Leading Sales and Driving Results with a People-Centric Strategy

By: Phil Stern   Beau BrooksBeau Brooks  |  July 7, 2020

Coronavirus has forced companies around the globe to rethink their business strategies so they can continue to empower their teams and generate revenue while navigating a challenging environment.

To offer guidance on this front, Mainsail Partners’ VP of Sales, Phil Stern, hosted a webinar with Beau Brooks, SVP of Sales & Customer Success at Formstack, about leading a sales team—and a company—through the pandemic by shifting away from highly tactical strategies and toward approaches that address the emotional needs of employees and customers.

Here are the key takeaways on how business leaders should shift their strategies and keep customers and teams top of mind.

People-first leadership strategies are highly effective

People-first and customer-centric business strategies are proven to work. Employing this type of leadership is even more crucial during a crisis. Why? Because to be successful, your teams, customers and prospects need to feel understood and have their pain points addressed in order to trust your organization.

Companies that thrive are the ones in which leadership connects with employees and isn’t afraid to show vulnerability and honesty, and communicate clearly within the organization so teams know where leadership stands on important issues, how the company is performing and expectations for every member of the team.

Culture starts at the top, so leaders need to set an example by helping employees foster genuine relationships with one another. This raises morale and creates space where difficult, important conversations happen, ultimately improving the business.

“Relationships rarely regress, so leaders have been forced to be vulnerable. Be prepared to stay vulnerable—create environments where teams can share and unburden themselves from their challenges and allow people to push forward.” - Beau Brooks

Focus on the “why” — revisit your mission and reinforce how your product impacts your customers

This pandemic has had a financial and emotional impact on businesses and teams, which can lead to lost revenue, lower motivation and less productivity. Your employees not only need to trust the leadership team during this difficult time, but also need to be reminded of the company’s mission and how your product is positively impacting those you serve.

Now is the perfect time to re-engage your employees around your mission. Is it at the heart of what your company does? Do you emphasize your mission to your employees? What customer stories can you share where your mission was fulfilled? If you push your mission to the forefront, you will re-energize and rally your teams around the initiative.

And once employees find renewed energy from the meaning of their work, reinforce the idea that every single interaction with a customer can move business forward.

But don’t stop there. Share your Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys—both positive and negative—more widely and on a regular basis. When the score is good and you receive positive comments, use this to also re-energize team members. And of course, don’t forget to reach out to customers and thank them for providing feedback.

By showing your employees the importance and outcome of their work and how it ties into the company mission, they’ll become more motivated.

Proactively adjust messaging and product positioning

Adjust your sales scripts. While traditional scripts emphasize a pitch—why someone should use your product—this approach can seem confrontational and given today’s environment, tone deaf.

Instead, train your sales and marketing teams to be empathetic and emotionally intelligent in order to connect with prospects. Teach them to ask questions first and seek out second- and third-level details and then adjust their language and mirror their customers’ language and tone—the better they are at recognizing where someone is emotionally, the better they can build relationships with a prospect and turn their efforts into long-term revenue.

You can measure the success of these changes by tracking revenue, gathering both qualitative and quantitative data and reviewing customer feedback. You’ll likely find many prospects appreciate this shift in how you approach your calls.

Additionally, take a closer look at the market and your product offerings so you can decide what to invest time and effort into. If your business has a product release originally planned for the future that could benefit your organization now, accelerate the timeline and sell it to markets that will generate the most revenue. Pull together sales, marketing, stakeholders and leadership to determine what a product package—offering, market, pricing and messaging—and profit margins would look like. Setting these new goals will bring clarity to your teams.

Double-down on coaching and employee support

Moving forward, invest tools and time into employees to develop new skills that lead to better outcomes from their interactions with customers. You are less likely to succeed if your teams are exhausted and feel they can’t reach their goals. By investing in and encouraging your employees to build their skill sets, you will help generate loyalty and hard work.

Find ways to provide resources to help employees navigate the emotional impact of current events. You can create a supportive, open environment by having:

  • CEOs consistently sharing financial and business updates with employees, but most importantly, how your CEO is feeling about the business
  • VPs and managers creating biweekly office hours where employees can discuss their work and personal situations
  • Third-party counseling sessions, workshops and trainings, and volunteer groups
  • Encouraging employees to take time off when needed
“I would ping my sales managers about my office hours so that they could jump on the line or encourage their team members to join if they were nervous. This would sow the seeds for positive interactions and create a comfortable environment to speak openly.” - Phil Stern

Now more than ever, it is crucial to shift your focus to people and customer-oriented strategies in order to succeed. If you’d like to learn more, watch the webinar below.

Phil is a Operating Principal at Mainsail Partners. He leads the firm’s Center of Excellence for Sales and is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies optimize their growth strategies and deploy sales practices.
More by Phil Stern
Beau Brooks
Beau Brooks is Senior Vice President of Sales and CX at Formstack. Beau supports the sales team at Formstack, the leading provider for online form building, workflows and document generation.
More about Beau Brooks
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