The past few weeks have seen innumerable articles spring up online about the changes that COVID-19 will bring (and has brought) to the business landscape. As that initial dust settles and you look at your sales team, it’s equally important to remind yourself about the things that will stay the same.
While the early year bull market is a thing of the past, the business has not totally ground to a halt. Buyers and investors still exist, and they’re still willing to put their hands in their pockets. This goes double if you’re able to offer a service that helps businesses or consumers function normally in this unusual climate. The key, therefore, is to get your sales team selling like never before while tailoring the way you sell to meet the challenges around you.
To respond to these roadblocks, you may have to expand your sales team — either introducing new responsibilities to your existing pros or taking on new hires. Having the right professional resources to keep your pipeline healthy during COVID-19 is vital. Here are a few new additions your sales team will benefit from in times like these.
'Why Should We Be Hiring?‘
Recruitment generally sat at the back of most sales teams’ minds during the early stages of the outbreak. It’s understandable — one of the foremost measures for determining whether or not you should be hiring is the strength and stability of your revenue model. Payroll, and being able to maintain it, is a pressing worry for many companies in the SaaS space.
However, the other measures for determining whether you should be hiring — overworked employees, key time being lost, customer service standards slipping — all suggest that now is the time to add to your ranks.
You can also assess hiring logic from the perspective of your pipeline. Keeping your company afloat depends on pipeline health. And being able to maintain the health of your pipeline is partly dependent on being able to shift sales tactics according to changes in the market. So, if your sales approach requires a much different tack — or if your business has actually seen an increase in demand — you likely need new additions to your sales team.
For some companies, adding to payroll at these times is a non-starter. That’s why “new additions” doesn’t have to mean “new hires.” Even if you can’t afford to hire right now, “adding” to your team is still an achievable and desirable goal. You can do so by re-addressing your existing sales team’s abilities and, where sensible, expanding the responsibilities of your team members. And you can do this in a balanced way, widening workloads slightly with astute management and the right tools without stretching your employees too thin.
In short, hiring strategy during (and after) COVID can involve a reshuffling of existing personnel as much as bringing in new ones. You can think of it as part of a general strategy in revamping your management style during COVID.
The Daily Briefing Executive Summary
4 New Additions Your Sales Team Can Benefit From Now
In any market downturn, wherever your hiring priorities lay, never forget — there is currently as much, or more, value in your existing customer base than in new business.
Making additions to your sales team in the current climate means optimizing the value you’re getting from the customers you already have. You can do so by bringing in new additions to your sales team whose job is to help those customers see the value that they so sorely require from you.
1. Account Executive
An account executive (AE) is vital for locking down existing business. An account executive acts as a general overseer of client satisfaction with your product and connects your customers to other professionals in your company (e.g., customer support) when required.
The lifetime value (LTV) question, always fundamental in SaaS, has become paramount in this climate. The companies that will survive and thrive through COVID will be the ones that maximize the amount of value each customer brings into the business (LTV) against customer acquisition cost (CAC). The account executive sits at the heart of this effort. By securing those existing accounts that are providing monthly recurring revenue (MRR), as well as offering upsell packages to customers (where appropriate), the AE is key to unlocking expansion revenue.
Think of expansion revenue as a value that is already latent in your customer base — customers who are on one plan but could see the greater value by upgrading to an expanded plan. It represents a dependable, easy-to-access business with a much lower CAC than new business. All of this is extremely hard to come by otherwise in a market downturn, making it an ideal pursuit for this climate. You and your sales team should look at expansion revenue as the determining factor in keeping your business afloat while your sales representatives and development department fight hard for new business.
Whether you get in a new hire or add the responsibility to an existing sales team member, the AE is important. You can convert regular sales reps into AE roles with minimum friction and without excessively adding to their workload. Do so by employing a reliable CRM and restructuring your sales goals to perhaps include an expansion revenue component.
2. Customer Success Specialist
We spoke about Customer Success in detail not too long ago. The customer success specialist, a growing role in SaaS and beyond, is ideal in these conditions, particularly where securing expansion revenue is concerned.
In a market downturn, buyers are worried about the exact same thing as vendors: value. Buyers who may be facing budget cutbacks or scale-down will be frantic to ensure that they’re getting the most out of the products they’re paying for. A sales professional whose specific duty is to help provide a smooth, personalized onboarding and launch experience for new customers makes this much easier to achieve.
