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Since March 2020, outside sales conversations have come to an abrupt halt. Suddenly, young professionals in the sales and business community are being called up to serve in a great national crisis, and bosses are locking staff away to work from home until the crisis is over.
The COVID-19 pandemic peaked and gradually declined through 2020 to a moderate level of activity by 2021. More salespeople report they cannot meet their quotas, resulting in revenue loss for companies and panic among surviving sales teams who fear they can lose their jobs.
As a result, companies are scrambling to align their operations to this new normalcy by training sales teams to apply technology to their selling efforts.
For instance, employers use online resources like Wikipedia to gain information and develop tactics to deal with the changing sales structures. This shift means that buyers and sellers are now doing business online through communication channels like Zoho and using digital assistants like Alexa.
To better understand how COVID-19 impacts sales professionals, we take an in-depth look into the emerging strategies, how technology has helped them adapt to a remote selling strategy, and how to keep sales teams motivated.
According to a 2020 study, numerous sales departments in the retail sector, particularly those in the non-essential category, sustained financial losses due to the pandemic. Leading enterprises were forced to close many of their physical outlets as visitor numbers and sales dropped substantially. A few others found a way to survive.
Sales leaders rely on sales operators as strategic partners rather than the tool-stack owners to implement beneficial changes.
Here are some trends we see currently.
The retail sector has already seen a huge shift in buying behavior due to the COVID pandemic. Now that remote selling is becoming more widespread, sales professionals are beginning to embrace collaborative workflows which eliminate geographical boundaries.
It’s vital to consider other professionals’ choice of reinventing traditional sales processes regardless of where a lead takes you. And this is the beauty of living in the digital age. Geography is no longer a hindrance to sales efforts.
Predictive analytics, the ability to forecast demand based on past trends and real-time data, is becoming essential. While some companies still rely on closed-loop forecasting methods that rely only on historical data to make decisions, other organizations are transitioning towards predictive demand planning.
“Why the transition?” you may ask. Well, markets are in a state of uncertainty, and systems are bound to readjust. The more you can predict demand for your products, the better opportunities you have to create a competitive edge.
So how do you pursue a predictive approach? When it comes to sales forecasting, there is no silver bullet. Forecasting requires a team-wide effort and won’t be successful unless the entire organization is on board with the path they follow. Thus the shift to open-loop forecasting.
It does not work by forecasting each product independently, focusing on individual products or sales channels. Open-loop forecasting focuses on-demand coverage by using flexible systems that can support multiple scenarios.
Businesses have to shift to virtual events and content marketing to drive leads and generate sales. It is no longer about being in the field, in front of customers, and closing sales. The new sales professional summary relies heavily on adaptability.
With today’s buying cycle, sales teams must stay virtually connected with prospects throughout the sales process. This requires a holistic approach driven by sales and marketing professionals to ensure coordination across departments.
Virtual selling is becoming more common for a strategy-minded sales operations team. Video conferencing is all the rage right now, as is cold calling, emails, and reaching out on social media platforms.
Effective key performance indicators (KPIs) are vital for sales operations and teams. This helps define the most effective processes to streamline lead identification, response, and qualification timeframes.
Each step of your organization’s operations is reviewed to look for ways you can encourage synergy, productivity, and job satisfaction.
Look at the best practices of established companies and determine how you can implement them in your own business. And utilize technology that will support collaborative workflows with partners, prospects, and customers.
Formulate a vision-and-mission to give professional meaning to the incentives that point front-line sellers at the right targets.
So how can salespeople survive or even come out stronger during this disruption? Even if sales professionals cannot go on the road, many professionals have standards and strategies that allow them to exchange information and increase productivity wherever they are.
The key is being able to use the tools needed for your business program effectively. Here are adapted recommendations to stay on top of your game as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages on.
As a sales professional, you need to keep up with developments in your industry, especially if you’re taking the entrepreneurial route. This helps you know how to adapt and better shape your services to meet customer expectations.
Sales professionals need to know how others sell so they can learn from each other. The industry evolves so quickly that it’s hard for sales managers and other leaders in sales organizations to keep up, much less the individual salespeople.
You probably need to know the skills, training, and mindset of fellow sales companies to excel. For instance, estate sales professionals must know how to conduct virtual open house tours using VR technology.
