One of the biggest challenges that remote workers and isolated sales professionals face during a crisis like COVID-19 is staying healthy, engaged and productive.
If you’re making sales calls from home, selling products online from home or managing others in a remote work environment for the first time, it can help to remember that in a vibrant, fast-paced profession like sales, nothing ever stays the same for very long.
Whether you’re a sole trader, online business entrepreneur, work for a start-up or you’re part of an established sales team, consider this a business opportunity to master a new sell-from-home strategy and discover some of the remote working tools that will keep you productive.
Coronavirus has played an enormous role in ushering in a new business reality where a lot of people are selling from home. That said, in the U.S. at least, the work from home trend has been long in the making.
Regular work-at-home activities had already grown by 173% since 2005
Some five million employees (3.6% of the US workforce) were working from home at least half the time
New estimates suggest 25-30% of the workforce will work at home one or more days a week within the next two years
Still, without any real chance to prepare, many sales professionals have been forced onto a steep learning curve that has them reevaluating their sales goals and home business ideas, introducing new tools and techniques into their workflow.
If you now have products to sell from home, remember that solid remote-work advice and access to proven communication, time management and CRM tools are essential for any online business.
The first question many new remote workers ask is: How can I be productive selling from home when I’m used to spending time in the office?
It doesn’t matter whether you work in telesales for direct sales companies, sell high-quality beauty products in a shop or travel the country selling handmade handbags at craft markets. For salespeople accustomed to working and socializing with clients and teammates in person, switching to a home-based environment and selling products online from home can be especially trying.
Here are three tips to help ease the transition.
Before you do anything else, accept that you’ll need to adjust your expectations and be patient with yourself as you switch to a home-based sales workspace.
Adapting to a new way of doing things and new products to sell from home, while also navigating whatever crisis may have required you to sell from home in the first place, is bound to cause some sales pipeline volatility and an overall drop in your sales.
The good news is that you can bounce back stronger than ever by making an effort to:
Keep in touch with colleagues and clients
Stay open to new ways of working, selling and thinking
Set up a dedicated workspace and daily routine
Prioritize focused activity and a positive mindset
There are plenty of techniques online for maintaining and encouraging productivity while working remotely. Now’s the time to take advantage of that storehouse of expert advice.
Adopting flexible sales tools, processes, organizers and infrastructure will ensure you and your team stay as productive as possible while migrating to selling remotely.
For example, having access to technology that facilitates internal messaging and provides reliable phone, video and email communications with prospects and clients is critical.
Sales efficiency is especially key in difficult times. So make a push to automate individual and team workflows wherever possible.
Automation tools can, and should, play an integral role in:
Eliminating busywork while you adjust to your new work environment
Reducing manual tasks to free up valuable selling and follow-up time
Streamlining every stage of new and existing sales funnels
If you haven’t already, consider adopting powerful apps like Smart Docs, GetAccept or PandaDoc to manage sales proposals and contracts going forward.
To prevent your current deal flow from crashing beyond repair, make time to connect with your existing and potential customers by phone or personalized email.
If your switch to a sell-from-home operation is the result of a mutual crisis, be sure to ask your clients how they’re doing and look for ways you can help in the short term.
Staying productive will happen more organically if you also pick up and continue working to:
Qualify leads that might not have been a good fit in the past
Reconnect with cold leads
Being able to manage multiple customer relationships in various locations in your sales pipeline is especially important while you learn to sell products from home.
To embrace the spirit of collaboration this new way of working demands, make sure you use CRM software that allows you to share pipeline access with teammates.
Real Business Rescue is an example of a company that has turned to digital tools to manage and improve processes.
“As non-essential UK businesses were instructed to operate from home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the team at Real Business Rescue, situated across the UK in over 50 locations, were pushed to incorporate electronic signature facilities into their onboarding process,” explains Keith Tully, Managing Partner at Real Business Rescue.
“Wet signatures would typically be obtained during face-to-face client meetings, but as Covid-19 restrictions temporarily replaced this with Zoom meetings and telephone calls, the need to integrate an online signature facility which was compatible with Pipedrive became evident.
“In addition to fulfilling legal criteria, this development streamlined the onboarding process and digitized key information which could then be populated into the CRM. The information could be easily accessed by team members across multiple office locations, elevating the customer journey by providing access to intelligent software platforms that could be used at any given time.
“Solidifying the infrastructure of the business to cope with long-term remote working, the RBR team increased their use of online communication platforms, including virtual conferencing facilities.”
Even if you aren’t someone who typically struggles to stay optimistic, selling products online from home or in isolation may challenge your ability to keep your mental state in check.
Remember that staying positive is largely about recognizing and indulging our very human nature.
We are creatures of habit
We are social
We require self-care to stay healthy
According to the American Psychological Association, the key to staying positive through tough times lies in building up your resilience by focusing on circumstances over which you have some control and maintaining active relationships.
Here are a few techniques you can use.
