The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impacted the way we work. Organizations have adopted remote working practices at a rapid speed. How has this affected the wellbeing and productivity of staff? How can you, as a leader, respond to this health crisis?
Now more than ever, your staff needs leadership and effective communication. Reps are looking for support and reassurance on both a personal and professional level.
In this article, we’ll help you lead your team during times of uncertainty and provide guidance and policies to outline clear expectations.
A health crisis can be a tough time for even the most hardened sales reps. If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s how quickly things can change.
As you adjust to new ways of working and continue with revenue-generating activity, you must also look after the wellness of your sales reps. This means helping them to look after themselves both physically and mentally and encouraging them to follow the governmental policies on social distancing, hand washing and sanitation practices.
Reassuring your teams with compassionate, transparent messaging must be your top priority. Reach out early to relay how your company is responding to the crisis and send continuous follow-ups. Keep your team informed of any policy shifts or updated action plans so that everybody stays in the loop.
The COVID-19 outbreak has led to innumerable layoffs across many industries and employees are feeling nervous. As a sales leader, it’s your job to address these fears head-on. Take a bottom-up management approach. Communicate concerns with the boardroom, and ask for information on how these changes will affect the entire organization. This way, you can honestly and openly communicate with your reps as you navigate a crisis.
Your organization should provide guidance around maintaining team wellbeing. Here are a few ways you can be proactive and check-in on your reps:
As well as these proactive steps, provide resources that empower staff to help themselves. These resources might include:
Looking after employee mental health is critical during a health crisis. This should be your first priority as a leader. Provide guidance and support, be empathic and give them the resources to establish and support a healthy mindset as they adjust to remote working.
As people are forced to work from home, they may be confused about what this means. A clear work from home policy provides guidelines on what is expected from them as they carry on remotely.
Creating a work from home policy should be an organization-wide effort. While certain processes will apply only to salespeople, a company-wide work from home policy should cover the following elements:
Make this information available in your policy document. This should act as a single source of truth that staff should refer to when making the shift to remote work. Include an FAQ section and update it in response to common questions.
A well-defined technology stack should also be included. As you flesh out your policy, be absolutely clear on which tools are allowed and when they should be used. Teams across the entire organization must adopt the same tools for the same purpose.
For day-to-day communication, consider platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Skype. For video conferencing, Zoom and Google Hangouts are popular options.
You may also wish to encourage your teams to use tools like Krisp to help keep them focused, and Time Out to remind them to get away from their computer.
However you structure your policy, the language should be definitive and crystal clear. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them, along with the tools and resources that help them get the job done.
The shift to remote working can be even more challenging if you rely on face-to-face meetings. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many sales organizations to quickly adopt an inside sales approach.
Inside sales is a method of handling sales activity remotely. Reps use phone calls, email and video conferencing to build and maintain relationships with their leads. It is especially popular for those offering high-ticket or complex products and services.
The biggest difference between inside and outside sales is in how reps communicate with their leads. Therefore, you must be clear in your processes and which tools you use for particular parts of the job.
Find the time to map your current processes, then adjust them for an inside sales approach. For example, if you use a consultative selling approach in face-to-face scenarios, how can you apply them to a Zoom call?
For sales pitches, use the same decks you’d use in-person. All you need to do is use screen sharing features (like those found in video conferencing software) and run through the pitch as usual.
Finally, pilot these new processes ASAP and create training around each step. Run remote workshops via video conferencing and use screen recording to allow reps to see what these new processes look like in the field.
Depending on how quickly you react to a health crisis, you may find that several of your reps need time off simultaneously. This might be due to illness or bereavement.
These scenarios are unprecedented, so consider temporarily adopting a more generous leave policy. If your business can afford it, extend your sick and bereavement pay beyond its current allowance. Not only will this give reps the time they need to recover and get back to work, but it will also provide the reassurance they need.
If you do find several reps need time off all at once, the best thing to do is prioritize. Here’s how:
Most importantly, communicate that these are the steps you’ll take if this scenario does happen.
On the other hand, reps may be reluctant to take a vacation as they can’t leave their neighborhoods. Encourage reps to take days off, as it will help them avoid burning out or feeling as though their work and home life have become blurred. If your vacation policy doesn’t allow employees to carry days over to the new year, consider updating it. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you communicate it clearly.
It’s important to prioritize your team’s health and wellbeing above revenue-generating activity. Lead with compassion first and focus on results second.
Realize the playing field is not even, and offer extra support to reps who are having difficulty adjusting to working from home. Distribute clearly defined policies on working from home and keep supportive lines of communication open.
Adopt an inside sales methodology and train your reps on how to adjust their messaging and outreach from a virtual setting. Distribute the workload evenly but create a safe environment for your reps to communicate their challenges. Be prepared to redistribute leads based on your team’s varying capacities and step in yourself if necessary—in fact, getting involved as a manager can help to reassure customers.
Staying safe and being productive do not need to be mutually exclusive endeavors. With open and honest communication and support, your team can achieve success throughout this health crisis.
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