“Houston, we have a problem.”  

It’s a classic line delivered by Tom Hanks during a tense scene in the 1995 movie Apollo 13.  Astronaut Jim Lovell, played by Hanks, informs mission control that a cabin filter has failed.  The astronauts are breathing dangerous levels of CO2 and will die if nothing is done soon. Ed Harris’s character, in charge of the mission, pulls together the smartest NASA engineers and urges them on to fix the problem fast, uttering “I suggest you gentlemen invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole.  Rapidly.”

Like most of us, I’m disheartened by the news of more and more tech companies laying off field sales professionals as their first response to the COVID-19 crisis.

On the surface, I get it, and I hear it firsthand from some of my customers.  “Our business is built on face to face selling. If we can’t see customers, we can’t sell. Period.”

Sad to see.  Even sadder because businesses that think like this are missing the biggest opportunity of all that has been presented by this crisis – to create an urgent call to action for the entire sales team to ‘invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole.  Rapidly.’

Instead of laying off field salespeople, the VP of Sales should pull the entire team together, virtually, and lead them in a critical mission – to take everything they know about how to sell to their customers, and use it to redesign the sales process, fast!  They must invent a new way to deliver the right experience to customers that will uncover needs, show value and drive sales, without going on-site.

Need inspiration?  Your routine doctor’s appointment, perhaps the most ‘high touch’ sales call of all, may never happen face to face again.  If the healthcare system can adapt to acquiring and caring for its customers in the new age of social distancing, those of us who sell technology can certainly do it too.

Your field sellers are not obsolete in this new age; they are more valuable than ever.  Let’s face it, we’re all ‘in the field’ now and that may be here to stay for many of us.  Inside sales and field sales are now Virtual Sales – it involves everyone including your SDRs, SEs, Sales Ops, and most importantly your most experienced field sellers.  

The mission is clear, but time is critical.  The reward for reinventing your sales process during this crisis is greater efficiency, lower cost of sales, and a new customer experience that delivers value how they want it and when they want it.  

It’s not rocket science.