wild change of its own. I don’t agree with everything Galloway says, but I thought this “accelerant” theory was an interesting observation. It is fairly well supported by what we have observed at Reconciled.

As I dug deeper into what was going on, to nobody’s surprise, some industries were clearly benefiting from the pandemic and our societal reaction. Just as many businesses were the opposite. They were hit hard by operation restrictions, limiting revenue generation, or driven out of business completely. 

What caught my eye though, is the handful of businesses that were doing better than expected, outliers in an otherwise hard-hit industry. Equally fascinating were the businesses that seemed primed for success that were struggling. They labeled themselves as victims and COVID-19 as the boogeyman. Here are five observations of what successful sales teams are doing to be successful during this time of pandemic, and what their counterparts are failing to do:

Don’t Pivot. Instead, Broaden.

The word “pivot” has been beaten so dead in the last 12 months that I’m not even sure I’m pronouncing it right anymore. The idea has merit. If people don’t buy the same way anymore, then we need to pivot our approach/product/message to remain relevant.

From what we’ve seen work, it’s not so much the pivot that’s helping successful sales teams, but an overall broadening of their approach. Just because people might not buy your product the way they used to, doesn’t mean you need to throw it out.

While COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, it hasn’t affected everyone in every way. This means that your old product, service, and strategy may be largely relevant, and instead of replacing it, you simply need to cast a wider net. The strongest businesses through the pandemic have broadened their offering, and stopped dismissing clients outside of their “target market.” Now is not the time to be picky. When you pivot completely, you bet the farm on your assumptions. When you broaden, you open yourself up to new revenue streams so you can play into your strengths. 

Collaborate

Another thing we’re seeing in successful businesses is an increase in collaboration. At Reconciled, we have definitely embraced this. We are co-hosting webinars, co-writing blog posts, co-sponsoring events, and making referrals and introductions. Anything that allows us to work together with our clients and partners is on the table. The outcome is a community of businesses that are in a state of constant cross-promotion. The strength in numbers is something you cannot ignore. With each collaboration comes momentum that can push you into your next deal, partnership, or sales call.

Get Aggressive

The companies that are holding strong right now are not focused on “hunkering down” and staying the course. Most of the companies that experienced growth during the start of the pandemic were already in pursuit of growth. When the virus arrived, it didn’t put out their fire but instead put gasoline on it. Almost overnight, the rules were changing, the competition was rattled, and the playing field was leveled for everyone.

Any company with the agility and a growth mindset saw this as an opportunity to catch up to or even dominate the competition. Small, young, and successful sales teams suddenly had the advantage. Teams who benefited were the ones who could broaden their offering quickly. They could get new products and services downstream quickly, and disseminate new remote work protocols quickly. Those who got shakey lagged. Before they got their footing, they were already being lapped by the competition.

Trim the fat

I am always an advocate for evaluating your recurring expenses against your current need, but the pandemic created an opportunity for trimming the fat. It was leveraged by those who were paying attention. If you had a bad lease deal or subscription service under contract, COVID-19 was a great excuse to get out of it. Strong companies went through the line items and asked themselves if they could do without. It gave them a little extra cash flow on the front end of this to play the game. Add in the benefit of the PPP money, and conditions for growth were arguably better than ever.

Control the fear

Lastly, the businesses with a positive reaction to the virus managed fear carefully. They acknowledged the unpredictability of the times, but they didn’t look at things with gloom and doom. This is especially true for the sales teams that supported them. Sales psychology carries with it so much self fulfillment that at times, it makes me nauseous.

The leadership of these organizations that prevailed emitted confidence. That confidence, no doubt, trickled down to their teams, to their clients, and their revenue. Nobody wants to do business with a firm that may not be around long enough to fulfill their end of the deal. If you don’t think you are going to make it, customers can smell that from a mile away. Strong businesses aren’t built on pity sales. Now, that doesn’t mean you ought to hide your struggle. But, it does mean that you need to think about your attitude and how it impacts your team, and your clients in any situation.

Some businesses had things really stacked against them this past year. Little was under their control in certain situations. Certain industries were beaten up over and over again. I feel heartbroken at the thought of some of the entrepreneurs that have struggled through this.

I’ll admit, since the beginning of the pandemic I have worn the hat of the foolish optimist. I still genuinely believe we’re almost out of the woods on this (I admittedly have been saying this since April 2020). There are things to control and if played right, as always, you have the ability to create successful sales teams.

Good luck and happy selling.

Ian Bouchett – Director of Revenue Operations at Reconciled

Ian Joined Reconciled at the beginning of 2018. His experience includes professional business development in banking and finance and being an entrepreneur. Ian enjoys leading Reconciled’s sales, marketing, and revenue programs. He also enjoys working with business owners to improve their operational efficiency and better understand their financial direction.