COVID-19: The Sales Manager’s Guide to Leading in a Crisis

We all know how stressful change management can be, but what if there is no end in sight? The uncertainties of COVID-19 are trapping your sales execs in limbo. They’re anxious, most likely not functioning properly, and they need your help.

As a sales leader, you’re facing the same stresses and anxieties as your sales team. The difference is that you need to step up to help them.

The only way you can do that, though, is if you have the knowledge and self-awareness to understand how your brain is reacting to the extreme challenges of COVID-19.

If you can help yourself get through this, you can be the leader that your team – and company – needs right now.

The dangers of being trapped in limbo

In Managing Transitions: Making the most of change, William Bridges outlines three transitions in a change process: Endings, where teams need to let go of the old ways of doing things; Limbo Zone (Neutral Zone), the space between the old familiar way and the future state; and Beginnings, which is the change that the organisation is trying to achieve.

The problem with change management is that humans hate change. COVID-19 is taking this to the extreme, because not only is everything changing, but there is no clear path to follow, no end in sight, and no one can tell us what the new world order will look like, or what the end goal is.

Basically, everyone is suspended in Limbo.

Limbo is a space where everything has shifted and there is nothing familiar to grip onto – like a trapeze artist suspended in mid-air, without a solid bar to grip onto.

In this space it is difficult to be productive, because there are no familiar cues, and there is no defined end-state to navigate towards.

Limbo is the enemy of productivity – it smothers all efforts to deliver outcomes.

So, what can you do?

1. Understand how stress impedes the brain’s ability to process information

For starters, understand that the brain is not good with stress.

Brain scans conducted by J Wojtecki Jr, and R Peters from the Center for Risk Communication reveal that stress reduces the ability to process information by up to a staggering 80%.

In a nutshell, your sales team is struggling to hear, understand and remember information. In fact, your most stressed team members are now understanding information at 4 grades below their actual education level.

2. Understand how distractions erode productivity

Under normal circumstances this would already be a challenge, but we’re also being bombarded by a never-ending stream of WhatsApps, news feeds and COVID-19 updates that are all feeding into our fears.

Working from home isn’t helping on the distraction front either. Parents are trying to work with children at home, and we’re all dealing with the stress levels of our partners.

We’re fretting, frenetic, unfocused and distracted, bouncing from one task to another. And it’s up to you to try and bring some normalcy and order to your team.

3. Ten ways to lead your sales team through this time of crisis

  1. Be clear about your new COVID-19 go-to-market strategy (if you require assistance with this, we can help).
  2. Help your team to identify which clients they should focus on and with which offers. The more support and direction you can offer right now, the better.
  3. Build ‘conversation guides’ for your sales execs that help them to navigate sales interactions during the lockdown and beyond (again, talk to us for assistance).
  4. Continue to coach and train your team through online channels (we can assist and support Sales Managers with online solutions for training and coaching)
  5. Set up daily routines and be clear about the tasks each sales exec must follow. Structure will help everyone feel like they aren’t in complete limbo, which is critical.
  6. Hold daily huddle meetings to handle operational sales pointers and check in on daily priorities, ‘stucks’, and to maintain camaraderie and contact.
  7. Explain to your team how the ‘limbo state’ can affect their focus and can cause anxiety.
  8. Open a channel of communication between yourself and your sales execs where you can discuss and support them through their anxiety. It’s important that everyone feels heard and no one feels alone.
  9. Talk to your team about the importance of focus and give them advice on limiting distractions, including tips on responding to WhatsApp and other messages at specific intervals in the day.
  10. Model best behaviours for your team in all of your interactions

How ThinkSales can help


Solutions to help sales leaders with their go-to-market strategies and solutions for sales managers to manage remote teams and equip sales reps with the skills and tools to bring in revenue in the midst of COVID-19 crisis.

Click here for full details:

  • Virtual consulting on customer engagement process design and sales strategy
  • Virtual building of call scripting, needs analysis and conversation guides built to engage customers in an online environment
  • Online Psychometric Assessments to assess Sales Reps and pinpoint highest priority development areas for selling in this environment
  • Virtual sales training for sales reps and managers.