Twelve strategies and measures for sales recovery

21 July 2020 Consultancy.eu

The coronavirus crisis and pandemic-induced downturn is having a big impact on the sales figures of most companies. For these firms, recovering sales in the coming period is crucial to their future survival, and experts from SparkOptimus have subsequently outlined three key fronts on which every sales boss should look to improve, to aid their sales recovery strategy.

Virtualise the sales force

Amid the global recession accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, closing the sales process has become a much harder prospect, both in the business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) environment. This is particularly hard-felt in the B2B arena, due to the fact that sales there usually rely on face-to-face interactions. This situation requires a shift in the traditional mode of working; firms must adapt quickly to enable “virtual sales” and online “sales visits,” if they are to recover.

The experts at SparkOptimus have issued five tips to help struggling businesses do this.

Fix the basics
“Equip your salesforce with the right hardware and tools. Preferably use devices and software that are already used or are off-the-shelf (SaaS) solutions to minimise educational needs,” say the experts.

The management consulting firm also advises that companies should validate if the buying counterparty has a matching infrastructure in place. This is important, because a B2B firm wants to be able to service its buyers, not render their lives more complicated.

Rewrite your sales pitch
Firms should re-evaluate if their ‘brand story’ and products/services are still relevant in the times of the pandemic. Historically, uncertainty causes buyers to prefer familiar brands to new ones, meaning that brand relevance could be the difference between sales resilience and a big drop in income.

“Consider increasing the promotion of well-known brands over new launches,” adds SparkOptimus. “If possible, adapt your sales pitch to the particular relevancy of your products/services right now.”

Test small
Companies need to establish a testing panel with cross-category and cross-region sales specialists, as well as a loyal group of pilot customers. Incorporating process- and technology-related feedback into an MVP 2.0 will further help increase the speed and improve the process of rolling out this new way-of-working at scale.

Overinvest in change management
Firms can ensure a foolproof approach through clear manuals and instruction videos for staff, as well as for buyers and customers. If needed, they can also arrange external virtual sales trainings to get salesforce staff comfortable with selling via a screen. Dedicate required IT- and project management employees to function as a “hypercare” department during the rollout and respond quickly to early feedback.

Enable data-driven sales
As a final step, organisations can use the time savings from virtualising sales efforts to shift towards data-driven sales. This implies an organisation’s salespeople transform from generic into targeted value creators. For example SparkOptimus clarifies, “through leveraging the right data and dashboards, a sales representative could get buyer-specific recommendations on assortment, pricing or restocking, allowing him or her to drive targeted sales.”

Build a digital sales channel
Digital sales channels have been hyped for years, with e-commerce booming as bricks-and-mortar brands have suffered a downturn in activity. Covid-19 has only consolidated this trend, and it is now obvious that companies who have put off jumping on this particular bandwagon are suffering for that decision now.

If firms are still looking to create or optimise their digital sales channel, however, it is not too late. SparkOptimus identifies four ways which companies can adopt to either enhance existing sales channels, or ramp up their fledgling digital offerings.

Build engagement

“In case of limited online infrastructure, try to think of creative ways to establish a connection with end-users. Social media like Facebook Marketplace or WhatsApp offer easy ways to engage and investigate what consumers need,” SparkOptimus says.

At the same time, social channels tend to aid word-of-mouth, helping build a community of ambassadors, which a firm can leverage when maturing digitally. Companies looking to do this should ensure that end-users stay connected for the long-term, for example by piloting home delivery or online consults, or giving out vouchers.

Advertise smartly
Online advertising has taken a big hit due to cost cutting – but this lower demand lowers the price per advertisement, potentially opening up new advertising channels that companies would normally not use. At the same time, leveraging basic online listings on a proprietary platform or marketplace enables companies to benefit from smart advertising strategies, while adding such listings to consumer-friendly comparison platforms to generate traffic is a complementary tactic to this.

Sell through e-tailers
Starting or expanding sales through e-tailers like Amazon results in direct access to end-users without the necessity of a proprietary direct-to-sales (D2C) infrastructure. However, companies should carefully consider the strategic route they want to take in e-tailer collaboration.

SparkOptimus expands, “Decisions on in- or outsourcing fulfillment, price setting, and content creation will significantly affect your business case. As an example, Amazon halted their 'Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)' operations for non-essential products to compensate for increased demand due to Covid-19. This left 'non-essential sellers' without business.”

Create partnerships
Partnering up with other players in the value chain – or even competitors – can decrease the financial and operational burden of launching a digital sales channel, according to SparkOptimus’s experts.

The consultants explain, “Are there creative ways for you to leverage the logistical operations of retailers for your products? Can you collaborate with competitors to launch an MVP digital platform, splitting the required resources and investments, and creating cross-promotions? Engage all relevant parties in this thought process from the beginning to develop a viable set-up as soon as possible.”

Once a digital platform is up and running, however, firms should not sit back and relax. Customer expectations are rapidly changing, along with the underlying technology platforms can leverage, meaning there is an opportunity to continuously improve, ensuring adaptability and scalability. Firms should constantly evaluate what problems they face, which customers did or didn’t switch to their online channels, and how to prepare for future unpredictable events.

Upgrade the business model

Finally, SparkOptimus recommends looking beyond the now and into the ‘new normal,’ making long-term plans to foster innovation within a company. By blending innovation with the sales process, new business models for the future can be created, which are more resilient in times of economic difficulty. Experts from the consultancy outline three avenues to follow which can boost this.

Expanding the current proposition
The rise of digital has changed customer relationships and enabled businesses to expand their proposition at scale. Consumers have rising expectations and require something in return for their loyalty. Businesses can unlock new value through consumer interaction via digital channels and ownership of end-user data.

Read also: How to prepare an organisation for B2C direct sales.

Disrupting the current proposition
Major trends like job automation, virtualisation, and sustainability could affect a business’s future right of existence. A business committing to the exercise of disrupting its own organisation helps prepare for this, as well as exploring new ways to create value, making a new proposition to disrupt its current offering.

Designing a new (non-core) proposition
A large share of today’s biggest global businesses might no longer exist in their current form in the future. Basing a business model around already established companies might not be the best route to longevity in that case. SparkOptimus concludes, “Already today you should start thinking what parts of your business could be the fundament of a completely new proposition, or what new proposition is required to become future-proof.”


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