Whether you’ve managed to upgrade an existing customer to a more involved feature tier or you’re dealing with new business, the onboarding experience is a key sales process area. The launch-lifecycle, which occurs immediately after a customer begins using their new product, is a churn hotbed (23% of all customer churn occurs here). You can count on that number to rise after COVID now that customers feel more skittish about value.
Therefore, it’s vital to have a specialist there, specifically to guarantee customers’ safe passage from first contact to getting real value from your product. Customer success specialists can also provide a wealth of data that’s key for shoring up strategy decisions in an uncertain market. The way they observe customers using your product helps them understand your customers’ pain points and needs. Finding out why your customers think your product is useful in these conditions is key to navigating a tricky market successfully.
Customer success specialists are harder to convert from existing members of your sales team if you don’t already have them on hand. When you’re bringing new customer success pros on board, consider empowering them with sales tools that make commanding the context around a sale easier. Knowing exactly who a customer is, and what they need, can set up your new customer success specialists for positive outcomes.
3. Onboarding Specialist
If you aren’t able to hire a bespoke customer success specialist, then fashioning an existing sales team member into an onboarding specialist can work as an alternative.
The onboarding specialist sits in the all-important SaaS sweet spot between HR, customer support, and sales. The role isn’t as comprehensive in duty as a customer success specialist, who will often spend the first three-to-six months of a customer’s experience in close contact with them and provide an auxiliary support function afterward. However, they are still there to guide your customers through that challenging onboarding phase. They help customers get maximum value from your product from the get-go, and that goes most of the way toward keeping your clients loyal in an uncertain market.
With the use of tools like Deal Hub, even a newbie onboarding specialist can easily manage the sale-to-use transition. If sales priority and time allows, you can add a degree of onboarding responsibility to your sales reps’/AEs’ duties. If you’re managing a stretched sales team, you may even consider talking things over with your company’s HR department and drafting someone in from elsewhere to help with onboarding.
4. Engagement Officer
One of the things about a market downturn that’s most obstructive to business is what it does to people’s patterns of thought. One minute, you’re in a bull market, and one prospect after another is ready to strike a deal for your product or upsell on their existing plan. The next minute, everything’s in flux, and valuable prospects’ attention naturally goes elsewhere.
That’s why engagement officers are another strategic addition to your sales team. Competing for attention in a COVID-influenced market can be difficult with both organic traffic and paid advertising taking an early hit. You can purpose either existing sales development representative (SDR) personnel or a new hire into this role, which primarily resurrects previously qualified leads who are either inactive or went silent.
It’s true that not all your previous prospects will be looking to buy in this market — some won’t be able to afford the outlay any longer. However, some will be in desperate need of just what you offer and either forgot about your product or weren’t aware of it in the first place.
Your engagement officer’s job is to connect those would-be customers to departments beyond your sales team. They assist sales management in liaising with your finance department. Harder times call for smaller, more palatable offerings/subscription tiers that newly price-sensitive prospects can more easily afford. And your engagement officer, particularly if they have SDR experience, can use their buyer persona knowledge to demonstrate what an attractive new package will look like.
On the other end, your engagement officer will be actively involved with your marketing department to help make your plans more appealing. Buyer persona adjustment, content marketing, and SEO are vital in times like these. Pursuing the right branding in times of crisis — demonstrating that your company is calm, in control, and looking to help, while not being opportunistic — can be decisive in helping prospects see your value. Marketing and sales are always closely aligned, but in a market downturn, they are inextricable.
Match these kinds of inter-departmental efforts with a dedicated re-engagement campaign and an engagement officer can easily become one of the most influential new additions to your sales team.
The Weekly Briefing
The biggest mistake to make in this uncertain market is to presume that there isn’t any business to win. Make no mistake, you’ll find selling during the COVID outbreak harder than usual. Short-term, quick wins will be fewer than usual; you may find that the sales cycle is longer and keeping your sales team steady and patient can be hard (especially if you’re remote). Begin by adjusting your sales goals and targets.
However, times like these not only reward persistence — they reward the progressive-minded, too. Nowhere is that truer than in your sales team. By bringing the right new hire into your ranks, you’ll find your horizons broaden even in these unpredictable times.