Successful Sales in Uncertain Times

The sales department is confronted with special challenges in the days of Covid-19. In many industries, this is particularly evident in supply and demand shocks, the elimination of entire channels or the sales team’s complete switch to virtual working, which are all happening at the same time. However, as the central interface between supply and demand, sales is not only playing one of the most critical functions these days, butwill also continue doing so after this phase.

The current limitations have two main implications: On the one hand, the short-term ability of companies to act must be maintained in order to counteract a possible downturn; on the other hand, the emerging dynamics must be strategically used in the medium term to prepare for recovery in the best possible way. We see the actual core levers for success in both directions, in addition to the classic 4-5 P in the areas of organization, people and leadership.


Whether analog or virtual, for sales teams to best work together, close and regular coordination is needed. In particular, integrating interface functions and upstream and downstream departments has proven to be a success factor in our work with clients. By introducing an agile setup with corresponding coordination routines (sprint planning meetings, daily sync calls, review and retro), we have succeeded in contributing to a higher amount of focus and improved prioritization, which has therefore led to a significant increase in closing rates on several occasions.

There is no doubt that all this, combined with an equally strengthened team cohesion, is of enormous importance even in times of greater geographical distance. Here, too, our experience shows that with the right tools and a redesign of the core processes, it is possible to open up new opportunities and ensure smooth operations.


Particularly in decentralized sales units, it is essential to use targeted personnel development measures to bring individuals and teams together and thus make both efficient. Starting with a structured and well-thought-out onboarding of new employees, through individual support by means of sales coaching, to general training and further education offers, our experience demonstrates that an investment in the team’s sales skills increasingly pays off.

The trend is moving away from broadband presence formats in the sense of “one-size-fits-all” to more community-based solutions (“sales community”) with a higher proportion of peer-to-peer learning formats as well as digital learning nuggets. Empowering sales teams has become even more important in times of possibly lower workloads or when switching to digital channels. This helps both to prepare for the upturn as well as retain top talent in the long term.


Good leadership in sales is and has always been two-fold. Not only do you need to be close to the team in order to prioritize well and optimally distribute resources (especially in the office), you also need to be present in the market and offer support during important customer appointments. When there is a high density of appointments and physical distance, making time for personal discussions with employees and taking on a coaching role can be particularly difficult. In our view, this makes it even more important to give managers the opportunity to improve supervision of and connection to their team through an appropriate setup on the one hand, and enable them to deal with leadership issues through targeted individual coaching on the other.

Especially in times of increased virtual leadership, we also recommend to consciously planning routines that allow an open dialogue between employee and manager and thus open up space to address personal issues. It also seems important now to create and communicate a timetable as clear and transparent as possible for the coming period in order to give the team both security and orientation.

Even in ordinary times, sales improvement projects often bring short-term improvements of up to +25% in order intake. It will be even more important than usual to combine agile elements with consistent digitalization in sales, particularly in the restart phase.

We would be happy to discuss with you how you can profitably use the three core levers of organization, people and leadership to optimally align your sales force.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen
Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen
Partner, Head of Leadership Practice

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