Advice For VP of Sales In Covid-19 with Richard Smith

by James Ker-Reid - May 18, 2020
Closing The Gap For VP of Sales
Closing The Gap for VP of Sales in Covid-19

Sales for Startups founder and CEO, James Ker-Reid, talks to Richard Smith; co-founder of Refract, a company that helps VP of Sales, Sales Leaders and salespeople to close more deals and optimise their sales efforts with their great conversation intelligence tool. 

Keep reading to see what Richard had to say about VP of Sales in covid-19 and as our CEO and Founder, James Ker-Reid, asks the key questions:

  • With the recent events, with regards to COVID-19, what advice would you give to a VP of Sales to manage, encourage and inspire their sales team right now?

I think encourage and inspire are two keywords there, because I think the easy thing to happen right now is a lot of sales teams are feeling a bit flat, for some industries more than others; their world has been turned upside down in the past two or three weeks. 

I think a lot of VPs of Sales need to be thinking about the positives, where their team can win right now. People need to be inspired about where they should be doubling down. A part of the market Refract targets are sales training and coaching companies; all of their face to face rate has been completely shelved, a lot of their work has dried up, but they still need to find a way to generate income and find new ways to deliver their services online. So we have been saying, let’s just put more focus on those guys, that is where there is more of a compelling need right now. 

I’d like every VP of Sales to think about what is the specific segment that they double down in, triple down on that area and learn quickly. Share the wins even more with the team. We are double celebrating deals because everyone appreciates it. 

One thing we have found that has been a good inspiration is getting serious about daily morning standards. Have those stand-ups and don’t just make them about ‘what we are going to do today’. We have done little things like, last week, we played ‘articulate’ the board game. We had a couple of rounds of that just to get people energised in the morning. It’s about doing something different to get the team together, having a bit of a laugh and getting them focused on the task ahead.

Now is as good a time as ever to invite members of your team to step up and take on additional responsibilities to prove themselves as the future leaders in their team. It’s easy to think as a VP of Sales that you should be the one always driving things and I think when you start to encourage those on the team to use this time, that’s it’s time to step up and take on those responsibilities. It’s amazing. You’ll see in your team the people that are up for a fight and they’ve got something to prove and those who are comfortable always being sat at the back of the room not wanting to speak up. It’s a good time to spot people who are going to be great in the long term.

  • What are some of those sales practices in this current climate that they should be deploying on a day to day/week to week basis?

It’s really important as a VP of Sales that you try and find ways to keep energy as much as possible. Right now for any sales organization, it’s a classic old adage in sales, the best medication for sales problems is just more pipeline. The more stuff you put in there, you will find someone who wants your stuff. People are working from home, your prospects are working from home. We have seen strong connection rates, and with our prospects, we’ve seen people more available; because they’re not tied up in the mental list of that normal day-to-day.

Really keep the focus on pipeline generation. As long as you position your product as a solution to solve their current problems, people are going to pay attention to it. Interestingly I watched a webinar recently, about how over the past three weeks, the value propositions that are resonating significantly more within buyers is about cost savings, not about making money. 

For Account Executives, just a couple of tips and hints that might be quite useful; a lot of the deals that you might have in the pipeline right now may have the brakes put on them. One thing that we found to be really effective is something called a reactivation email. This is to anybody who over the last twelve months, you have in your pipeline, but never bought from you in the end. You can send these sales activation emails; I recommend everybody to create a big long list of people that they have had a good conversation with in the last twelve months. Send them an email that says something really simple, the beauty of this email is the simplicity of it. 

For example, in our case would be; “James, are you still interested in improving the outcome of improving your team sales conversations this year?” The simplicity of that one sentence email, that question, it’s not saying; James, are you still interested in refract, it’s getting that person to think back to the problem they made you aware of twelve months ago that they didn’t take action on. Because it’s a simple email that they’ve received, it’s a very easy email for them to respond to.

Some of those people may say no not right now, but in that batch you like to think there are people who will say actually now might be a better time because things have changed. So there’s just quick wins there ultimately, you’ve got people sat in your CRM (customer relationship management) you’re not coming at this cold, they are relatively warm conversations, but I really recommend that as a good technique, particularly as an Account Executive that they can and they can leverage to put some fuel in those pipelines really quickly.

Another idea for Account Executives or even SDRs, is video. I’m a big fan of Loom as an example, a free tool that you can use and as a chrome plugin to send a video message to prospects who maybe put a hold on the decision making, maybe they are people that you spoke to in the past, maybe they’re brand new prospects. 

I think people are giving more attention to video approaches right now, it also allows you to inject some of that humanity and humanisation into your message because everybody has one big thing in common. Everybody is working from home, in a weird world with some nasty stuff happening on the outside. You’ll see prospects are being more engaged with video approaches versus tons of emails and messages on LinkedIn.

  • What are a couple of practices and habits that both sales leaders and individual contributors could do in the next seven days?

Every conversation that your salespeople are going to have next week is going to become that much more crucial. As a VP of Sales, now is the time to try and help your salespeople become the best they can be. We see a lot of the statistics around coaching and how little it happens as much as it should, and a big factor for that is people’s time and managers spinning so many plates. 

Imagine what would happen if you converted that time you dedicated to recruiting this week, to investing in helping the existing team get better. Imagine if they could spend two or three hours a day helping the sales team get better, listening to how they’re selling. 

They’re not blessed with sitting in the same office as them anymore, the guys are sitting at home having their conversations, doing their discoveries, doing their demos, now is the time to start listening to help them get better. Identifying the themes and challenges and objections they’re running into this week, that didn’t exist four weeks ago because we weren’t in the situation. Get smarter about that, get smarter about the voice of the customer; what’s actually happening? 

A really simple thing to do to get started is to pick a morning and role-play some scenarios that took place that week, find a call or demo that one of your team was on that week, and listen to it as a team and analyse it and talk about what happened. Use this time as learning opportunities. You want to make sure that you’ve got the best team possible to take things by the scruff of the neck when things do improve. Now is the time to invest significantly more time helping your sales team get better, if you make your team better, everything else gets easier.

James:  I do agree with the emphasis on coaching and development. I think we’ve got this beauty, especially with great tools like zoom and refract as well, we can start to analyse what’s really going on and be a little bit more deliberate. 

You’re bang on the money there James. This actually links back to what you were saying at the start around motivation and inspiration; this is it. Your salespeople right now on the front line having these conversations may be finding things very tough, maybe feeling demotivated because they’re getting hit with the same objections and push backs and all these kinds of things which aren’t helping themselves.

It is your duty as a VP of Sales to actually understand that and appreciate it and to hear it for yourself. You’re not going to be able to provide meaningful suggestions and advice until you actually spend time listening to what’s going on with your market. It comes back to the whole point you asked at the start around how can I best inspire and motivate; do that first and that’s going to help you do that. 

We thank Richard again for his time, we have definitely learnt something like we always do from speaking to Richard Smith; co-founder of Refract.

That is all from us at Sales for Startups today, be sure to tune in soon for more interviews with CEOs and Founders of some great companies that are shedding some light on the current issues we are facing. If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website.

Further Reading

James Ker-Reid
December 4, 2019

An Interview With Karen Gallantry: Closing The Gap Between Sales And Customer Success

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James Ker-Reid
November 27, 2019

An Interview With Rohit Patni: Closing The Gap Between Sales And Customer Success

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Patrick Thorp
January 28, 2021

3 customer experience tools to help your startup grow

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