COVID-19 has swept businesses into uncharted waters. With new direction each day, many companies are being forced to close their doors or change their approach to work, implementing mandatory work from home requirements to comply with CDC and government guidelines. While every team is uniquely impacted, sales teams are facing an urgent need to generate revenue to keep businesses in operation.

To better understand COVID-19’s impact on our sales and customer-facing teams, we sat down with our sales leadership team to understand the top five ways our sales and customer teams are adapting to stay on track during this unprecedented time. 

Our sales leadership team consists of Jeff Rice – Director of Sales, Tyee Dugan – Director of Customers, Shamus Noonan – Sales Manager, and Neal Patel – Head of Business Development and Sales.   


 1. Listening to our customers

Customer-facing teams are the eyes and ears of our operation — whether or not we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Given we are in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that our teams are listening intently to existing customers and prospects.

At Crunchbase, our sales and customer-facing teams have made this a priority, scheduling daily team stand ups to share customer feedback and concerns they’re hearing from sales prospects. This enables our teams to better understand the broader impact and implications of the situation and discuss any patterns and trends we’re seeing with our customers that could be helpful in how we help them. These important insights are then funneled up to team leadership to help gauge and better understand COVID-19’s impact on our business. 

Customer and sales managers should share insights from external conversations with the broader company, allowing visibility into COVID-19’s impact for current users, customers, and prospects. “Real-time, open lines of communication with the broader company facilitates cross-functional alignment and the ability to address customer challenges in a thoughtful and proactive way across all channels, including marketing, social media, and other consumer content,” added head of business development and sales, Neal Patel.

Key takeaway: Establish open lines of communication and share customer feedback with the company.


2. Putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes

Practicing empathy is more important than ever. While feedback from Crunchbase customers is integral for our understanding of the state of the business, our teams are aware that taking the time to provide this feedback may not be number one on the priority list for our customers and prospects, who may be busy taking care of their families and loved ones. “Putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers is an important way to find the right time and platform for communication and feedback,” shared director of sales, Jeff Rice.

Our team is balancing the current situation with the need to continue to do their jobs – which is certainly a double-edged sword. “The frame of mind I’m trying to build for my team is that if a company’s corporate goals have not changed, then their decision to buy a solution that backs into that goal likely hasn’t either,” added Jeff. “However, with some companies updating board targets, OKRs, and cutting or freezing spending, our teams need to re-prioritize targets to back up their pipeline.”

Our team has turned to social listening via Twitter to feel out the market and figure out where the money is still flowing. Some VCs still have investment goals and funds from recent funding rounds that need to be invested. Using tools within Crunchbase, our sales team has rebuilt prospecting lists that focus on accounts supporting industries holding steady through the pandemic.

Key takeaway: Put customers first and practice empathy.


3. Prioritizing internal communication

The way team leaders communicate and interact with teams greatly impacts morale and adaptability. It’s challenging enough to not feel isolated in quarantine – to keep teams engaged, leaders should make it a top priority to keep communication and company culture alive throughout remote work. 

It’s important to keep a regular cadence of updates to encourage team camaraderie and maintain company culture. “Our CS team has maintained a daily standup each morning just to catch up before the day starts, it keeps us all aligned and feeling like a team,” added our director of customers, Tyee Dugan.

Likewise, our sales teams have found lighthearted ways to stay connected and engaged, prioritizing team hangouts and challenges. Our sales team created a Slack channel in which team members compete in “Chopped” cook offs and post pictures of their gourmet (or not-so-gourmet) breakfast each day. The team also recently celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with an all hands Zoom meeting where each member dressed up before hopping on video chat.

In line with the sales team, teams across Crunchbase have been utilizing Slack and Zoom for daily communication. As in-person facetime is limited these days, our teams have set the standard that every team meeting is a Zoom meeting — static images don’t cut it. Our teams have also implemented mobile meetings and walking 1:1 meetings so team members can get some fresh air or run an errand while still checking in on team members. “I was in the grocery store doing a post mortem of a customer call with an AE,” said director of sales, Jeff Rice. “It’s important to take into account the challenges your team may be having with closing deals and pulling back on pushed deals. Sometimes you’ll need to multitask but we can’t forget to encourage our teams to take care of themselves and their families through this tough time.”

“We’ve also utilized the power of recorded video to cut down on meetings,” added sales manager, Shamus Noonan. “Our team has been pre-recording update videos, reviewing spreadsheets and reports and sharing those with our colleagues to view on their own time. We are conscious that more time is being booked as meetings to get key points across internally, and we want to be sure our teams still have time to do their jobs.”

Key takeaway: Efficient, effective and fun communication keeps company culture alive.


4. Keeping our sales teams motivated 

For most sales teams, company and team culture likely has something to do with competition, or another form of motivation. Winner’s Circle and President’s Club may not look the same this quarter, but adapting these rewards to a donation to a charity of choice can be just as, if not more, motivating. 

If finances allow, leaderboards, spiffs (immediate bonuses for a sale) and other incentives can still be a part of your sales team’s culture, and can easily be adapted for remote work. “We had some light spiffs running this month. Most were team-specific to keep everyone working toward a team goal beyond themselves,” added Jeff Rice. “It helps us celebrate short-term, small wins and in the long-term, hitting or missing these team targets helps us gauge if we need to relax our goals to cope with the current situation.”

If your team uses Salesforce, the platform allows team members to see real-time sales prospecting updates and deal leaderboards. If your company does not use Salesforce, leadership can consider sharing daily or weekly leaderboard and goal progress updates via Slack, email, or other team communication platforms.

While it is important to stay positive and celebrate wins with shoutouts, our teams also need to be swift to recognize low performance. According to head of business development and sales Neal, our sales leadership team meets twice a week to review activity performance to ensure the team is active and working. “We celebrate the top performers and quickly determine what we can do to help the lower performers. Not every miss is due to lack of work ethic. Some people are out helping family or friends, and we need to take that into account.”

Key takeaway: Set individual and collective goals, and approach performance issues with compassion.


5. Encouraging our sales teams and CSMs to focus on value

Customer teams across the board are also facing the need to communicate value under changing circumstances. At Crunchbase, and likely at other companies, our sales and customer-facing teams have two immediate priorities:

  1. Continuing to demonstrate value for current customers
  2. Proving to potential customers that our product provides significant enough ROI to justify purchase when money is tight

Communicating these value propositions effectively can make or break any company, and it’s certainly a challenging time to do so. For sales prospecting, new opportunities may be scarce, but prioritizing these key messages and ensuring they are pulled through in all communications will help sales and customer teams stay on track in uncertain times. 

Key takeaway: Communicate and demonstrate value to stay on track.


Try Crunchbase Pro Free

Disclaimer: This post was last updated on October 21, 2020.

Crunchbase as an organization, like many companies across the globe, is still learning and adapting to the situation on a daily, and even minute-by-minute, basis. We hope bringing you along with us in this journey of adaptation will offer guidance, insight and perspective.

  • Originally published March 27, 2020, updated December 24, 2021