As habit-loving humans, routine helps us feel in charge both physically and mentally as we prepare for the day ahead. Try to get up and get ready to sell from home the same way you would if you were heading to the office, or meeting with a client.
Exercise, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and then get to your designated workspace on time (more about this later).
By setting distinct work hours, and checking in regularly with colleagues and your sales manager, your brain will find it easier to buy into the idea that everything’s business as usual.
One of the worst things you can do while adapting to your new remote work reality is deny yourself time to socialize.
Studies in neuroscience suggest that feelings of loneliness and social isolation not only heighten health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, they can be as harmful to our physical and mental health as obesity.
There are many ways you can stay socially connected while you sell, including:
Calling and texting a designated work buddy daily
Scheduling virtual “water cooler” breaks with friends and colleagues
Setting up a dedicated social network channel where you and coworkers can share your successes and challenges
Try to choose video-driven communications over text, email or keyboard-driven social media conversations as much as time will allow.
Seeing and hearing the friendly faces and voices of people who relate to what you’re experiencing will go a long way toward helping you stay positive.
If “self-care” and “self-ish” have always seemed synonymous in your mind, it’s time to adjust your thinking. Making time to take care of yourself, along with family and friends, won’t just help you manage stress better, it’s also vital for maintaining a positive outlook.
Your self-care plan doesn’t need to be elaborate.
Moving regularly, eating a variety of healthy foods, staying hydrated and getting sufficient sleep will all bolster your sense of wellbeing. So make it a point to insert self-care breaks between your daily work tasks.
As you rough out your new home selling strategy, take care not to miss out on important conversations with customers, coworkers and potential new clients.
Safeguarding your buy/sell relationships into the future relies on keeping in touch and reassuring your customers you can continue to service them, no matter what form that service may take.
Do they have questions about orders? Concerns about supply and demand? An entirely new set of buying priorities? Are they struggling to sell products online?
Respond in person to client queries and concerns by suggesting a follow-up video chat, then direct customers to the best products that may align with their immediate needs.
The same process applies if you sell consumer products, be it t-shirts, essential oils, purses, dog treats, bath bombs or backpacks. If you sell online through your own website/online store, on ecommerce websites like Amazon or dropshipping sites like eBay, Shopify and Etsy, retailers should do their best to respond to comments and reviews. This is especially true for small businesses who use social media platforms and Facebook marketplace for online selling.
This is also a good time to consider implementing real-time customer support with a business messaging system like Intercom.
With all the digital communication channels at your disposal, staying connected to colleagues shouldn’t feel all that different while you sell from home than it did when you all shared an office.
Just don’t let an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality prevent you from keeping in touch.
Maintaining sturdy workplace connections isn’t just effective for presenting a united front to customers and keeping your pipeline intact, it’s also important for your mental and physical health. Research even goes so far as to suggest that a lack of strong social relationships increases the risk of premature death by 50%.
Both you and your coworkers can benefit from discussing how best to handle the products to sell from home and any new sell-from-home opportunities which arise. Plus, staying in touch will give everyone an opportunity to enjoy some nonwork-related chatter as well.
You might also consider tapping into community forums outside your immediate circle. Sharing and learning from like-minded, home-based professionals will keep you up to date and on top of your game.
Even in times of uncertainty, it’s important to monitor your website and reach out to leads and prospects, but from a place of shared empathy and compassion.
Consider that this may not be the best time for cold calling or cold emailing initiatives that rely on standard scripts or messaging. In fact, the best of course of action might be to pause these efforts until you can reframe your sales content.
View this as an opportunity to requalify your ideal customer and create communications that will appeal to their needs of the moment.
As a sales manager, you’ll want to prioritize keeping your team safe, informed, motivated and connected so you can keep the work community going.
Your communications strategy should include:
Establishing and getting team feedback on flex hours and WFH policies
Clarifying that sales may be “off” for a while and assuring your team it’s okay if they are
Providing support to your sales team on both a professional and personal level
Platforms like Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts aren’t just useful for day-to-day interactions. Encourage your sales team to put them to good use by connecting and decompressing with the help of virtual coffee breaks, happy hours and online games or tournaments.
The need to sell products from home, especially if it’s the result of a small or large-scale crisis, may go hand-in-hand with having to rethink those offerings in your business model.
If your product or service has suddenly become less accessible, desirable or affordable, are there ways to reignite its appeal in the online marketplace?
Consider the types of products you offer. If you sell training courses, can you take them online and turn them into digital products? If you have a physical store or restaurant, can you switch to deliveries?
Necessity is the mother of invention and the COVID-19 crisis has yielded many examples of product innovation – like distilleries pivoting to produce hand sanitizer, for example.
Just be careful that you don’t stray so far from your core brand message that you risk appearing opportunistic in the eyes of struggling clientele.
You’ll be more successful selling products from a new angle if you focus on the 20% of your customer base that’s responsible for 80% of your sales revenue (aka the Pareto Principle).
