COVID-19 has had an unquestionable impact on the economy — and especially on sales professionals.
According to HubSpot, the weekly average of new deals created on its platform dropped by 17 percent during the week of March 16, and then by 23 percent during the week of March 30. The number of deals closed on the platform around the world fell by 21 percent, compared to the previous year’s Q1 averages.
Like all of us, sales reps face an unpredictable economy, and they must shift with the circumstances. For some, this means adapting their sales strategies to new consumer behaviors. For others, it means falling income or even job loss.
It’s hard to imagine exactly how sales reps feel right now, but we do know for certain that, one day, this will pass. When that happens, sales reps impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak will be ready to reenter the workforce or reinvent their careers.
Of course, the crisis will transform sales candidates — and that means organizations will have to transform their approaches to recruiting and retaining those candidates. You have to understand what sales reps are going through right now if you hope to recruit the best of the best after the coronavirus.
Here’s what sales reps want you to know:
1. If I Didn’t Lose My Job, That Doesn’t Mean I Had It Easy
Not all sales professionals will have to deal with company closures or layoffs, but that doesn’t mean they’re making it through unscathed.
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s inevitable that every sales rep will be impacted in some way, whether it’s a decrease in sales, personal issues, or a loss of clients. They’ll need your empathy.
Communicate with sales candidates in an encouraging and understanding way. If they share their struggles during the crisis, acknowledge their pain. Thank them for opening up, and show interest by asking questions about what’s most important to them moving forward given what they’ve been through.
2. My Former Company Didn’t Know How to Manage a Crisis
Some companies were already built to handle COVID-19. They had virtual sales processes and technology to communicate effectively in a remote work environment.
However, such businesses are in the minority. Many companies are struggling to adapt to the changing situation. For sales reps, this means a loss of collaboration and teamwork opportunities during one of the most challenging times of their careers.
Once the world is on the upswing, sales candidates whose leaders weren’t prepared for the current crisis will be frightened a similar situation could occur at any moment. All sales candidates, but especially these, will need reassurance from recruiters.
Offer hard evidence that the company is prepared to handle a crisis. Ask current employees to discuss how supported they felt, review tools the company provided, and explain any additional benefits your company extended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Share this information on social media, your career site, and even in job descriptions to highlight the company’s preparedness and ability to help sales reps excel even through the most challenging moments.
3. My 2020 Sales Numbers Don’t Reflect My Potential
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many economists predicted a recession in 2020, but those predictions largely supposed a recession would occur much later in the year. Now, many salespeople have seen their Q1 sales drop and are entering Q2 with a similarly grim outlook.
When sales candidates hit the job market again, they will likely fear judgment based on their numbers. Depending on how your job descriptions are worded, you may accidentally deter them from applying to your roles based on this fear. Those candidates who do apply will likely see their confidence levels drop and interview skills suffer.
Consider your job description phrasing carefully in the coming months. If you need to see proof of sales success, make a specific note that you’re willing to consider previous years. Mention company training and development programs for sales reps new to the field. Those who began their sales careers in late 2019 and early 2020 will have drastically different experiences from their more senior counterparts.
4. Closed Sales Aren’t the Only Way I Supported My Clients
Closed sales are the greatest indicator of sales success, but during this worldwide crisis, sales reps are also showing their skills in various other ways. According to the same HubSpot data cited above, companies sent 23 percent more sales emails the week of March 16 compared to prior weekly averages. The average marketing email volume also increased 29 percent during the week of March 16.
Aside from email communication, sales reps are spending time helping clients navigate their own personal and professional COVID-19 struggles. Create opportunities for sales candidates to share these client relationship details. Ask them behavioral questions like, “Aside from selling them your product, how do you help clients through a challenging time?” or “When a client faces economic hardships, what do you do to stay connected and relevant?”
COVID-19 isn’t easy for any of us, but sales professionals have been particularly hard hit. When the situation improves and sales reps return to the job market, they’re going to have some new expectations for your company. If you want to connect with the best, start positioning your company to meet those expectations now.