How to Master Sales Team Strategy in a Crisis

Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” With the global pandemic affecting every part of the world, businesses are running for cover by reducing expenditure, renegotiating contracts, while trying to retain their existing customers. Every industry and every business is looking to adopt a new sales approach that will help them survive and thrive. In such a scenario, the biggest challenge for sales leaders is to develop a sales team strategy to keep salespeople motivated and focused, especially while they work remotely

Sales leaders must change their sales team strategy according to the new business environment and ensure that sales teams, especially the field force, are ready to shift to the new way of working. While the Inside sales still have to change their approach in reaching out to the customers, they are better placed when compared to their counterparts who go out into the field. Sales leaders play a huge role in helping the salespeople make the SHIFT.

Why do you need a new Sales Team Strategy? 

A sales team strategy is required to reach goals and keep the team focussed on the overall objective. With changing market dynamics, managing teams and approaching prospects with a business as usual approach may not work. Moreover, competition will keep devising new strategies, so as a sales leader you need to keep some aces up your sleeve.

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How to alter your Sales Team Strategy during a Crisis? 

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. You can tailor your sales team strategy to reach end objectives, and if the existing plan does not work or there are delays that hinder your team from reaching their targets, then you must be ready to change it. The ‘how’ of a strategy is determined by the reasons for the failure of the earlier plan or by looking at what the competition is doing right. 

Introducing a new Sales Team Strategy: SHIFT 

Share insights

As a leader, keeping the team informed about the latest developments, whether it is from within the organization or from the market, is vital, so that they are prepared to adapt quickly. Information should be made available to the team through internal portals, team meetings, workplace, slack, etc. 

The use of proper hashtags and AI tools can help access the information easily. While information is available everywhere, what the prospects will be looking for is insights. It helps create a good opening to start a conversation with the prospect.

Your team must be able to distinguish between insight and information. For example,

The Indian economy has contracted by 3.2%.

This statement is information that the prospect might already know. Instead,

There is a 22% increase in sales of essential items, electronic accessories, processed food, etc., and this surge in demand will benefit companies with a robust supply chain.

This insight can be useful for starting a conversation with a prospect in the supply chain or e-commerce industry. 

The insight must be actionable, current, and relevant to the prospect’s business. Arm your salespeople with insights on every industry. 


It is likely that salespeople may have to deal with a greater number of rejections. This might dishearten them even further. Leaders must endeavor to instill hope in them to help them persevere.

The world runs on hope and it keeps every one of us optimistic. Appreciating small wins can revive the hopes of the team. Make it a point to highlight even the smallest of the wins in the team. Be in touch with every team member on a regular basis. Organize meetings to share fun moments rather than just talking business.

According to Vaishnav Ramesh, Lead, Sales Development, EMEA at Freshworks,

While this is a testing time for business, these are testing times on our mindset and approach. Strategies on what got us to where we are today aren’t necessarily the same strategies that will take us on the path of success this year. And, however important strategies are, it boils down to how willing you are to re-look at changing how you function? This is something for you to ponder about.

Share inspirational stories and shows to improve the morale of your team members. Hope is an elixir that rejuvenates the team and helps achieve the impossible.


With these new changes there is a lot of scope for innovation. The field salespersons must discover innovative ways of reaching out to prospective customers. Now since the delivery of non-essential items is allowed you can think of sending bouquets to important customers or prospects on special occasions. 

Think of partnering with companies in their social causes. You can improve the goodwill by extending trial periods of software products, which is something a lot of companies are doing. 

Smaller businesses are fast to respond to such exigencies. For example, Grocery (Kirana) stores have started doing door deliveries, restaurants have started takeaways, local barbershops have started using ultra-violet cleaners to sanitize scissors and combs, and medical shops and supermarkets have started selling hand sanitizers in bulk.

When we look around and see how businesses are responding to the crisis, we will get new ideas.


It is important to treat the salespeople fairly, measure the effectiveness of the team not just by the numbers but by the effort they are putting in. Strictly going by the leading and lagging indicators may not work in such crisis situations.

The same person whose conversion ratio was high earlier might end up with an abysmal conversion rate, but that doesn’t mean the person is not putting in effort or there is something wrong in the approach. 

It is because the businesses are not running at their full capacity in most countries and it might take some time for the economic revival to happen. Sticking to the standard procedures of measuring performance using the metrics may not work now.

As a leader, one needs to be empathetic to the prevailing situation and support the team. Being fair is one of the essential elements in building trust and it is the glue that binds people to the organization.


Effective leaders focus more on learning goals so that the performance goals are taken care of. Leaders must teach new skill sets and help in cross-skilling and upskilling. Encourage team members to learn new skills and improve their knowledge.
Here are some suggestions:

  • Use the time effectively to enhance the understanding of products, conduct quizzes, do mock calls, etc.
  • Review the lost deals for lessons learned.
  • Record videos of the practice pitches of the team members on each product using different customer situations.
  • List all the possible rejections and help the team to practice handling objections.
  • Look at the pipeline of each sales rep to analyze and give realistic projections.
  • Analyze the conversion ratios of each salesperson to see which part of the sales process they need to improve upon, and coach them.
  • Set learning goals for the team to complete at least one course on any of the online learning platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Skillsoft, or LinkedIn Learning. Ask the team to enroll in different courses and after completion of the course, the team member must coach other team members on the topic.

By doing so, in a short time, the learning of the team multiplies. As a leader, it is imperative to be at the forefront as far as learning is concerned, and set the right example by being one step ahead in the learning curve.

Steps to implement SHIFT strategy in your organization:

  1. Leaders must anchor it and make it part of the organization’s culture.
  2. Recognize and reward leaders who are anchoring this change.
  3. Communicate it repeatedly and effectively across the organization using various channels and communication tools.
  4. Share success stories and showcase them across the organisation to increase adoption.
  5. Enable teams to use the latest technology to facilitate learning.
  6. Share best practices across functions and teams and help them collaborate. This will create a favorable atmosphere for effective implementation.

The SHIFT framework can help the leaders cement their bonding with the team in these testing times. It is the time to build teams that are resilient to face any challenge, anticipated or not.

According to Michael Porter, “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” As a leader, the ball is in your court if you are swift enough to make the SHIFT or not and be seen as different from the lot. 

Sales challenge

This blog is co-authored by Koushik Pillalamarri, Director, Sales Productivity at Freshworks. His career spans over 27 years and has diverse experience in Sales, Learning & Development, and Sales Enablement functions. He worked with some of the leading IT service providers in the world and handled transformational projects in Sales Enablement.