By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

COVID-19 has been a challenging time for salespeople. The social distancing norms have compelled the teams to stay at home and interact with prospects online instead of having a face-to-face conversation. This makes it more difficult for them to close deals. Challenges in closing deals are not exactly new for salespeople. However, given the current situation, it could add a real strain to the spirits of the team. 

In times like these, sales coaching comes to rescue.

It helps to boost the team’s morale and keep them engaged. 

Unlike sales training programs where the teams are trained on how to sell a product or service, sales coaching takes a more personalized approach towards a holistic development. 

Through sales coaching, organizations can identify the gaps in each salesperson and try to provide a custom-made solution to fix it and help them grow. Think of it as a mentor-mentee relation where the end goal is to nurture the person and not necessarily only sell more products.

So, what can companies do to keep the teams motivated and engaged?

Assess the team’s strength and weakness

Every salesperson is different. Some may be extremely confident; some may be anxious while pitching. A one-size-fits-all approach would not work in such cases. The sales coach has to assess each person individually to find their strength and weakness. To remove prejudices or assumptions during an evaluation, coaches can use AI-based tools to measure the team’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Numly™, for instance, provides a 16-personality factor self-evaluation that measures the strengths and weaknesses of a person’s personality traits. It offers accurate insights that help the coach find areas of improvement for each salesperson and coach them accordingly.

Provide personalized feedback

Based on the assessment, the coach can formulate a detailed and personalized feedback to guide the salesperson effectively. Giving feedback cannot be a one-off activity. It is a continuous process that leads to a journey of holistic development. 

Coaches can leverage tools to make this a productive process. For example, Numly offers organizations with custom engagement tools that identify skills gaps in each salesperson and pairs them internally with a coach. The coach helps the salesperson to meet their goals using various methods such as self-scoring, peer-rating, and continuous feedback.  

Develop new skills

The modern-day customer is well-informed. A cold call or aggressive sales pitch can no longer persuade them to buy a product. They have to be educated, informed, and provided with relevant content so that they can trust the company. 

Salespeople cannot just pick the phone and start pitching. They must develop a different approach to build a long-term relationship with the customer. It has become even more critical now, as COVID-19 has led to an economic meltdown across the globe. Salespeople will have to become more empathetic instead of pushy to gain the prospect’s trust. Such skills cannot be attained overnight. Only a sales coach can help the team to develop new skills, and catch up with customer needs, and their way of engaging with the company. A personalized sales coaching program will eventually help the sales team to do their job better. 

Change the behavior

Behavior, like new skills, cannot be improved in a day. It is an ongoing effort, wherein, the sales coach identifies a positive behavior and reinforces it to bring in a change within the person. So, it could be encouraging an introvert to open up and communicate more with the customers or coaching someone to listen more and talk less. A positive change will help the sales team to perform better and deliver better results. 

Build a strong relationship

Sales is all about building a strong relationship – not just with the customer, but also with other stakeholders such as the marketing team, the product team, etc. To create a positive and harmonious relationship, the sales team can take guidance from sales coaches. They can learn how to develop a relationship with internal and external stakeholders and use it to build goodwill for the company and themselves. A good sales team knows how to keep everyone happy and achieve their goals. 

Conclusion 

Sales is less about selling a product, and more about the process of doing it. A successful salesperson possesses the right power skills. They don’t sell; they build relationships. 

Power skills are a combination of science and arts. With the right tools and accurate data, companies can help their sales teams to improve these skills and build a roadmap to a successful sales career. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

“Crisis does not build character. It reveals it”.

The strength of a true leader is revealed when it comes under fire. And it can be safe to say that the past few months have been an extremely testing period for leaders across organizations. 

As the lockdowns are gradually being lifted across the world, we are just about realizing what our new normal is going to be like. The term, ‘responsible leadership’ takes on a deeper meaning as employees and customers try to settle into the new rhythm of things. 

The global environment that was already fast-moving now has become unfamiliar as well. Virtually all organizations are identifying how to get back to ‘normal,’ but speed is also of the essence. 

Leadership has to work quickly to redistribute disrupted supply chains, they need to safeguard employees, have to enable a remote workforce with no time in hand to ease people into it, and also have to be the bearers of bad news. All of this, while maintaining their own energy so that they can inspire confidence and continue to motivate their employees.

The thing with leadership is that it has leaders, even the highly successful ones, to be in a mode of continuous improvement. They have to look at ways to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and have to embrace change faster or run the risk of being outrun. 

