Depending on where you are in the world, your country or state is either under some form of lockdown or quarantine, with no certain end in sight, or this is going to happen soon.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing everything. The world as we know it seems to have stopped, or at least slowed down or paused for a while. It has swept through every country, impacting some areas worse than others. Some countries are already returning to a new normal, whereas others are still in the early stages of localised outbreaks of the global pandemic.
Businesses are having to adapt quickly. In some sectors, companies have closed temporarily, with government support tiding them over. In others, it’s almost business as usual, with companies ensuring staff are working from home (WFH).
How does WFH impact sales teams?
In some countries and regions, life before Coronavirus seems like a distant memory. Before this happened, sales teams always worked one of two ways: in the field, or in offices. Now neither is an option. With social distancing and WFH guidelines in place, companies can’t or shouldn’t justify sending sales agents out on the road.
Nor can companies safely justify asking staff to come in, not when there is the risk of infection. The Health and wellbeing, of employees and their families, need to come first. Hence the transition that many sales teams have made to working from home.
In the early days, as many people have stated in articles and on social media, we need to remember that employees aren’t going to be as productive as normal. Everyone is struggling with this. On a practical level (e.g. finding the right environment to work, and working around partners and children, etc.), and emotionally. Fear of catching this virus, coupled with fear for families and loved ones, plus economic and financial fears, and the enormity of the world effectively shutting down for something as unprecedented as a pandemic is a lot to process.
As much as sales leaders want everyone to stay productive and hit targets, it has to be acknowledged that it isn’t always possible straight away. Plus, in the first couple weeks of working from home, people and companies are needing to get technology and processes established. Prospects and clients too may not have a plan yet, so sales teams need only worry about getting themselves organised at first.
Sales team WFH: How to transition smoothly?
#1: Understand and optimize the work environment
You need to understand what arrangements people are making when working at home, and see if you can help.
- Do they have a home office or spare room they can convert, or are they working at their kitchen table?
- Do they have children at home whose needs and schedules they need to workaround?
- Are they working around partners and/or roommates who are also trying to work from home?
- Are they working alongside a key worker or anyone in healthcare? If yes, are you prepared that some team members could need time off, or be unable to work for weeks at a time?
You also need to consider the tools they will need when working remotely:
- What communication tools and apps are you already using, and are additional tools needed?
- Do you already have VPNs and other data compliant security solutions in-place?
Finally, think about what communication protocols you want to establish: Morning and afternoon check-ins? Team calls every day or a few times a week? Get clear on this early, so that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.
#2: Communication is key
Managers of field sales teams are going to find this less disruptive than inside sales teams managers, as they’re already used to managing a remote team they rarely meet in-person. And field sales agents aren’t going to find this massively disruptive either, apart from not being on the road.
For inside sales teams and managers, there might be a clear temptation to start micromanaging. In a situation when a manager can’t physically see and hear what a team is doing, there is a trust deficit to start out with. This could manifest with a manager checking in every few minutes or hours. Making sure everyone is working. Although tempting and perhaps necessary at first, we don’t recommend this as a long-term solution. Once everyone is up-and-running and work seems to be returning to as close to resembling normal as possible, we suggest a balanced approach to communication.
Keep in contact with the whole team, at least once a day. Do daily or weekly team conference calls. Encourage meetings between team members, and maintain the same pattern of individual meetings as you would in the office. Aim for a balance between keeping things as normal as possible and over-communicating, without micromanaging. Not always easy, admittedly, so adapt accordingly.
#3: Managers need to think about
- Communicating: Not too much, not too little (see above).
- Alongside that, sales team members need to know what’s expected of them and the overall health of the company (concealing things now isn’t best practice).
- How and where team members are working: those with small offices are likely to be more productive, especially when doing sales calls than those without that option;
- Team member’s mental and physical health. Trust, empathy and understanding is more important now than ever. Anxiety is high. Supporting team members, asking how they’re doing, and helping whenever possible will ensure that staff feel supported, productivity stays high enough, and customers feel equally looked after.
#4: Tools and applications
And finally, we need to consider what tools and applications are being used to support working from home.
Does your team have the tools they need to work effectively?
Unless staff have already done this, ensure everyone is using an instant messaging system with a Voice over IP (VoIP) option, such as Facebook Messenger, Viber, Skype, Telegram, or a number of other free apps. Get everyone on the same app. Encourage this for everyday conversations and team meetings; with another app another for sales calls/demos (e.g. inbound or outbound calls).
For sales calls and demos, you can use a solution like CrankWheel alongside phone calls, which makes it easier to do sales calls. CrankWheel gives you the option to perform an Instant Demo for a prospect, or share your screen, and even give a prospect or your colleague remote access.
For larger, scheduled meetings (weekly or daily team check-ins), apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts, are popular solutions that also connect with other internal apps. CRMs and emails are usually cloud-based already, so this shouldn’t involve any logistical issues.
We are living through unprecedented times. We are adaptable as a species. Working from home is something millions of us will get used to, for however long it needs to last. In sales teams, with the right support and apps, work is continuing, and deals are being closed.
This guest blog was submitted by our partner Crankwheel