To keep these high-value customers in the loop:
Promptly communicate any changes in your product availability or service line-up
Engage in regular conversation and share timely content over email or social media
Contact your clients directly with buying incentives like free shipping, extended payment terms or discounted pricing
Your regular customers can also be an invaluable source of inspiration.
Make a point of getting in touch and getting their take on ways your product might be improved or refreshed to better suit the direction their business is going. This shows you’re both passionate about your product and helping them.
One effective way to identify new leads and help more customers while you sell from home in a climate of crisis is to pay attention to those industries most likely to be affected. You may offer trending products or services that are now in high demand in certain fields you hadn’t previously considered.
There are a number of tools you can use to track down businesses and end-users who might now benefit from your product or service, including:
Lead generators. Choose from powerful tools like Leadfeeder and Prospect.io
Analytics tools. Solutions like Plecto offer real-time KPI dashboards to keep you on top of your sales performance goals
CRM software. Efficiency-driven CRM systems let you manage leads, track all your sales communication and customize insights and reports
Because inside sales involves a lot of sitting and interacting electronically, it’s important to set up your home office to be both comfortable and modern.
Your first goal should be to build a dedicated workspace to ensure you can keep your work time and personal time separate.
Maintaining a separate work area will:
Mitigate home chore distractions
Make it easier to transition in and out of work mode
Help you establish boundaries to keep family members from disrupting your workflow
If you share a living space with someone else who’s working at home, be sure to discuss your mutual needs in advance, especially if you have pets or children home from school.
Some compromise will likely be necessary, but agreeing on “do-not-disturb” hours, and signals for “I’m-on-a-call”, is a good place to start.
If at all possible, set yourself up with a proper work desk rather than trying to sell products from home on your sofa, kitchen counter, dining room table or a DIY makeshift desk.
Not only will a more traditional workstation firm up the division between office and home, opting for a sit-to-stand desk will prevent you from spending too many hours in one position.
Other physical attributes you should take into account while setting up your home office include making sure your home decor includes a supportive chair and proper lighting.
A well-lit room, preferably one with lots of natural light, will:
Help keep you awake in your new, quieter work environment
Improve the quality of your video calls
Promote better mood balance throughout the day
If windows are limited, you may want to buy a few natural-light lamps for your workspace.
Global crises aside, the growing trend toward working and communicating on-the-go makes it well worth investing in electronic tools that will boost your ability to sell from home.
For example, you might consider:
A larger or second computer monitor
A solid-state drive laptop with long-lasting battery that can handle being moved from space to space
A microphone headset for your smartphone
A set of noise-canceling headphones
It’s also critical that you have mobile access to CRM metrics and a reliable digital stream for supporting remote communication from your sell-at-home workspace.
So how do you make sure that work and life won’t just blend into each other while you attempt to sell products at home? As critical as it is to divert distractions, it’s equally important to make room for non-work-related activities throughout the day.
Everyone’s definition of work-life balance is different. But it’s wise on all fronts to prioritize mental health and emotional wellbeing by:
Keeping in touch with friends
Spending time with family and pets
Staying mobile and getting fresh air daily
Checking out positive happenings online and in your community
Enjoying regular me-time
One of the most effective ways to maintain balance and prevent burnout while you sell full time is making sure you take regular breaks by scheduling them into your day.
It can be hard to remember to get up and move around when you’re focused on one work device or another. So have those devices pull double duty by setting a series of daily alarms on your phone or laptop to remind you when it’s time to clear your head.
You can schedule notifications for:
Switching from sitting to standing, and vice versa
Stretching or taking a quick lap around the block
Making a cup of tea, checking the mailbox or answering your personal email
You can also choose from a wide range of mindfulness, fitness and pomodoro (break management) apps to remember it’s break time on your behalf.
If you live alone or in a smaller space, migrating from room to room as you talk on the phone, or moving your chair and laptop from one designated work surface to another, will help keep your brain and your body engaged and refreshed.
You may have to fight the temptation to let sales activities chew into your personal time. Just remember that work stress and burnout are often insidious and don’t always make their presence known until after the damage is done.
Know, respect and share your limits by setting and sticking to established work hours as much as you can.
You’ll accomplish more during those hours if you take advantage of:
Digital tools like virtual sticky notes, whiteboards and online calendars to keep everything you need to get done in one place
Email and marketing automation tools like Autopilot or ActiveDEMAND to keep your pipeline active, even when you’re done for the day
Just don’t let your organized approach to work lure you into doing more than you should, or filling unexpected free time with extra duties. Set up your sales agenda, make time at the end of each workday to create the next day’s to-do list, then shut down your office on time.
Remember: the simplest recipe for selling or managing salespeople from home during the COVID-19 crisis, or at any other time for that matter, is to streamline your inside sales processes, optimize your remote working tools, stay in touch with your team and do everything you can to keep your “home office” separate from your “home life”.
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