Irrespective of their effectiveness, yesterday, today and tomorrow will make new demands on the leaders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that clearly. And there is no playbook to refer to what to do and how to change leadership styles in the face of a 21st-century pandemic. 

While there might not be any silver bullet suggestions on how to navigate the challenges of the new reality, it is clear that leadership has to become more accommodating than ever before.

‘Building Trust’ was important before – it is essential now

The definition of a good leader has always included an element of trust. A leader can only be considered a good one when the workforce expresses trust in them. With COVID-19, this has assumed deeper importance. The workforce is looking to trust its leaders, and this trust can now be inspired only with clear and focused actions.

The actions of the leaders have to show their employees that they care for each individual. They are not mere cogs in the wheel. Along with caring, leadership has to become more transparent about their plans, how they plan to navigate the treacherous business landscape and communicate clearly with their employees. Establishing strong communication and governance principles, and the tone becomes important to build trust.

Increase focus on shared purpose

Leaders also work on building ‘shared purpose’ with their employees now. With teams operating remotely and with uncertainty looming large, employees need an anchor to get a sense of connection and belonging.

Once President John F. Kennedy visited a NASA space center. He met a janitor and asked him, “what are you doing”. He replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When people are connected to their work, when they have a sense of shared purpose, they become more committed to their work.

Given the upheaval that COVID-19 has had on people, how it has impacted them at a professional and personal level, how it has changed the world of work, how isolated the entire experience has been, leadership has a lot of work to do. They have to help employees reconnect with their work, find a sense of purpose and excitement in their roles and relearn how it ties back to the business goals. Irrespective of how big or small their role is, leadership has to work on helping employees understand how they are contributing to the larger picture.

Also Read: Engaged Employees Are Driven by Shared Values and Vision

Over Communication – there’s no such word anymore

There is no such word as ‘over-communication’ in the vocabulary of the leadership anymore. Establishing new guidelines as the world of work hobbles back to its older pace and with uncertainty looming large, the focus falls heavily on leadership communication skills to keep their teams connected.

While leadership had to always maintain clear communication, today this communication needs to be more detailed, transparent, emphatic, and continuous. Ambiguity is overwhelming in the minds of the employees. It becomes the task of the leadership to rally around clear and consistent communication. Leadership across the organization also has to also be in sync with each other, and thus establishing strong communication guidelines and protocols are now even more essential.

Leadership has to step down from its altar and get down into the trenches. This means becoming more visible in even standard meetings (think everyday sprint sessions or client calls) to establish their presence and make the workforce feel like they are a part of the crowd.

Take tough decisions

When the pandemic hit the world with all its force, leaders across the globe were compelled to act urgently to enable remote working. Many organizations in the pre-pandemic time were already aware that they would have to enable some form of remote working. The pandemic just shows us that we need to accelerate human and machine collaboration to support people to adopt a more digital way of working.

Those in leadership roles have to now take many such tough decisions. Whether it is to restructure and realign the workforce, identify new revenue streams, refocus the business, or include more automation, the road ahead involves taking several new and tough  decisions. These have to be taken with integrity, intention, and without guilt.

Increase flexibility, agility, and empathy

Flexibility, agility, and empathy – these are venerable traits in the new world. If leaders are not already working with cross-functional, agile teams, the time to do so would be now. There is no place for functional silos anymore.

The world is only going to become more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). As leaders face this new world, past experiences might not be enough to navigate through the current scenarios. Leadership development has already been focused on increasing the capacity of leaders to deal with VUCA. 

For this, developing traits of flexibility to accept challenges, agility to deal with such challenges easily, and empathy to help others to overcome rapidly changing realities become essential arsenal in the leadership kitty.

Also Read: The 3 Most In-Demand Power Skills for Managers Today

Learning intelligence and growth mindset

Leadership also has to now take a deeper dive into the growth mindset. They have to actively invite and objectively evaluate information and ideas not only from within their own organization but also from peers and colleagues in other organizations.

Leadership has to believe in ‘learning intelligence’. They have to develop the ability to look for help and learn and leverage others’ expertise and experiences to increase their ability to make better and well-informed decisions.  

It is time for leadership to gear up and increase their stamina and build resilience for the long haul now. Given the way the world is shaping up, it is clear that they need to build their capacity to run a grueling marathon over a sprint.

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon – what’s common between these billion-dollar companies? If we look closely, we see that their fortunes were an outcome of making innovation a part of their central business strategy. 

