Channel Sales Strategies: Success in Uncertain Times

Axcient’s recent Facebook Live Chat features Adam Slutskin, Chief Revenue Officer at Liongard, Keith Keller, Chief Operations Officer and Partner at ACCI, and Mike Goldberg, Vice President of Sales at Axcient. Moderated by Corey Banner, Axcient’s Director of Customer Success, the group discussed managing their sales team during COVID-19, forecasting without predictability, and tactical changes to make in your sales teams.

Tune in below, or keep reading to see how these managed service providers (MSPs) are keeping their sales teams motivated, and their clients happy.

Ensuring growth from the inside out

MSPs are in a unique position despite anything the pandemic can throw at them because they provide an essential service. No matter where workers are stationed, IT needs must be met to keep business moving. This provides a built-in opportunity for MSPs to always be in touch with their clients. Instead of trying to sell or provide solutions, most businesses, as we saw through the influx of television ads, changed their tune to, “we’re here for you.”

ACCI, Liongard, and Axcient were no different. While they focused on listening, making the most of the time they did have with clients, and overall, understanding the personal impact, as well as the business impact, these business took the same tone with their sales reps. Understanding the critical importance of the sales team as an integral part of continuing to grow, while acknowledging the effect of new work from home environments, everyone implemented new internal strategies.

In an effort to feel normal, once it was possible, ACCI re-opened their office in Birmingham to anyone who wanted to come in, and felt safe doing so. Of course remote work is still accepted and those employees are included virtually, but having the office available was comforting to many. Keeping a safe distance, colleagues can stay connected, go to lunch, and gain some sense of normalcy.

For Axcient, everyone is still at home with work at their fingertips. This situation forced Mike to do something unusual when managing a remote sales team – he needed to manage the burnout. Axcient’s young sales team was working too much, so Mike required them to take days off to keep morale high and motivation strong for the long-run. Teams also participate in morning and end-of-day virtual stand up meetings that last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. These regular check-ins keep the company culture alive, and surprisingly, people show up early to catch-up personally.

Adam also focused on his team and basically shut down sales for the month of March. With such uncertainty at the time, and everyone worrying about their health and their loved ones, he didn’t feel right about Liongard trying to sell. He increased communication with his team to include daily Zoom huddles so people could stay connected while sheltering in place. Encouraged to not only focus on work topics, but also personal conversations, Adam wanted to prevent isolation and continue to foster the connection people had in the office. Liongard even sent the team company branded champagne to enjoy on a virtual happy hour that included everyone’s families!

Playing ‘what if’ to forecast in unprecedented times

Unfortunately any sales goals or predictability you may have set for your team in January flew out the window by March. With the future completely unknown, these business leaders played the ‘what if’ game. Adam and Mike started with different impact scenarios. If sales were reduced by 25, 50, or 75 percent, what would the impact be across the company? What are some exit and churn possibilities? No matter what the results, you have to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Of course, everyone continues to have to make regular and incremental adjustments in their numbers. This is an unprecedented and completely wild time. There is no right answer and there is no knowing the future. Keith and ACCI are focused on the number needed to keep the doors open. That’s an easy one to start with, but don’t pick one thing. Look at all your numbers, trust your historical data, explore scenarios, and pick a path. Understand that you may need to adjust and don’t be afraid to get creative.

When Keith was approached by a sales rep looking for a new opportunity after COVID left him unemployed, ACCI gave him a chance on a commission basis. Even though it’s not the way ACCI typically structures their sales reps, Keith was open to a new way of onboarding. Since then, he’s become an asset and has helped the company continue to grow, despite the current climate.

Pivot from what you’re losing to filling gaps

When Axcient started running our impact scenarios Mike discovered that we could actually retain all employees even at a 20 or 30 percent loss, but after that, things got dicey. It was a big goal for Axcient to keep everyone employed despite what had happened, and whatever was coming next. To avoid that, Mike confronted the reality of what we were losing immediately.

With business happening at home, there are no trade shows for both selling and generating leads. There aren’t on-site visits or face-to-face engagements. Our regular lunch and learn events were over – although they’re now being held virtually. Although those opportunities were halted, Axcient had something all businesses needed – remote workforce enablement solutions. Mike thought, “how can we both give a benefit to our clients, and get a benefit to keep our company moving?”

The Axcient team pivoted to put all their effort behind delivering the thing MSPs and their clients needed most during this time. Axcient quickly rolled out upgrades to our solutions and empowered the sales team with free licenses and education materials for clients. Mike looked at the levers available for Axcient to pull and he pulled them. He credits those pivots that created new opportunities for lead generation, for making the Axcient team successful.

Follow Axcient on Facebook and tune in for weekly Facebook Live Chats with MSP leaders discussing best practices, new trends, and other channel specific happenings.

About the Author: 
Liz Mellem // Technical Copywriter, Axcient

Liz Mellem has been a freelance copywriter for over three years in the technology, education, and alternative medicine industries. She produces content, sales collateral, and email marketing campaigns that contribute to digital marketing strategies for sales growth and brand awareness. In her free time, Liz enjoys reading, exploring Austin, and Netflix with her cat, Harlem.