According to a recent travel report, the industry is pumping funds into ad spend on social media platforms to generate leads and increase bookings and boost ticket sales from the online consumer market.
Knowing what your peers are doing is very helpful for you because it helps you see changes in the market before they adapt and take advantage of them. It also costs a lot less and consumes less time than trying things out yourself and learning from scratch.
If there ever was a time to build on your sales skills, this is it. Check out sales professional courses on offer online. There are numerous cost-effective certificate programs you can take advantage of, and some organizations offer free seminars and workshops online. Plus, you get to learn from experts who have devised effective strategies that work for remote sales.
Studying sales techniques on your own can give you a leg up when you handle daily tasks. Moreover, a well-endowed resume will make you stand out from the competition when you go for job interviews.
Most importantly, polish your virtual communication and active listening skills to address customers’ needs better.
Some sales professionals may feel overwhelmed trying to remember who they have contacted and who they haven’t. Yet, we all know that this is the only way to keep tabs on negotiations and deals. A sales contact database is a great way to keep track of leads you have acquired and maintain rapport with your clients.
In this modern era of technology, sales professionals can sell from anywhere globally as long as there is an internet connection. You must be more mindful of the time you spend talking with prospects, buyers, and customers.
Prepare for any interaction ahead of time so you can make the most of those precious minutes. All in all, it brings value to every interaction.
What you convey to buyers and consumers is critical since it must clearly and concisely communicate the organization’s worth. When using bullet points to summarize papers, make sure to point to key parts.
Don’t expect that your clients will have the time to go through long emails for morsels of information. You must also use a more straightforward method to outline the activities that the team is engaged in.
Bring high-quality leads into your pipeline, be daring, think out of the box, and try new things. Get creative when it comes to closing prospective clients. A sales team has to be creative and innovative.
Explore new strategies and techniques to get organic traffic to respond to your call to action. And monitor the progress of your organization with the technology that is available in the market today.
If you oversee a sales team, it’s your responsibility to make sure they are successfully reaching your goals. Just because a sales professional cover letter shows an impressive set of skills doesn’t imply they can operate remotely. As with any job, constant monitoring and motivation of a team are essential.
Managers can reenergize and motivate sales teams during the pandemic as markets transition to the digital arena by:
The best way to get people to believe in what you’re doing is if they see that you buy into it just as much, if not more than they do. Keep a positive attitude and concentrate on improving the company’s business model.
Allow your actions to show that you’re more concerned with accepting the existing situation and attempting to make the best of it. Your team will draw from your inspiration to reach the professional goals examples you set.
Some people may find the change to working and selling remotely more difficult than others. Disillusionment, sadness, anxiety, and loneliness are all possibilities that could affect their productivity.
If you feel like your sales team is slipping into a period of burnout, it’s important to take action early. The last thing you want is your staff to start getting careless and making mistakes at the worst possible time.
A drop in sales can demotivate any team, so consider altering your performance measures (read: KPI) from a result-based strategy to a critical sales activities-based approach. How many emails are they sending out as part of their outreach? What level of quality do their leads have? Are they frequently sorting and monitoring their inbox?
Non-monetary incentives, in addition to their sales professional salary, can be used to motivate your workforce. Using this method, your sales staff will perform well despite the challenges of selling during an economic downturn.
Create a sense of camaraderie with the use of new technologies. Sales professionals thrive on professional interaction and being social with their team.
So, consider using technology to build a stronger relationship between your sales reps and enable them to have more control over what they can accomplish in remote-selling situations.
They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Thus, in your bid to close deals and achieve quotas, remember to engage your existing clients – retaining them is perhaps more crucial than generating leads. And invest in the wellbeing and competencies of your sales reps.
Encourage sales professional access to team leaders through training and coaching. It is also important to help them take ownership of their responsibilities – from the planning stages until closure.
With all these steps in place, you can rest assured that your sales team will be ready to weather storms such as COVID-19 with relative ease.
If you’ve achieved professional growth in your sales efforts during the pandemic, we would love to hear of your experience. Feel free to comment, like, and share this comment.
About the author
Emily Moore is an English & programming teacher with a passion for space and blogging. She believes that current exploration should be focused on preserving our planet’s resources. With satellites circling the orbit, it is easier to get relevant data on any environmental changes. This, in turn, should help people quickly address any challenges.