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Leading Sales Operations with Empathy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Dave Egloff  |  March 18, 2020  |  2 Comments

There is no other way to say it.  The feeling of normalcy has been replaced by some fear and uncertainty.  Depending on where you live and perhaps your level of risk, some fear may be a significant understatement.

Undoubtedly, it feels a bit odd to be writing about sales operations right now.  However, the reality is that many of us are working through this pandemic.  Instead of going into the office, many of us are staying home trying to do our part for our colleagues, customers and other stakeholders.

People First Mindset …

Many sales operations leaders have been talking about what actions to take and while I have a few recommendations, I wanted to start by reminding everyone of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which comes from his paper on motivation.

The first two layers – Physiological and Safety – represent basic needs.  When these needs aren’t met, they become major distractions.  Seeing the number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 increase daily as well as the local impact of panic shopping, it’s fair to say that many of us are already distracted.

As you move to social belonging, which is more of a psychological need, leaders must recognize the peripheral impacts of moving a traditionally centralized team to work remotely from their homes.  Certainly, social distancing is a good mandate to control the spread of the disease but it may also make some professionals feel isolated or even neglected.

Based on these new realities, sales operations leaders must manage their teams with empathy.  Additional recommendations include:

  • Work with human resources to connect sales operations professionals to their available resources to manage and reduce stress.
  • Promote available tools to sustain productivity, collaboration and team camaraderie.
  • Provide your teams with some work flexibility (wherever possible).

… Then Work

Sales operations leaders have many pressures spanning from leading sales operations to supporting sales activities.  In the near-term, sales operations leaders should:

  • Be ready for reduced operations capacity and consider postponing non-essential projects and tasks.
  • Work with Finance to develop pre-approved terms and conditions that can account for customer needs of financial flexibility and liquidity.
  • Revisit reporting and forecasting – what worked yesterday may not be working today.

Over time – and depending on the duration of this pandemic and the lingering impacts – sales operations leaders should also:

  • Create preliminary readiness plans for reducing costs of sales.
  • Develop new sales and customer “health” monitors to detect emerging issues and opportunities.
  • Track seller engagement and develop a list of cost-effective means to boost engagement should it become an issue.

Finally, we are in this thing together.  If there are any topics that you want me to highlight – or even help crowdsource ideas – please leave a comment.  For those of you that are Gartner clients, I welcome you to share with or hear from other clients in our Peer Connect forum.

I hope you all stay safe.

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Category: sales-operations  sales-strategy-and-design  sales-strategy-and-operations  

Dave Egloff
Senior Director
1 years at Gartner
20 years IT Industry

Dave Egloff is a Senior Director, Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders practice. His current work focuses on key initiatives in sales strategy, sales operations and sales compensation. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Leading Sales Operations with Empathy During the Coronavirus Pandemic


  1. Hi Dave, thanks for this. We are mostly doing this but would appreciate more detail on the ‘how’. I am especially interested in:
    Develop new sales and customer “health” monitors to detect emerging issues and opportunities.
    Track seller engagement and develop a list of cost-effective means to boost engagement should it become an issue.

    • Dave Egloff says:

      Hi Charlene,
      Gartner is helping our clients with this every day. These things aren’t easy but it’s helpful to have a framework and support.



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