Google started as a search engine. Amazon was an online book store. Microsoft’s first product was a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair 8800 “microcomputer”. These organizations were successful with their initial product offerings. However, would they hold the behemoth’s status had they not been laser-focused on building breakthroughs and coming up with strategies that provided greater value at cost, redefined channels, built new markets, and new business models?   

Disruption is our new normal. Organizations globally are looking at ways and means to transform their business, improve their customer experience, identify new markets, and create competitive differentiation. To stay ahead of the curve, organizations must assume disruption to be a constant and then take concrete steps to foster innovation as a part of the company strategy.  They additionally have to foster innovative strategies, identify and eliminate obstacles, manage risk, and craft the optimal metrics and set the right measurement expectations. 

Organizations that follow this path can remain innovative and profitable in the face of disruption.

But what is needed for innovation to happen? Innovation comes from ‘minds’…the minds of the most valuable assets that any organization has – its people. 

To build innovation into a strategy, organizations need to build the innovation mindset in their people. What does this mindset consist of?

The capability to identify and seize new opportunities 

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“We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

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Innovation happens when the workforce is geared to look for and identify new opportunities. This can only happen when employees start with the mindset that things can be done differently. If something is ‘broken’ how can it be fixed? Does this present an opportunity? Is there an opportunity blind spot? Can something be done better? 

Pretty close to an entrepreneurial mindset, this mindset helps employees become more solution-driven in their approach. It consequently makes them growth-oriented by helping them internalize that in every adversity lies opportunity. 

The willingness to think 

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“A goal without a plan is just a wish”

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Developing the capability to identify opportunities is one face of the coin. How to make it work is the most important part. To achieve this, organizations have to help their employees build their capacity to think, be it strategically or creatively, to come up with working solutions. This demands the capability to objectively think through the problem and the solution, identify the risks involved, and then take the calculated risks needed to achieve the business goals. 

Develop entrepreneurial mindsets 

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-“Train your brain to think more clearly. The mind is everything. What you think, you become” – Jack Ma

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One of the most coveted traits of successful entrepreneurs is their capability to think outside of the box. Thinking outside the box is a mindset that asks you to treat each difficulty, hurdle, challenge, and failure as an opportunity to grow. This mindset, called the growth mindset, is a set of beliefs that program individuals to believe that intelligence can be fostered, leadership can be developed, and talent can be nurtured.

Helping employees develop a growth mindset helps organizations remain agile in the face of change by helping them look at difficult situations as a challenge. It encourages people to experiment with ideas to scale these issues by leveraging their strengths. Where they find themselves falling short, employees are then self-motivated to improve and employ all the strategies they know, old and newly developed, to solve a problem and hence consequently boost innovation.

Create better solutions 

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“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination” – Fitzhugh Dodson

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Organizations need to increase their capacity to create and deliver great solutions to improve their innovation game. Given that an organization is not an amorphous concept, its capacity to create better solutions is directly proportional to its employee’s capacity to think of great solutions. 

It is thus imperative to help the employees identify where they are on the solution graph, identify which skills they need to work on to improve their thinking prowess, assess how they can boost collaboration and creativity in themselves and their team members. Only then, these employees can develop game-changing, creative solutions in a faster or less expensive manner. 

To navigate this path successfully, employees have to develop the capability to create action-oriented and clear goals. These goals can be in the form of project plans, work allocations, follow up meetings, project status reports, expected stage-level outcomes, etc. that will help them move from point A to point B. 

Develop a sense of urgency 

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“Either you have a sense of urgency today or a sense of regret tomorrow”

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Innovation does not take place when we put things off for later. That’s the perfect recipe for a dish called ‘missed opportunity’. To increase their capacity to innovate, organizations have to ensure that they secure the complete commitment of their employees. And this commitment comes from having a strong sense of urgency. This urgency emerges from accountability and ownership of tasks and a problem-solving approach to achieving their goals. 

A sense of urgency does not mean having your employees run around like headless chickens being busy in the business of busyness. It instead means developing the innate capabilities to prioritize, categorize, and optimize workflows to ensure maximum productivity and timeliness. 

The interesting thing about all these traits mentioned above is that these are power-skills, skills deemed essential for organizations to successfully navigate the shape-shifting business landscape of today. 

These are all behavioral skills and hence need constant reaffirming so that they become second nature to all individuals. Companies need to use data-backed channels such as personality assessments and behavioral skill assessment tests to evaluate the exact skill requirements of employees. Once that is done, the employees need to be connected with the right coaches to help them hone and improve these skills to keep the wheels of innovation churning in the face of disruption. 

Let’s connect to discuss how we can help you identify, attract, and retain top talent and grow the next generation of business leaders.