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Post COVID Ruts: Avoid the Traps & Ignite Performance

Post-COVID has arrived and it’s time to mold the “new normal.” As we applaud having survived COVID, fresh challenges await, such as retaining employees, ensuring their full engagement, and driving performance in today’s hybrid world. The sales management practices that worked pre-COVID are falling flat, routines developed during COVID hindering peak performance, and the “new sales leader” practices are unclear. Optimizing performance post-COVID requires leaders to avoid or tackle ruts built during COVID that now enable mediocre performance, and instead build breakthrough grooves that ignite performance.

As sales leaders strive to power up performance, their biggest barrier is that they, too, might be in an unproductive rut, not seeing the negative impact or lost potential in sticking with routines developed over the past two years that have become comfortable. These ruts must be recognized and replaced with “new groove” best practices. The great news is the “new normal” activities (future grooves) that are most impactful all fall into the basics of being an excellent leader, manager, coach and partner.


Execution & Performance Graphic


The last six months provided the Business Efficacy team with many opportunities for front-line experiences, observations, and research. Below are just a few common examples that illuminate today’s reality and provide insights into how to ignite sales performance

Lead (inspire performance):
  • Rut: Assuming incentives, work environment flexibility and virtual communications will get and keep colleagues highly motivated and feeling connected.
  • New Groove: Finding meaningful ways to connect in person that spark collaboration, innovation, learning, and performance. Orchestrate in-person large and small group team meetings and one-on-ones, pointing out to the participants the increased value, outcomes, positivity, and progress.
Manage (focus performance):
    • Rut: Assuming salespeople know and are doing the right sales activities at the required levels of effectiveness to hit targeted performance goals, given evolving customer expectations and market dynamics.
    • New Groove: Setting clear and breakthrough activity/behavior and performance expectations, providing relevant and timely feedback, and holding individuals accountable to agreed-upon expectations.
Coach (develop performance):
    • Rut: Assuming critical sales effectiveness skills are good enough for today’s business environment or adoption of sales tools hasn’t snapped back over the past two years. Mistakenly relying too heavily on individual and/or virtual learning for development, or failing to prioritize development.
    • New Groove: Prioritizing involvement in the development of direct reports through increasing the quality and quantity of activities such as pre-call planning, joint calls, and post-call debriefs. Embrace the opportunity to be back in the field, working side-by-side with salespeople, and being their difference maker.
Partner (engage resources):
    • Rut: Assuming internal and external resources will be fully engaged and supportive by continuing the use of reactive and less effective communication methods, such as email and phone.
    • New Groove: Reaching out proactively (in person or virtually with camera) exploring the resource’s goals, priorities and challenges. Exploring and gaining alignment on how best to work together and support each other’s success in today’s new world.

The sales manager‘s new groove is going back to the basics. Sales leaders need to pause and challenge their own thinking and practices using the lens of “is it making an impact” to determine what is working and not working. The risk is sales leaders thinking the current routines are the right routines. It’s very tempting to accept today’s performance levels or the comfort felt with today’s routines. Tomorrow’s breakthrough requires we all challenge our activity and ask ourselves if we are making an IMPACT with our people, customers and peers. The shift from a negative rut to a productive groove doesn’t necessarily have to be something radical, but it does require recognizing the rut so we can turn it into the new groove. Don’t let yourself be stuck or happy with your ruts! Turn into your IMPACTFUL new grooves.

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