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Crisis management in sales: How to act before, during & after a crisis

When it comes to pinpointing who “owns” the crisis, it’s complicated. Interestingly, everyone from board members and CEOs to Legal to Risk to IT claims responsibility for a variety of crisis roles — preparedness, response, recovery, ERM, communications. This tells us that most senior executives want to be involved in helping their companies prepare for and respond to the crisis, which is a positive sign.

PwC Global Crisis Survey 2019

Crisis is the time that can change every dynamic of your business. It can change the formation of teams, roles of team members, faces of leadership, even the business model of your product or service.

A crisis is probably the worst time for any business that can force you to make quick decisions, rapidly shift your production and marketing efforts, and drastically reduce your sales. 

In this article, we are talking about what we can do before, during, and after the crisis. This article will help you in designing the right strategy for the crisis.

Let’s start with understanding the kind of crisis that can hover on your business and sales:

The diversity of crisis

All the crises will fall under one or more of these 7 essential categories:

1. Operational
2. Technological
3. Humanitarian
4. Financial
5. Legal
6. Human capital
7. Reputational

Examples of crisis a business might face

As a business owner or a sales leader, these are the kinds of crises that can come your way. 

Let’s look at some examples:

Churn of some of your most valuable customers

Probably a huge portion of your revenue comes from a handful of star customers. This is an ideal scenario for many businesses. But if your team fails to provide the right product or service to such customers time after time, these customers can leave on an immediate basis and leave you in a condition of crisis.

An important member may leave the team

Businesses do take a lot of care in this segment so the teams don’t have to suffer. But this situation can still occur at any given time. An important member or the leader can leave the team or company for any reason. 

This particular person handles an important aspect of your business and suddenly everything seems clueless. 

Budget cutdowns

The management may cut down the budget of a particular team, but you still have the responsibility of delivering the expected results. Such crises can force you to find new approaches in a limited amount of time, and that can be overwhelming.

Missing a series of targets

It is a painful situation even when your team misses their monthly sales quota. Imagine the kind of impact it can make when you miss a series of targets. That means the revenue machine of your business has stopped, and there’s a direct question on your survival.

A major cutdown in manpower

Without manpower, it is impossible to achieve your business goals. We just talked about the impact an important person can make after leaving your team. Imagine a huge portion of teammates leaving the organization. 

Situations like this happen when the manpower is not happy with the business or the leadership. We often get the news about factory workers on strike!

A global crisis

Some crises are completely out of your control and will leave you feeling completely powerless. The recent example of COVID-19 is the best example of such crises. A global crisis will affect your nation, industry, business, even your employees, leaving you in great confusion about what to do next.

How to act when then the crisis is coming

In some cases, you will identify the crisis in advance but in some cases, it will be a total surprise. For the crises that you can identify a while ago, there are certain things you can do:

1. Be honest with your teammates

Your teammates are the most valuable assets to you in the time of any crisis. If you are lucky enough to identify the crisis, share the most important details with them.

Make sure they don’t feel panicked. Listen to their concerns about the future of the company, their job security, and changes in their roles.

As a leader, your job is to educate the team with new approaches and prepare for the coming storm.

2. Take ideas and discuss your approach

Every new idea is important. You never know what approach will be useful to your business in the crisis.

Simply ask for new ideas to your teammates and let them take initiatives in the right direction. Come up with your own approach and discuss the possibilities with your teammates. Choose the best approach after discussing every idea and move ahead to pitch to the management.

Make a note that the management has to handle every aspect of the business. Coming up with multiple solutions will only create more confusion. It’s best to discuss your finest plan, and keep every other plan as alternatives.

3. Discuss the approach with the management

It is obvious that you have to discuss your strategy for the crisis with the management. Present all the sides of your strategy. Basically, the management should get the answers to these questions from your presentation:

1. What is the monetary impact of this strategy?
2. What are the things at risk with this strategy?
3. What are the future benefits of this approach?
4. Is this approach profit-driven or survival-driven?
5. Is this the best approach we can adopt in this crisis?

What to do while the crisis is going?

This is the second stage of the crisis (and the first when you can’t predict it). This would be the toughest time for your business. Here are a couple of things you can do when you are facing the crisis:

1. Have the right information and data

Managing the information and having the right set of data is probably the most crucial thing in times of crisis. These are some of the factors that will impact directly when it comes to data:

1. Types of tools you are using
2. Level of rights employees have
3. Communication channels

Having the right kinds of tools that can pass accurate information to you is very crucial. Based on the data and information, you will make further decisions. If you get the wrong datasets, it will hamper your decisions.

