Sales Enablement In a Remote Work Reality

Author: 
Liz Pulice

In recent years, many companies have implemented remote work arrangements, driven by financial incentives, recruitment/retention initiatives and other factors. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and precarious global health situation that’s resulted, many informal and smaller scale teleworking arrangements are rapidly becoming widespread and institutionalized. Some companies are creating work-from-home policies from scratch.

These conditions can present challenges for sales organizations, where in-person meetings and events are typically part of “business as usual.” With internal meetings (training bootcamps, sales kick-offs, role play sessions, etc.), client and prospect meetings, and industry tradeshows getting postponed and canceled, how can sales teams pivot quickly to drive productivity in a new (predominantly virtual) environment?

Reacting proactively

There’s a limited window to be proactively reactive. If you don’t already have contingency plans and processes in place, the time is now to build and hone frameworks to support a work-from-home period and travel freezes for your sales team (and organization at large).

Important elements to consider include:

  • Content creation and distribution – In what’s becoming our “new normal,” news is changing rapidly, and plans that seemed solid last week or even yesterday are now different. It’s important to have a system or “engine” for rapid content creation — whether that content is video-based company updates, product messaging for the sales team, sales training materials, etc. Sales organizations need to be able to disseminate multimedia and other content quickly, and track consumption and engagement. And with many reps remote, it’s even more important that content be viewable on, and optimized for, whatever device recipients have at hand.
  • Collaboration and messaging platforms – Many companies already have collaboration platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams in place. These become even more important in a remote-work environment and can be used as the “single source of the truth” for information, eliminating potential confusion and conflicts. Sales organizations can use these tools to create groups for topics and individual sales teams, collaborate on proposals, discuss strategies, celebrate customer wins and more.
  • Online meetings and training – With a content distribution system in place, you can take formerly in-person functions — such as sales onboarding and training sessions, and even sales meetings — online. (While you can’t really replicate the social aspects of these events online, you can certainly accomplish the learning objectives — and often save time and money too!)

When shifting to a virtual meeting strategy, consider questions such as:

  • How can I create an engaging learning environment?
  • What is the optimal length for my learning content?
  • For events (such as sales kick-offs), how can I preserve the pre-work, event work and post-work structure to maximize retention?
  • Should my online training and events be live or asynchronous? (Live training and webinars can be a much greater time commitment for presenters who have to repeat the information for different audiences on different schedules, and can pose scheduling hassles for attendees too.)
  • How can I track learning mastery and retention?

eLearning content about working from home – For many reps, working remotely will entail behavioral, technological and mind-set shifts. Consider preparing brief eLearning content that addresses this. Modules on the technologies reps will rely heavily on (screen-sharing, conferencing software, etc.), and on the etiquette for conducting virtual meetings can help them adjust to their new normal.

  • Peer-to-peer learning – In the absence of an informal and in-person information exchange (by cubes and the proverbial water cooler), reps can still share and consume tips and inspiration. Encourage high-performing reps to create bite-sized videos of their successes (e.g., “How I reignited interest with a prospect who went dark”). You can store them in a central library as a way to capture and codify best practices and encourage peer-to-peer learning. Even when reps aren’t remote, this best-practices library will serve them well.
  • Videos for assessing readiness – When implementing new online-only processes and readiness programs, of course you want to know: Are they working? Have sales reps mastered the information? To determine that, you’ll want to move beyond typical consumption metrics. Look not just at eLearning assessment scores, but also at how reps actually deliver the new messages, skills, knowledge, etc., they’ve learned.

One way to do that in a remote setting is to have reps record videos of themselves — presenting new messaging, responding to tough questions, etc. — for manager review. Today, artificial intelligence can help scale this process too, providing feedback on various aspects of reps’ videos, from their ability to hit on key messages to their demeanor and emotions exuded, and more.

  • A focus on manager readiness too – Your plans to respond to a sudden work-from-home period should include a separate strategy for sales managers as well. Managers need to make a commitment to managing differently, particularly when they’re in charge of entry-level reps and teams that are used to being in the office.

It’s important that managers are well-versed in the technologies that reps will be using to conduct work remotely. Managers, themselves, must effectively use all the tools at their disposal (e.g., messaging applications, CRM, dashboards, scorecards, coaching platforms, etc.) to drive and track readiness.

In addition, as many reps and other employees contend with school closures for their children, work may not get done on a typical 9-to-5 schedule. Managers will be tasked with making sure they’re in close contact with their teams, without micromanaging them. It’s a delicate balance.

Adjustments required

COVID-19 is causing a massive shift in business practices, most notably the widespread implementation of work-from-home policies. Successfully navigating this shift requires a corresponding change in mind-set and approach. Habits will need to adjust. “But we’ve always done it this way…” needs to be replaced with “We can still do this — we just need to adjust.”

While this process may seem daunting to sales managers and sales enablement teams, it can also help them discover new ways to not only keep the sales engine running, but have it running better. This is a silver lining in the crisis: The technologies and practices adopted today will continue to serve sales forces well as the virus wanes and business returns to normal.  

Liz Pulice is vice president of sales enablement at Brainshark, a leader in data-driven sales enablement and readiness solutions. Brainshark equips businesses with the training, coaching, and content needed to prepare salespeople when, where and how they work.