As of 2019, 4.3 million Americans worked from home nearly half the time — just a small fraction of the population. However, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to work from home full time. Many employees who are now secluded to their home offices (or living rooms, bedrooms, or kitchens) are working from home consistently for the first time and experiencing the challenge of staying motivated and productive in their new environment, especially while coping with economic uncertainty. At the same time, businesses have had to adjust quickly to learn how to manage their new remote workforce — something many have never dealt with.
Sales teams are a particularly unique case as their compensation is likely to be highly leveraged and more sensitive to changes in the marketplace. For businesses that are disrupted by the pandemic, how are they managing their employees? What happens to the sales force and their commission-based structure? Do their existing quota allocations still make sense in this new world? Is top sales talent at risk of leaving if they can’t earn commissions?
Let’s discuss how sales teams can realign during these uncertain times to motivate a remote workforce.
Reevaluate Quotas to Fit the Changing Market
With an unexpected economic downfall due to the global pandemic, quotas set for sales staff at the beginning of the year, or even the end of last quarter, may no longer be possible to meet in the short term. Maintaining quotas for your staff that are realistically unachievable can spur a lack of motivation among staff and risk lowering productivity. Sales teams must be agile during these challenging times, for example, by changing quotas on the fly. Businesses should look for ways to easily re-allocate quotas, based on factors such as how your customers and prospects are impacted by changes in the market.
Adapt Compensation Plans to Reflect Reality
While the economy has pushed the industry back to an employer’s market, without the right support, businesses still risk losing out on top sales performers. To help protect sales teams during a business slow-down, businesses must be able to easily change their compensation plan to reflect the realities of the market. For example, incentives may shift to include focus on existing customers instead of net new sales and also could move towards a discretionary model with subjective KPIS rather than a formulaic commission driven plan. Not only do these changes need to adapt quickly while accounting for rules like eligibility, valuations, and vesting, they must also be clear to the sales teams. After all, an incentive plan cannot motivate employees if it is too complex for them to understand.
Model Costs Accurately
With shifting sales forecasts, it’s important for sales leaders to adjust their models for best case, worst case, and likely case scenarios. But they should not stop there; revenue forecasts on their own are not enough to provide an accurate picture of the potential future. Sales leaders must also model the compensation cost of sales that flow from updated revenue forecasts to create accurate cost models. From there, leaders can make more informed decisions about changes that will help the business and their employees.
Reevaluate and Prioritize Sales Behavior
As all businesses are reevaluating priorities and areas of focus during the COVID-19 climate, sales leaders should look to play the long game with clients by refocusing teams on existing customer satisfaction or account penetration. It’s also a good time to conduct activities that don’t generate revenue, but that teams have not previously had time to accomplish, such as updating the CRM and cleaning out databases. It’s important to define how the business will reprioritize these sales behaviors and roll out a clear incentive plan to drive motivation for employees around these new, and perhaps less common, focuses.
Keep Staff Aligned with Changing Sales Strategies
Uncertainty can make employees in sales, or any sector, nervous about their employment status and compensation. Particularly during a sudden and unexpected economic turn, it’s critical that businesses provide their employees with transparent communication to ease those nerves. For sales teams in particular, this means creating a system for employees to have easy access to their sales goals and targets so they can see how their performance will affect their compensation. This transparency is key to helping a remote workforce understand what is expected of them during this time and increasing motivation to achieve new corporate objectives when their goals and targets are adjusting quickly.
As the world continues to face rapid changes in the weeks and months to come, an efficient strategy to realign sales teams and motivate employees is essential to keeping businesses operational and maintaining top sales talent in the long term.
Vismay Gada is head of North America and Global Financial Services at beqom, a provider of compensation management software, delivered using a cloud computing platform.