Make sure you have useful tools like CRM where essential data is gathered at a commonplace. An efficient CRM can help you make better decisions on upcoming sales strategies and you can analyze the trend of your sales.

CRM like Salesmate can help you with different levels of rights. You can easily define who can access the information based on their respective designation.

Lastly, communication becomes even more important during the crisis. It is important to have the right communicational tools, so you can send and receive accurate information.

2. Check on your team

Crises can be emotionally overwhelming, we all know that. As a leader or a sales manager, it is necessary for you to keep an eye on the emotional health of your teammates.

Remember, your team is the only constant that you can rely on during the crisis. If you fail to acknowledge that, there are fewer chances of winning the battle.

Understand the mental state of your teammates, and if possible, assign the best work suitable for the individuals.

Encourage your teammates by giving hope, and motivate them to give their best to come out of this crisis on the winning side.

3. Not everything is in your hands

Crises may leave you feeling helpless. But actually, that is not the case. Definitely, all factors are not in your hands, but some still are. 

The best crisis management strategy is to identify what factors are clearly in your control. Let’s take the most recent example:

The COVID-19 crisis has made an impact on nearly every business. Many startups are facing a major drop in new customer acquisition. These businesses have realized that investing in new software or service is not the priority of their prospects at the moment, but survival is.

For a business facing a Coronavirus crisis at the moment, new customer acquisition is NOT the factor in control. But providing quality customer service to the existing customer is totally in their control.

That’s what the CEO of TravelPerk, Avi Meir expressed in his interview with TechCrunch:

“We actually are switching some of our sales team to customer support in the coming weeks just to support the volume of tickets. We’re very proud that our metrics are not declining — meaning specifically service level; how fast we solve cases; our ‘C-sats’, customer satisfaction. The metrics we really care about.  Are people happy and are we solving their cases fast?”

Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, take full control of what you already have in the time of crisis.

What to do after the crisis is over?

According to the PwC report, 42% of the companies that overcame some kind of crisis, happen to be in a better place post-crisis.

What does this mean?

It is important to keep fighting because not everyone will do that. 

If every business is facing the same kind of crisis, not every company will make it to the end! Some will give up right in the beginning, some will lose in the middle, and some right before the crisis is about to be over!

This will sound like a cruel reality, but the crisis will reduce the competition once it ends. 

The most important thing is to keep going!

Once the crisis comes to an end, there are a couple of things you can do that will help you in the future.

1. Create an in-depth report

Just like last month’s sales report is useful for the next month’s targets.

An in-depth explanation of the crisis will help you in future crises. 

Include everything from what worked for you and what didn’t. What resources did you have and what you achieved. What was your goal in the crisis and have you achieved it or not! 

Every detail will be helpful to you and your business in the future.

2. What did you wish for during the crisis?

During the crisis, you will realize some of the things that you wish you had. Carefully remember those things. 

During the crisis, you will realize that you don’t have the most essential things on hand. Once the crisis is over, carefully remember those things or tools.

Let’s understand this with an example using current scenarios:

In this Coronavirus crisis, real estate businesses are completely shut because everything is under lockdown.

A real estate agent would wish for a virtual tour of the property. A simple demonstrative video of the property that he could use to send to the prospect. We all understand that no buyer would think about purchasing during the Covid-19 crisis. But when no real estate businesses are making an effort, someone will!

And we just learned the one that keeps going will find itself in a much better position post-crisis.

Add those things/tasks/tools into your daily work process, so you don’t face the same issues in the coming crises.

3. Redesign your goals

After the crisis, you need to modify your goals. Things might have changed for you and your business. 

Be very thoughtful about what you learned about customers and redesign your goals, mission, vision for your business. 


Crises are unpredictable and usually bring a lot of stress.

But, it will always leave you with some better outputs. Learn to identify those things, and use them for your business. A team that has overcome a crisis together is a stronger and much valuable team!

The COVID-19 crisis is definitely affecting a lot of businesses but it will leave you with some core values. 

Stay strong.

Together, we will get over this crisis, just like every other!

Kashyap Trivedi

Kashyap Trivedi is working with an awesome marketing team at Salesmate CRM. He is deeply interested in learning digital marketing trends and try them out! When he’s not working, you’ll find him reading a good book or meditating.

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