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5 ways small- and medium-sized sales teams can lead with compassion

business owners

Many small- or medium-sized businesses (SMB) are in uncharted waters right now. As business leaders, this is the time to consider what you and your sales teams can do for customers by being there for them.

Here are five simple and effective ways your SMB can lead with compassion:

 

1. Reframe responsibilities from selling to helping

Many customers are in a resiliency phase right now, so it's more important than ever to double down on helping your customers. Specifically, lead with trust, empathy, and flexibility in areas that may not come up during a typical sales cycle. That could mean putting in the time to schedule more personal check-ins or providing an extra compassionate ear to listen for a few minutes as they share what they're facing.

If a customer has an urgent business need that translates to a sale, that’s great. Use it as an opportunity to guide with value and align with customers’ needs and interests. Our sales team speaks to our customers about balancing the current circumstances with taking a closer look at future risk mitigation and technology strategies. But closing deals shouldn’t be the ultimate priority when your customers may well have more grave concerns on their minds. Helping them navigate through tough times is a great way to build and strengthen long term relationships. 

 

2. Provide reassurance

This follows the shift from selling to helping. There’s a fine line between acknowledging a situation and constantly reminding people of it. The more skillfully you can walk that line, the better.

Right now, experts advise small businesses to spread optimism, using their online presence, mainly because the current news cycle isn’t necessarily calming people down. Extend that philosophy of optimism to your daily conversations with customers and colleagues. Share what you can that’s positive — whether that’s how organizations are helping the situation, how you’re personally supporting fellow small businesses, or even personal highlights from your day. This is a time for all of us to support each other. Part of that is working to keep positive so we can move forward and get through tough times.

 

3. Let your customers set the tone

Getting back to basics is more important than ever right now. So, too, is letting your customers set the tone. Make your team accessible and proactive to be there for clients. Different customers will have different needs right now, so be flexible, and ready to help or support them however you can.

It could be what your clients need right now is help navigating small business loan applications. Or, they might need help sourcing supplies for another part of their operations. Maybe you can point them to online training resources and share best practices, or help them develop new business ideas. This, in turn, can expand your sales playbook to use your broader expertise to help however you can. Take some cues from how communications leaders approach crisis management, and be proactive in offering up resources and inspiration to customers.

 

4. Keep your team grounded as you respond to ever-changing circumstances

Helping others can be a powerful form of self-care, but be sure to take care of yourself, and your team, too. Your customers are facing sudden uncertainty in the wake of shutdowns and revenue declines. The people on your sales teams feel this same uncertainty.

Internally, we remain focused on communication, transparency, and controlling what we can. We're working to improve as individuals and as a team. Creative concepts from “In Times Like These” messaging from leadership to virtual happy hours to company-wide mindfulness activities are all great ways to keep your team grounded and communicating as circumstances continue to change. Our team has also started podcast-style interviews in a series we call, Growing Together. It’s a place where our sales leaders share personal stories to connect, learn, and inspire the team.

Consider these points as you think about how to lead and care for the people you work with every day:

  • How are you staying in touch with the needs and challenges of your sales team?
  • Are you plugged into areas where a team member may need help? Is there a gap you and your leadership team need to assess? 
  • Make sure you have processes and check-ins in place to keep your team supported and plugged in. Remember structure and routine can be powerful tools for helping people navigate crises. Consider adding daily huddles, extra one-to-one check-ins, and organization-wide all hands calls. 

 

5. Be open-minded and flexible in regards to customers’ finances

Flexibility — the ability to bend without breaking — can go a long way with customers right now. What can you do to make things easier for them without jeopardizing your operations?

We’ve adopted a two-step process to build more flexibility into our playbook right now:

  1. Arm our sales reps with the confidence to listen to their customers and seek to understand their financial challenges.
  2. Partner closely with our sales operations (SOPS) and billing partners to create more lenient options within the framework of our business practices.

Step one is pretty universal: talk with your reps and empower them to just listen. Help them help their clients by gaining an understanding of their financial situation. Gather real-time data on what your customers are facing right now. Then look at what organization-wide steps you can take to support them.

Being flexible with payment plans, and other ways of helping your customers manage their expenses, can go a long way right now. And, of course, you can offer to brainstorm price strategies with clients to help give their businesses a needed boost. The more ways we can find to stabilize and prop each other’s businesses up, the better we’ll all come out in the long run. 

Originally published on the Salesforce Essentials Resource Center.

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