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Sales Leaders—What Do We Do Now and Next?

I am trying to remember what happened post 9/11 and post 2008 recession. I was a Director of Sales managing four salespeople when the unspeakable horror hit NYC, DC and Shanksville in September 2001. I was a Vice President of Sales managing 32 team members when the financial disaster hit our entire country in September 2008, newly hired one month prior. 

Of course I remember these tragedies both in different ways; the first from a human perspective with sadness and disbelief; the second from a business perspective of what the hell just happened and do I even know who I am managing yet? For the life of me, I do not recall specific tactics and plans that got us back, but I do remember one thing, I had to be a leader.    

Did I know what specific steps I had to take as a leader to get revenue rolling in again? No, it was the first time these two different things happened to me in a management role. But I did know I had to inspire and lead the team to find our footing again, move forward and eventually return to booking events again. During this drought, I had to develop a strategic sales and human resources plan for when it was time to get back to business.

This is where we are now — right? Kind of. What is weird about this disaster is how fast it hit and the unknown end date. This is agonizing for us all; we are expert planners that like every detail finalized, all logistics in place and timelines followed to the minute.

Sales leaders you need to step up now, because this unknown cannot hold you back.

We are hospitality wizards. My entire career, I approached every event thinking, “I am going to face at least one challenge that will require a decision on the spot; let’s just hope it’s at the beginning of set-up and not while the guests are walking in the door”. Well, guess what, this is our set-up.

Start tackling this challenge now with your remaining sales team members so when your clients are at your door again, you know what you are offering next.

Leaders To Get to the Next….

Finalize your business focus

  • Review business that has postponed and confirm new status
  • What products and services are you offering moving forward? What is changing?
    • Recognize that we are not going to be 100% the same business as before
  • Think Differently
  • How do we adapt and what are the most profitable lines of business?
  • What will be their revised sales projections for May-December 2020?
  • Have you developed a new revenue goal and related expense budgets?
  • Get a pulse from the sales team on annual repeat customers for Q3 & Q4 events
  • Have you updated your P&L projections?
  • Owners…Do you feel good about all this?

Develop New “Life of the Sales”

  • Think Through the Customer Experience from Inquiry through Invoice based on each business line
  • Measure the Path — Who and What is Needed at Each Step and When?

Be “Sales” Ready

  • Be Ready for First Inquiry- Can you follow up with pricing and a proposal in an hour?
  • Develop and Share Event Ideas- What types of events will clients be asking for?
    • Employee Appreciation? Team Building? Fundraising?
    • What Venues are available and make sense for these event types?
    • Non-Saturday weddings?
  • Update all Marketing Outlets — Website, Social Media, etc.

Develop an Operational Timeline

  • Look at your Event Calendar — what has been postponed and when does the first event kick in?
  • When can you start rebuilding BOH operations?
    • What are the financial thresholds for this ramp up?
  • What information do you need from the sales team to help you make these decisions?

 Communicate to the team

  • What is the best method of communication? Group or Individual?
  • Recognize that “What does this mean for me?” is top of mind for most employees
  • Are you ready for all the questions?
  • Remember to be honest and open

Take a moment to reflect on who you would consider the three best leaders in history. If your three are similar to mine, each historical figure brought their people back after a significant crisis or tragedy. They faced adversity but persevered through determination and grit. As a sales leader, adding strategy, planning and hustle into the mix means you are focused on the next. Do it. Our community, staff and customers are all looking forward to it.

Jennifer Perna

Jennifer Perna

Owner, Fulton Market Consulting, Chicago, IL
Jennifer Perna started Fulton Market Consulting in May 2017 after developing an event experience and sales management experience portfolio for over 25 years in the downtown Chicago catering and special events industry. Jennifer presently works with owners, managers and all team players at hospitality-related companies on increasing sales and creating business development strategies, streamlining processes for operations and event production and developing best practices for human resources and administrative management. This is especially imperative as we continue to manage a diverse and young talented pool of employees today. Jennifer brings a dynamic, approachable and relatable communication style to all levels and members...