Sometimes they’re taking calls at company headquarters, sometimes they’re visiting with a client, sometimes they’re managing their workflow from home, and sometimes they’re somewhere else entirely. Wherever they are, your sales force is a dynamic team that’s unique to you. They’re shaped by numerous factors, but the risks they face during the COVID-19 pandemic are significant.
Accounting for the various types of salespeople, the steps you take should empower both in-office interaction as well as hard-to-control outbound scenarios. All precautions should equally consider both employee interactions as well as client communications.
No matter what, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Despite the internal procedures you put in place, ensure that you’re considerate of client or vendor policies. Default to the most strident requirements when possible.
Determine the Where
As of now, you might have your entire fleet grounded at home, including fully in-house teams as well as salespeople who depend on outbound visits. It may be impossible to eliminate person-to-person interaction and your requirements will need to relax and tighten with the times.
Position by position, map out the options for returning to work and provide accommodations accordingly. This roadmap should include the steps necessary for successful face-to-face meetings as well as the workarounds that can keep clients and salespeople completely separated.
For outbound employees, ensure that they have the supplies necessary to venture into the world. A comprehensive kit, mailed to their location, should include ample hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and several disposable masks, to adhere both to your own company’s safety standards as well as any client requirements.
Add Space In Offices
From team to team, industry to industry, and space to space, your in-house team will take on a different office arrangement. Depending on their degree of deskbound activity, proximity might be an issue and solutions may range from simple to more complex. There’s a few common scenarios that occur in partially onsite outside sales teams:
Benching: Situated side-by-side in wide-open rows, benching is an efficient way to provide a home base for employees on the go. Social distancing is nearly impossible in these scenarios and remediating them in the short term should involve a robust series of acrylic partitions between desks and movable panels between people. In the long term, separate desks for adequate distancing and use panels as needs increase.
Hoteling: As an emerging strategy in offices, temporary use workstations provide a touchdown space without all of the personal effects, long-term storage, or amenities of an exclusive workstation. Limiting use to one person per-workday with intensive after-hours cleaning can make these areas work but their use should be discouraged or assigned to specific people for the time being.
Shared Offices: It’s not uncommon to see a small group of two to four employees occupying a private office-sized space. As you would with any private office interaction, limit the occupancy to below half of its typical configuration, use movable partitions to separate spaces, and either keep extra employees at home for now or convert another smaller office into a second space for small sales teams.
Private Offices: Because phone calls are common and one-on-one meetings are frequent, fully-private offices aren’t uncommon among top sellers. Limit client interactions in these spaces by reducing guest chairs to one and putting acrylic partitions down the length of a meeting space. When possible, move these meetings to larger conference areas with equally appropriate distancing measures.
Inside sales teams have their own struggles to face, though their very nature may also provide ready-made solutions. As you reenter the workplace, try to alternate occupied cubicles as best as you can. If these accommodations aren’t already applied, retrofit panels with glass stackers to achieve a standing 74″ height, attach wings to the entryway of cubes, or explore sliding doors that may be available with your existing panel system. In these areas, containment is key.
Rethink Sales Collateral
The best tools of the trade are often physical pieces which are generally shared from person to person. Reconsider the way that you share printed materials, such as brochures or sell sheets. Of any surface, paper is one of the most porous and is nearly impossible to sterilize after handling. Remember– good hand hygiene can help but can’t eliminate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, these pieces contribute to landfill waste and are often discarded after a meeting.
Create digital versions of your physical printouts or mailings and bring along an easy-to-wipe-down tablet to in-person meetings. Beyond print and pictures, a living digital document can feature interactive elements for a richer experience. A customizable file can be easily updated to feature unique contact information, project-specific details, or revisions as products evolve.
For textile samples or product examples, find item-specific solvents that can quickly disinfect each piece. If you choose to mail out swatches, designate one person in the office to interact with these hard to clean items to keep both the physical collateral and shipping materials free from contaminants.
Enhance Your Tech
During the transition to working from home, we saw how effective a robust collaboration suite could work, keeping inter-office communications strong while employees learned to embrace videocalls and instant messaging. It’s time to leverage this energy with your salesforce.
For conference calling, video chatting, and outbound messaging platforms, use VoIP technology instead of relying on landlines or cell phones. Select the software that’s right for your business and limit the number of face-to-face meetings that take place.
The importance of video calling is more apparent than ever. As these features have become more reliable and stable, and as laptops have started to include better cameras, a video conference brings visual cues, body language, and vocal inflections to life while maintaining the highest degree of distance. Go the extra mile and reach out to your creative team to create a custom background to keep at home environments looking clean and distraction-free while reinforcing your brand.
Our world has changed. The corporate landscape will never be the same and, right now, sales and service departments are feeling the strain more than others. Providing enhanced support, making out-of-the-box accommodations, and ensuring employee safety is the clearest pathway to success. As we all rebound and learn how to navigate this new normal, we’re lucky to have so many rich tools and ideas at our disposal. It’s a long road ahead, but for all of us, success is in sight.
Dean Stier is chief marketing officer for National Business Furniture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.