Of course, COVID-19 is on my mind, and it has me thinking. In general, I like to think about long-term trends. I like to think about human motivations. And I like to think about systems. Putting all of it together, I suspect that many B2B sellers are going to see a temporary slow-down, as prospects delay purchases until we know more about future economic activity.
The economic upheaval may be considerable. I pray that it will not be. But in the interest of assuming the best, I think there is much that sales leaders can do right now. Even if we see much uncertainty.
In the last two weeks I have talked with more business and IT leaders about AI-based sales technology than any time in the previous three months. I’m glad to be having these talks because it is clear that companies are thinking long-term. But I also find that most clients cannot take on these new tools yet.
They haven’t got enough clean, consistent, and complete data in their sales tools to take advantage of tools like predictive forecasting or opportunity health scoring to get immediate benefit from the tools.
My three things sales leaders should do this month:
1. Do some Clean Your Room time. Sellers should clean-up open deals with details that they did not have time to do previously. Synchronize emails to open deals and recently closed-won and closed-lost deals. Add Contact Roles to open deals. Update notes fields with accurate meeting outcomes. Add upcoming meetings to deals. Delete old deals from pipeline.
These steps are the types of good data/information hygiene that are difficult to do when sellers are busy. But this work will be worth it when you introduce AI-based tools like predictive forecasting to your organization.
2. If you are in B2B sales, convene deal post-mortem reviews. Look for discrete cause and effect scenarios, both positive and negative, that can be turned in into analytical signals. Look for events that can be turned to categorical attributes for your AI-based analytical work. E.g. Not all meetings are equal. If your sellers convene meetings that involve multiple stakeholders, and you know this accelerates deal velocity, then add new attributes to your CRM to capture this programmatically.
3. Remove inefficiencies from your sales processes. When the dam of demand clears later this spring, sellers will be too busy to keep up with every deal. Talk with your IT partners about tools that will make a big jump in seller productivity. Gartner tracks many tools that remove manual data entry from the sales process. Or that automatically generate insights. Or that guide sellers what to do next on complex deals.
We track these technologies in the Hype Cycle CRM Sales Technologies 2019 (updated version coming in July 2020). We also have wider COVID-19 (no fire wall) available here: https://www.gartner.com/en/insights/coronavirus