Keeping Remote Sales Teams Productive

Author: 
Dave Gerry

From the U.S. and the U.K. to France and Japan, global companies and global communities everywhere have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of COVID-19. This shift to the home office has become the new normal for many of us for the foreseeable future as we wait out the pandemic. One study released prior to the pandemic indicated that 63% of companies had remote workers; that figure has only skyrocketed this year.

The use of Zoom and other face-to-face applications to carry out sales calls instead of doing them in person is the new normal. Businesses can and will go more digital, but with a lack of face-to-face meetings, there can be an effect.

With this major shift, some employees will be working from home for the first time, which means figuring out how to stay productive and on task in a new environment that may not lend itself to maintaining that productivity. But there are ways to deliver results, from setting up a good workspace to the way you talk to your team.

Encouraging the Team Through Changing Sales Climates

To me, the most important role of management is to motivate and remove obstacles for their sales teams. While our sales teams at WhiteHat Security have always been distributed, communicating with customers and prospects exclusively over the phone or video is a new challenge.

When presenting to a client over the phone, the prospect may not be fully focused, and there’s not a foolproof way of knowing. While holding a meeting over video chat, they could be browsing the web or distracted by others in the room not on camera. To combat these new added distractions, it’s important to do everything you can to keep the prospect engaged. And leaders need to clearly demonstrate best practices to their teams so that they enter virtual sales calls as prepared as possible.

When prospects convert, we feel motivated, and we are on a high. But it’s also important that when things aren’t working out, we continue feeling motivated and part of the team. Organizations need to understand that while there may be a dip in bookings attainment, there are other metrics that the company can rally around. One example is the customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) which is a leading indicator of how much value your customers are receiving from the product, and, ultimately, how likely that customer is to continue using your product in the future. 

Sales predictability is the key to an organization’s success. Without it, forecasting everything from hiring to infrastructure is impossible to do. Given the economic uncertainty in the market today, forecasting through this change is an incredible challenge. However, even in the face of this change, we need to do everything we can to keep morale high. Rallying the organization around things they can control like a new product release or NPS Scores is a great way to keep the team motivated and morale high during these uncertain times. 

Shifting Messaging 

As sales reps begin to find new opportunities to sell in this market, changing the sales team’s messaging is critical to ensure you do not sound tone deaf or insulting to that market. Operating with empathy and understanding people are distracted from personal and professional challenges is important to ensure your message is received well. Yes, business must go on, but at the same time, business today is changing.  

Sales management and enablement teams need to ensure they provide the sales teams with new scripts and talk tracks – what to say, what not to say, and how to say it. It’s important to avoid playing into the fear and frame your company as a partner during trying times. The sales team should use these tailored prompts to sensitively and effectively communicate with prospects. As leaders, we need the team to take a more thoughtful approach and show empathy. 

Finding the Right Customers

Throughout any downturn in history, there are always winners and losers that emerge.  Leaders must guide their teams by helping them understand which verticals will perform best and where to focus or refocus their time. For example, claims will go up for health insurance, but there will be a downturn as more states mandate services that are free. Retail is literally shutting down coast to coast, and a strong e-commerce presence is absolutely essential. Therefore, those businesses will need help more than ever.

At the same time, when researching these verticals, teams need to be understanding and compassionate, so it doesn’t seem like they are preying on or capitalizing on them. They are there to ensure business continues, and they are ready to take on the new challenges presented by our changing world.

Efficiently Manage Time

For those who may not be used to remote work, effective time management can be a struggle. A remote worker must learn to micromanage their time. One key is to schedule calls to prospects when they are free to talk. Simply using emails, text messages, Slack chats, etc. to schedule appointments before calling can save a lot of time. Today, more than ever, people do not answer their phone if they don’t know the number – formalized invites will help to ensure a higher conversation and response rate.

Distractions will abound as well, and now more than ever, this is OK.  Whether it’s being around the family pet or children on a regular basis, the setting of the new office can feel drastically different to sales teams and their prospects. It’s important to set a routine that accommodates your home life and your work life with those you share a household with. Working from home becomes a team effort, and it’s important to manage time for everyone involved.

Sales teams are used to being “on” all of the time. However, it’s important to realize that while availability is a key requirement in any sales role, stepping back to spend time on personal health and family priorities is a must. Balancing the “always on” lifestyle of sales with all of the personal obligations of working from home requires a new way of thinking and a new understanding of all involved. 

The percentage of businesses shifting to working from home has exploded and will continue to grow, whether companies are prepared for it or not. Remote working is likely to stick around after the pandemic is over, so it’s imperative to communicate and set expectations so that your sales leaders can more effectively coach, motivate and manage their teams remotely. What you learn about leading a remote workforce and handling a remote sales pool now will likely become best practice for your company for the long term.

Dave Gerry is the chief revenue officer of WhiteHat Security, a leader in application security, enabling businesses to protect critical data, ensure compliance, and manage risk.