Selling in Uncertain Times

What Does Sales Enablement Do During Our Current COVID-19 Situation?


Another crazy week. Companies are reeling from the news. Continuity plans are being deployed. Sales teams are rallying around their customers.

The chaos from the last 2 weeks mean big changes for sales enablement. For all the talk, the bread and butter of many enablement teams is live training - SKOs, boot camps, product launches. With those on hold, sales enablement needs to refocus and re-prioritize on things that matter right now.

To be clear, we’re in the middle of a crisis, with many big and important things going on in our world. But as Winston Churchill famously said, “Never waste a crisis.”

A crisis brings opportunities. And this is true for enablement teams charged with supporting the livelihoods of so many reps. The needs of the field are increasing, not decreasing. 

Now more than ever, sales organizations need smart and practical enablement. Are you ready to deliver?

Here are 4 immediate priorities for sales enablement teams:

1. Air Traffic Control – This new environment has turned the noise level up to 11. The uncertainty of the market is leading to a deafening volume of internal communications. And they’re coming at the field through all channels – Slack, Chatter, email, text, calls, Zoom calls, webinars. Sales enablement needs to take control:

  • Manage the communication – Now is the time to wrangle your communications to ensure the volume is manageable and the message is on-point. Also make sure the right message is being delivered to the right audience. Enough with broadcast updates on everything to everyone.
  • Translate leadership messages to the field – Translate the key corporate talking points into the lens of a rep. Inspirational talk of resiliency and support is one thing. But that message sounds tone-deaf when your clients are canceling or you haven’t closed a deal in a few weeks.


2. Deal & Customer Triage – Every opportunity is being scrutinized. Every key account is getting the microscope treatment. We’re seeing buyers flock to safety and decision processes are in flux. Approvals for even relatively minor deals are elevating to the C-suite. Overall, there’s a major move to cash conservation and non-essential spending cuts. As a result, the ROI bar is getting higher and the timeline for return is getting shorter. Enablement must give sellers the messages and tools to navigate this reality:

  • Level-up executive approval content & messages – If you've historically sold to IT Managers, your content needs to speak to CFOs. If you sold to CFOs, you need CEO and Board of Director messages.
  • Deal fall-back points – Identify points of resistance in your deals and proactively provide guidance. Is it price? Timing? Scope of solutions? Help your reps adapt quickly, as the deal landscape seems to change daily. Cash is king right now, so think twice before losing on price.

3. Proactive Program Development – Seems crazy we know, but hear us out. Although times are uncertain, this is the perfect time to build next-level programs. The pandemic will pass, and when it does, things will likely come back in a fury. There will be unmet demand. New talent in the labor market. And money will still be cheap. The winning sales organizations will be those who are prepared to move quickly. Enablement’s job is to look on the horizon and get ahead. Here’s how:

  • Virtual training conversion – The move to distance training was coming on strong before recent events. Now it's going to explode. Use this period to convert your training into world-class virtual content. To get this right, you'll need a more dynamic learner experience (much more than voice-over-slideware). You'll also need a system of reinforcement and stronger offline coaching tools, all integrated into the training.
  • New training for the current environment – Selling through uncertain times means your sales team must think and act differently. Dealing with ambiguity, changing market conditions, and internal noise requires a much more adaptive rep. We’re partnering with many organizations to build these types of programs right now. The immediate ROI is dramatic. (contact us to learn more)
  • Re-imagined playbooks – Remember that playbook you wanted to build but never got around to it. Now’s the time to focus on high-impact sales tools like adaptive playbooks. Take advantage of new digital playbook strategies to elevate rep adoption.

4. Sales Manager Enablement – Rally around the front-line manager. This role is feeling even more pressure than usual. They’re getting pulled by reps and customers, but also being pushed by leadership. How you can help:

  • Actionable data – Sales performance data is changing… fast. Trend analyses and dashboards aren’t all that useful right now. Help managers focus on the most critical KPIs. Cull down the barrage of push reporting into a set of actionable insights. Managers also need your help in simplifying their sales cadence: stand-ups, forecast calls, account reviews, etc. 
  • Best practice interventions – Pull together the front-line manager team and facilitate best practice sharing. What are rep strategies and interventions seem to be working in a time like this? Collect this intel, synthesize, and distribute it back to the field in a concise format.

Above All, Find Ways to Connect and Inspire

These are difficult times for everyone – personally and professionally. Use this period to show empathy and strengthen connections with leaders and the field. If your team is typically holed up being reactive to new requests, proactively engage the field. Everyone in sales enablement should have a list of reps they can call individually. Pick up the phone and check-in. Hear directly about their day-to-day challenges.

Authentic one-on-one connections pay off in many ways: You’re providing value by listening, coaching, and - ideally - serving as another motivational voice. You’re also strengthening relationship that you can leverage in the future to support your work. Finally, you’re taking a ‘pulse check’ on reality. This first-hand insight is invaluable.

Making It Happen This Week

A simple question we ask in our family everyday is: are you helping or are you hurting? Today’s environment is the trigger for sales enablement to step up and prove their mettle. Don’t contribute to the noise and confusion right now with uncoordinated directives. Stay smart, focused, and practical. What’s your action plan for this week?

Contact us for a free virtual workshop to review your plans. We're happy to share other ideas we’re seeing across different markets. Don't forget to read our other recent blogs where we shared advice on leading sales teams in uncertain times and managing comp in this new world. We’re ready to help in any way we can.

About The Author

Author photo Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.

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