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Leading Sales Teams Into 2021 Stronger

Undoubtedly, the trials and tribulations of the 2020 global pandemic have created unprecedented sales objections. While it’s comforting to know that most businesses face the same challenges, it doesn’t make it any easier to combat them.

Prospects might respond to your pitches with, “We don’t need that,” or “Not right now.” Or maybe they say, “You’re too expensive” or “This feels too good to be true.” 

Whatever the case, sales leaders and their teams must reflect on the objections most encountered under this year’s unique circumstances and use those insights to build a stronger and more optimistic sales strategy for next year.

Sales managers can follow this guide to lead their sales teams into 2021 stronger:

Change is hard. Start the discussion!

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a Peak Sales Recruiting study of sales leaders across North America found that “successfully closed” deals have declined by nearly 40%, and productivity declined by 20%. 

As a result of these drastic declines, sales teams across industries have had to shift their strategies dramatically.

With clients slashing their budgets and feeling more averse to change, those objections have become more frequent, and old tactics no longer make an impact. For example, “Not right now” is no longer a window to try again later because there is no clear finish line for the pandemic.

Sales leaders should open up discussions with their team members to keep each other motivated. Create opportunities for sales reps to discuss the challenges they’re facing. Make sure your team understands that It’s OK if they hear these objections more often. In fact, it’s normal right now. 

Instead of making sales reps feel like they need to solve these new challenges in a silo, bring your team together to work through them as a group. Together, you can discuss the commonalities in the objections your sales reps hear. Then, work as a team to determine new strategies for tackling them.

You can also provide your team members with this course to close deals better, where we touched on ‘expert’ ways to overcome sales objections in the field. 

Use sales objections as motivation

We recently asked sales leaders to share their most common sales objections in 2020, and we found that reps are still facing the same challenges they’ve always heard: too expensive, not the right time, not the right product, etc.

What changed in 2020 is the rate at which prospects object and how reps close the sale. Sales teams need to find new ways of approaching client needs to be successful in 2021.

For example, many businesses have drastically shifted their budgets to accommodate the pandemic and resulting recession. If a prospect objects to a pitch due to a tighter budget, your team can anticipate this challenge and see it as an opportunity. Instead of taking “no” for an answer, be prepared to show prospects how you will save them money in the long run. A cost-savings opportunity will be more difficult for a prospect to refuse.

Another common objection is “not right now.” Companies are not prepared to make drastic changes to the way they do business amid so much uncertainty. As a team, develop a set way to explain that now is actually a smart time to bring on your product or service. 

You can even tie in the ways your company has adapted to the pandemic. Be open about it. No industry has been untouched by the effects of this year. Make your prospects see that you can help them through their pandemic-related challenges too.

Out with the old in with the new

While sales objections may sound the same as they always have, it’s crucial to dig deeper and really listen. The root of many sales objections is likely different than in the past. Because of this shift, your team must stop forcing old tactics that aren’t useful in this new era.

Show your team how to identify the right changes to make to their strategies (and which changes to skip). Start by asking your team the following questions:

  • Are you having more luck with existing customers or new customers?
  • Are some sales areas performing worse than others?
  • What sections of your old presentation tactics still resonate? Which don’t?

Compile this anecdotal data to help inform new strategies. For example, if your team is proving to have more success with existing customers, encourage them to focus on updating and upselling those packages instead of chasing down new leads. 

In addition to qualitative data, you can also measure your work through quantitative metrics. For example, look at your team’s percent increase in new clients and percent increase in sales with existing clients. You can also measure your team’s average time to close a deal. And, of course, you can measure success based on the total revenue gained from sales.

Aside from your team’s overall performance, break down the data by sales districts. Then, compare city-specific metrics to their COVID trends. You might find, for instance, that areas hit harder by COVID are also the places where your sales are suffering.

If some sales areas are not resulting in sales, shift others (especially if you can see a correlation between low sales and high COVID cases). You can always revisit these cities in a few months.

Lastly, if you find that certain pieces of your presentations are not performing as well as they did in an in-person sales call, change it up. Have your team test new tactics to make the presentation more engaging in a virtual setting.

Building a stronger sales strategy

Once your team has been able to identify what’s not working and what tactics need updates, you can also work together to build a solid strategy for 2021. In the new year, you can empower your team to go head-to-head when they hear those sales objections.

Take advantage of all of your best resources: client data, market research, sales reps, and other sales leaders. Use everything at your disposal to make changes to your team’s sales strategy.

Focus on what’s working. It’s easier to build on your success than your failures. Enhance your presentations to make more impactful virtual sales pitches

Remember, 2021 will continue to see shifts in the community from health to the economy. Be prepared to be flexible with your strategy. Continue to bring your sales team together to help each other be more successful.


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